Page images
PDF
EPUB

only of which comprise eleven octavo volumes) show that he had a clear lucid mind, and will be read with pleasure for ages to come.”

“ General Washington," says Judge Marshall, “ was rather above the common size ; his frame was robust, and his constitution vigorous — capable of enduring great fatigue, and requiring a considerable degree of exercise for the preservation of his health. His exterior created in the beholder the idea of strength united with manly gracefulness.

“ His manners were rather reserved than free, though they partook nothing of that dryness and sternness which accompany reserve when carried to an extreme ; and on all proper occasions he could relax sufficiently to show how highly he was gratified by the charms of conversation, and the pleasures of society. His person and whole deportment exhibited an unaffected and indescribable dignity, unmingled with haughtiness, of which all who approached him were sensible ; and the attachment of those who possessed his friendship, and enjoyed his intimacy, was ardent, but always respectful.

“ His temper was humane, benevolent, and conciliatory; but there was a quickness in his sensibility to anything apparently offensive, which experience had taught him to watch and to correct.

“In the management of his private affairs he exhibited an exact yet liberal economy. His funds were not prodigally wasted on capricious and ill-examined schemes, nor refused to beneficial though costly improvements. They remained, therefore, competent to that extensive establishment which his reputation, added to an hospitable temper, had in some measure imposed upon him, and to those donations which real distress has a right to claim from opulence.

“In his civil administration, as in his military career, were exhibited ample and repeated proofs of that practical good sense, of that sound judgment which is perhaps the most rare, and is certainly the most valuable quality of the human mind.

"In speculation he was a real republican, devoted to the constitution of his country, and to that system of equal political rights on which it is founded. But between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos. Real liberty, he thought, was to be preserved only by preserving the authority of the laws, and maintaining the energy of government."

ADMINISTRATION OF WASHINGTON.

The unanimous choice of General Washington as president of the United States by the people of the United States, as expressed through the electoral colleges of the several states at the organization of the government under the constitution, after its adoption, was officially announced to the president elect, at his seat at Mount Vernon, on the 14th of April, 1789. This commission was executed by Mr. Charles Thompson, secretary of the late continental Congress, who presented to him the certificate of the secretary of the senate, stating that he was unanimously elected; the votes of the electors for president and vice-president having been counted by both houses of the first Congress under the constitution, then in session at the city of New York, on the 6th of April.

The urgency of the public business requiring the immediate attendance of the president at the seat of government, he hastened his departure, and on the second day after receiving notice of his appointment, he took leave of Mount Vernon and his family, and set out for New York, in

company with Mr. Thompson and Colonel Humphreys. On his way to that city he was everywhere greeted by the people of the different places through which he passed, with the most enthusiastic and decisive evidences of attachment and respect. Although the president hastened his journey, and wished to render it private, the public feelings were too strong to be suppressed. Crowds flocked around him wherever he stopped ; and corps of militia, with companies of the most respectable citizens escorted him through their respective states.

In New Jersey, after a most interesting scene at Trenton, having been received by the governor of that state, who accompanied him to Elizabethtown point, he was met by a committee of Congress, who conducted him thence to New York. The president, committee, and other gentlemen, embarked for the city in an elegant barge of thirteen oars, manned by thirteen branch pilots prepared for the purpose by the citizens of New York.

“ The display of boats," says Washington, in his private journal," which attended and joined on this occasion, some with vocal, and others with instrumental music on board, the decorations of the ships, the roar of can

VOL. 11.-5

non, and the loud acclamations of the people, which rent the sky as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful (contemplating the reverse of this scene, which may be the case after all my labors to do good) as they were pleasing."

In this manner, on the 23d of April, the man possessed of a nation's love landed at the stairs on Murray's wharf, which had been prepared and ornamented for the purpose. There he was received by the governor of New York, and conducted, with military honors, through an immense concourse of people, to the apartments provided for him. These were attended by foreign ministers, by public bodies, by political characters, and by private

of distinction, who pressed around him to offer their congratulations, and to express the joy which glowed in their bosoms at seeing the man in whom all confided at the head of the American empire. This day of extravagant joy was succeeded by a splendid illumination.*

The ceremonies of the inauguration having been adjusted by Congress, on the 30th of April, 1789, the president attended in the senatechamber in order to take, in the presence of both houses, the oath prescribed by the constitution.

The session of Congress was then held in the city-hall, then called Federal hall, situated in Wall street, opposite the head of Broad street. To gratify the public curiosity, an open gallery adjoining the senatechamber had been selected by Congress as the place in which the ceremony should take place. The oath was administered by Chancellor Livingston, of New York. Having taken it in the view of an immense concourse of people, who attested their joy by loud and repeated acclamations after the chancellor had pronounced, in a very feeling manner,

Long live George Washington, president of the United States," he returned to the senate-chamber and delivered his inaugural address.

The inaugural address of the president was replied to, on the part of the senate, by their presiding officer, John Adams, who had been elected vice-president of the United States. This reply of the senate was full of confidence in the president, and the sentiments expressed breathed the purest patriotism, and were every way worthy of that dignified body. The same may be said of the reply of the house of representatives, delivered through their speaker, Frederick A. Muhlenberg, of Pennsylvania. To both of these addresses the president rejoined in a few brief and appropriate remarks.

Eleven only of the original thirteen states had adopted the federal constitution, previous to the organization of the government by the election of president, vice-president, and members of Congress. North Carolina and Rhode Island had rejected the constitution; but finally came into the Union, the former in November, 1789, the latter in May, 1790. The

• Marshall's Life of Washington.

electors of president and vice-president were appointed in ten of the states on the first Wednesday of January, 1789, and met to give their votes in the several states, on the first Wednesday of February, and the constitution went into operation on the first Wednesday of March, the same year. It was not, however, until the 30th of April, that the government was fully organized, by the induction of the president into office. The legislature of New York having omitted to pass a law directing the mode of choosing electors, owing to a disagreement between the two branches of the legislature, New York did not participate in the first election of president. The whole number of electoral votes given by the ten states was 69, all of which General Washington received, and 34 were received by Mr. Adams, the remaining 35 having been scattered among various candidates. By the constitution, as it originally stood, the presidential electors voted for two persons; the one receiving the highest number of votes was elected president, and the next highest, or second choice of the electors, bocame vice-president. A majority of the whole number of electoral votes was required for the choice of president, but not for vice-president. Mr. Adams, it will be observed, although he received the greatest number of votes next to Washington, was elected vice-president by a minority.

The national government, though one of deliberate consent, encountered, from its formation, a powerful opposition. The friends of the constitution, with Washington and Adams at their head, were denominated Federalists, while those who had opposed the adoption of the constitution were called Anti-Federalists. From various causes, some of those who had supported the constitution in the national and state conventions, and otherwise, joined the opposition to the administration of Washington, among whom may be mentioned Mr. Madison, of Virginia, Mr. Langdon, of New Hampshire, Doctor Williamson, of North Carolina, Mr. Baldwin, of Georgia, and others. In the first Congress, in 1789 and 1790, there was but a small majority in favor of the measures recommended by Washington, and Hamilton, the secretary of the treasury. The anti-federalists elected John Langdon, of New Hampshire, president pro tem. of the senate, and Frederick A. Muhlenberg, speaker of the house of representatives, but they were chosen in the early part of the session, when party lines were not strictly drawn.

The first session of the first Congress, which was held at New York, occupied a period of nearly six months, the adjournment taking place on the 29th of September, 1789. They were employed principally in framing laws necessary to the organization of the government. In this space of time the construction of the powers intended to be given was very ably discussed. The subjects of commerce and of finance received the early and prompt attention of Congress, as well as the organization of the different departments, and of a federal judiciary system. Among the subjects strenuously debated was the president's power of appointment and

« PreviousContinue »