« PreviousContinue »
hath happily brought us together, after a long and distressing separation. Perhaps the same gracious Providence will again indulge me. Unutterable sensations must, then, be left to more expressive silence, while from an aching heart I bid you all, my affectionate friends and kind neighbours, farewell !”
Gray's bridge over the Schuylkill, which Mr. Washington had to pass, was highly decorated with laurels and evergreens. At each end of it were erected magnificent arches, composed of laurels, emblematical of the antient roman triumphal arches, and on each side of the bridge was a laurel shrubbery. As Mr. Washington passed the bridge, a youth, ornamented with sprigs of laurel, assisted by machinery, let drop above his head, though unperceived by him, a civic crown of laurel. Upwards of 20,000 citizens lined the fences, fields, and avenues, between the Schuylkill and Philadelphia. Through these he was conducted to the city, by a numerous and respectable body of the citizens, where he partook of an elegant entertainment provided for him. The pleasures of the day were succeeded by a handsome display of fireworks in the evening.
When Mr. Washington crossed the Delaware, and landed on the Jersey shore, he
was saluted with three cheers by the inhabitants of the vicinity. When he came to the brow of the hill on his way to Trenton, a triumphal arch was erected on the bridge, by direction of the ladies of the place. The crown of the arch was ornamented with laurel and flowers, and on it was displayed in large characters, "December 26th, 1776."* Beneath the sweep of the arch was this inscription, "The Defender of the mothers will also protect their daughters." On the north side were ranged a number of female children dressed in white, with garlands on their heads, and baskets of flowers on their arms. In the second row stood the young women, and behind them the married ladies of the vicinity. The instant he passed the arch, the children began to sing the following ode:
Welcome, mighty Chief, once more
Aims again the fatal blow;
Aims at thee the fatal blow.
As they sung the last lines they strewed
* See ante, p. 68.
flowers on the road before their beloved deliverer. His situation on this occasion, contrasted with what he had in December 1776 felt on the same spot, when the affairs of America were at the lowest ebb of depression, filled him with sensations that cannot be described. He was rowed across the bay, from Elizabeth town to New York, in an elegant barge, by thirteen pilots. All the vessels in the harbour hoisted their flags. Stairs were erected and decorated for his reception. On his landing, universal joy diffused itself through every order of the people, and he was received and congratulated by the governor of the state, and officers of the corporation. From the landing place to the house which had been fitted up for his reception, a considerable procession of militia in their uniforms, and of citizens, followed him. In the evening the houses of the inhabitants were brilliantly illuminated. A day was soon after fixed on for his taking the oath of office; which was in the following words: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States," On this occasion he was wholly clothed in American manufactures.
manufactures. In the morning of the day appointed for this purpose, the clergy of different denominations assembled their congregations in their respective places of worship, and offered up public prayers for the president and people of the United States. About noon, a procession, followed by a great multitude of citizens, moved from the president's house to Federal hall. When they came within a short distance of the hall, the troops formed a line on both sides of the way, through which Mr. Washington, accompanied by the vice president Mr. John Adams, passed into the senate chamber. Immediately after, attended by both houses, he went into the gallery fronting Broad-street, and before them and an immense concourse of citizens, took the oath prescribed by the constitution, which was administered by R. R. Livingston, the chancellor of the state of New York. An awful silence prevailed among the spectators during this part of the ceremony. It was a minute of the most sublime political joy. The chancellor then proclaimed George Washington president of the United States. This was answered by the discharge of thirteen guns, and by the effusions of shouts from near 10,000 grateful and affectionate hearts. The president bowed most respectfully to the people, and the air again
again resounded with acclamations. He then retired to the senate chamber, where he made the following speech to both houses :
"Fellow citizens of the senate, and of the house of representatives ;
"Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and in my flattering hopes with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years, a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from mature, and unpractised in the duties of civil administration,