Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

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GEORGE WASHINGTON. 35

thread by which the army was kept together, and, in
any other hands than those to which it was entrusted,
it must inevitably have been broken.

In 1781, Washington had planned a grand enter-
prise against New York, in conjunction with the
French commander, the Count de Rochambeau. But
various circumstances concurred to alter his views.
Wliile he amused Sir Henry Clinton, the British
commander at New York, with the expectation of an
assault, he suddenly marched to the south for the pur-
pose of cooperating with the French in an attack
upon Lord Cornwallis, who was stationed at Yorktown.
with an army of seven thousand men. The siege com-
menced on the 2Sth of September, and, on the 19th of
October, after severe fighting. Lord Cornwallis was
compelled to surrender. His entire garrison, together
with the ships, boats and munitions of Avar were deliv-
ered up to the conquering army.

This splendid victory put a finishing stroke to the
war. On the 2Dth of November, 1783, a treaty of
peace with Britain having been ratified, the English
forces evacuated New York, and ^Vashington entered
that city, attended by a splendid retinue. On the 4th
of December, he took a solemn and affecting farewell
of the principal officers of the army, and, proceeding
to Annapolis, where congress was then in session, he
resigned in form, to that body, the commission he had
so long and so gloriously borne. Carrying with
him the gratitude of his country and the admiration
of the world, he retired to private life.

Several years now passed, in which Washington
devoted himself to his farm, to the claims of hospi-



36 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

tality and charity, and to the sustaining of a large cor-
respondence. He sought to restore his lands, exhausted
during the war ; he adopted a new plan for a rotation
of crops, and he spent much time in setting out trees.
His house at Mount Vernon was thronged with vis-
itors from all parts of tlie world ; many brought letters
of introduction from La Fayette, Rochambeau and
de Grasse. Some even crossed the Atlantic to see
him ; and he was visited from all parts of the United
States. All these persons were received with the
utmost kindness and attention.

His correspondence Avas very extensive. He had
letters from every country in Europe, and from all parts
of the United States. Some of these were upon
public affairs, and others were letters of friendship.
He kept copies of most of his letters, not only at this
period, but during his whole life. These furnish a
record not only of his thoughts and actions, but of his
motives, and constitute in themselves a full record of
his life. They are finely written in point of style,
and are uniformly marked with justice, wisdom, and
humanity. There has perhaps never been a human
life more fully laid open to the public, than that of
Washington in his correspondence, and not one which
is at the same time so spotless and so full of action.

His charities were numerous, though usually un-
seen. He was particularly interested in the encour-
agement of education. During many years, he gave
fifty pounds, annually, for the instruction of indigen
children in Alexandria ; and, by his will, he left a lega
cy of four thousand dollars, the net income of which
was to be used for the same benevolent object, forever



GEORGE WASniNGTON. 37

Several instances are known in wJiicli he offered to
pay the expenses of young men through their col-
legiate course. Thus occupied, his hours flowed
happily on, and we may look to this period as tlxit
which afforded him more gratification than any other.

In 17S7, Wasliington was chosen as one of the
delegates of Virginia, to the convention to be held at
Philadelphia, to revise the federal system. He was
unanimously chosen the president of that body, and
no member more heartily approved ihe constitution
which they formed, and which now, for more than fifty
years, has formed the basis of our national govern-
ment.

When the new constitution was about to go into
operation, all eyes were turned upon Yv^ashington to fill
the first office in the gift of the people, Avith affectionate
confidence, and a desire which could not be resisted.
The animosities of parties could not deprive him of a
single vote. The day of election came, and George
Washington was chosen, by the unanimous voice of
the electors, the first president of the United States.

In April, 1789, Washington, having received official
notice of his election, set out for New York, where con-
gress was then in session. His journey from Mount
Vernon to the place of his destination had the air of
a triumphal procession. Everywhere he was greeted
by the citizens, who flocked in crowds to see the
saviour of their country, and ofTer him their homage.

He delivered his inaugural address on the 30th of
April, 1789, and, throughout his administration, he
acted up to the principles and promises therein con-
tained. As before in his military capacity, so now in
VI. — i



38 GEORGE WASIirNGTON.

his civil, he declined receiving any compensation
Dej^ond his actual expenditures in his official char-
acter.

Soon after he entered upon the duties of the pres-
idency, Washington resolved to make a tour to the
eastern states. He set out in October, 1789, and
proceeded in his own carriage, by way of New Haven,
Hartford, Worcester and Boston, to Portsmouth in
New Hampshire. Full of enthusiasm inspired by
his virtues and his fame, the people flocked in thou-
sands to greet him with acclamations of joy, and
testify their respect and veneration. Persons of all
ranks and conditions, — men, women and children — the
tottering infant, the crutched soldier, the gray-haired
patriarch, — assembled from far and near, at the cross-
ings of the roads, and other public places, — happy to
set their eyes upon the form of Washington.

The journey was in all respects satisfactory to
the president. He was gratified with the evidences
afforded of the strong attachment of the people to
himself; of the reviving prosperity of tlie country,
and that the government was gaining favor in the
public mind. He was happy to see that the ghastly
marks of war had almost disappeared — that ample
harvests were springing up under the hand of culti-
vation ; that manufactures were increasing, commerce
becoming more extended, and society, in all its inter-
ests, acquiring an aspect of peace and prosperity.
After an absence of two months, he returned to New
York.

John Adams of Massachusetts, an ardent friend
and eloquent champion of American liberty, and who



GEORGE WASHINGTON. 39

had been a distinguished member of the continental
congress, had been chosen vice-president. In organ-
izing his cabinet, Washington selected Alexander
Hamilton, of New York, as secretary of the treasury,
Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia, secretary of state,
Henry Knox, secretary of war, and Edmund Ran-
dolph, of Virginia, attorney general, John Jay, of
New York, was appointed chief justice. Associated
with these great men, he commenced his administra-
tion.

The duties of the new government Avere great
indeed. The country was embarrassed with a debt
of nearly a hundred millions. The nation had been
impoverished and desolated by war. The morals of
the people had been corrupted by the vices which are
engendered in armies. The bands of society had
been loosened or sundered; the conflicting jealousies
of thirteen republics were agitating the whole mass of
•society.

To establish a new government under such circum
stances, when the very foundations of society seemed
to be yet rocking with the recent earthquake; to
bring order out of confusion; to shape the intricate
machinery of the new republic, and make all parts
work harmoniously; — this required not only the
highest efforts of genius, but the utmost sagacity of
wisdom ; yet the result has proved that the men
brought to the task were competent to the stupendous
undertaking.

The new government went at once into full opera-
tion, and, doubtless, the reverence, the confidence, the
affection for "Washington, entertained by the entire



40 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

nation, contribvitcd, more than any other circumstance,
to this propitious course of events. Under the guid-
ance of any other hand, it is probable that the great
political engine, fabricated with so much care and
skill, had rushed at once into anarchy and confusion.
The great name, the fair fame of Washington were
doubtless as important to the country in this time of
peace, as had been his soldierly qualities in time of
war. He was called the father of his country. How
potent the spell to subdue fretful and selfish passions,
exerted by that magic title ! How great, how benefi-
cent the power that lies in a good name !

In discharging one of the most delicate duties of
his position — that of appointment or nomination to
office — Washington adopted the most wise and patri-
otic rules. He determined in no degree to give a
preference on account of the ties of family relation-
ship, and to have always in view three things — fitness
for the proposed station; claims arising from former
services ; and local position, so as to distribute the
offices equally over the country. In practice, he fol-
lowed these principles, and here, as in everything
else, set an example worthy of observance by his suc-
cessors.

In August, 17S9, the mother of Washington died
at the age of eighty-two. He had seen her a short time
before he entered upon the duties of the presidency.
She was sinking under disease, and he foresaw the
issue. He took an affecting leave of her, and when
he heard the news of her departure, he mourned, yet
with gratitude that Providence had given him such a
parent, and spared her so long. She was indeed



GEORGE WASHINGTON. 41

a superior woman; and we and the world at large
are doubtless greatly indebted to her good influences,
in shaping the character of her son by favorable im-
pressions in his youth — for such a boon as was
bestowed in him. Kow great is the power of a
mother for good or evil! If Washington was in
some essential degree the result of a mother's training
— ^was not, also, Aaron Burr, Robespierre, Benedict
Arnold? Ye mothers, think of that!

Washington's mother had been a v/idow forty-six
years. She was remarkable, through life, for good
sense, vigor of mind, uprightness of character and
simplicity of manners. She lived to see the brilliant
career of her son, — yet when he visited her in the
height of his fame, he found his home unchanged. His
renown caused no alteration in her style of living.
Neither pride nor vanity mingled in the feelings
excited by his success, or the attention paid her as
the Mother of Washington. When his praises were
uttered before her, she was silent, or only added that
he was a good son, and she believed he had done his
duty as a man. Let no one despair of human natui'e,
while it produces such models as this !

Soon after the government went into operation, it
became apparent that two political parties were rising
in the country, whose contests threatened to embarrass
its progress, if not to subvert the structure itself.
From the beginning, there were some persons un-
friendly to the constitution, and Mr. Jefferson, the
secretary of state, appears to have been among those
who gave it a reluctant assent. In his office he

discharged his duties with fidelity, but as the admin-
4*



12 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

istration advanced, he Avas understood to disapprove
It? leading measures. He looked upon the general
government as possessing a degree of power danger-
ous to the individual states, and likely to swallow up
their independence, unless jealously watched and
rigidly kept within the defined limits of its provisions.

Hamilton entertained different views. Contemplat-
ing the fretful elements at work in society, and looking
to the experience of mankind, he helieved that if there
was any defect in the constitution, it was that of weak-
ness ; and that, instead of restricting its operations by
a narrow construction of the powers it granted, the
administration ■should rather seek to fortify itself by
an opposite course. In pursxzancc of these views, he
had recommended the funding system, the assumption
of state debts, the bank, and the tax on domestic
spirits, which, being approved by Washington, were
among the leading features of his administration.
To all these Jefferson was opposed, and consequently
a feeling of hostility grew up between him and the
secretary of the treasury. This division in his cabinet
gave the president great anxiety, and he endeavored,
though in vain, to heal the breach.

As the term for which Washington was chosen
president, drew near its close, a general wish was
entertained that he should consent to a second election.
To this, however, he had strong objections. He
yearned for the peace and quiet of private life, and
doubtless felt solicitous to set an example to his suc-
cessors, of holding the presidential chair for but a
single term. But the edifice of government had not
yet acquired steadiness ; the waves of party were



GEORGE WASHINGTON. 43

beating upon it; the French revohition w.is shaking
society, throughout Christendom, to its foundations, and
communicating its threatening undulations even to our
own shores. It was generally felt that his firm guid-
ance was still nccessaiy at the helm. He received
many letters to this effect, from every part of the
country, and from leading men of all parties. Ham-
ilton, Randolph, and even Jefferson, made written
communications to him, urging, in strong terms and
by weighty arguments, the sacrifice of his inclination
to the exigency of the time and the demands of his
country. Thus, even those who oppos^ his adminis-'
tration, paid him their homage, and a,t once confessed
his wisdom and their own inconsistency, c " The con-
fidence of the whole country," said Jefferson, " is
centred in you. Your being at the helm, v»dll be
more than an answer to every argument which can
be used to alarm and lead the people, in any quarter,
into violence or secession." Such were the words of
one who was the head of the opposition to Washing-
ton's administration, and who has done more than all
other men to unsettle the just, wise and patriotic prin-
ciples Avhich he entertained, and sought to diffuse I

Yielding to the wish of the nation, unequivocally
expressed, Washington was unanimously chosen for
a second term, and accepted the appointment. It was
no idle trust. France was now at war "wath embattled
Europe, and it became a matter of the utmost deli-
cacy to steer clear of difficulty between the contend-
ing parties. Washington determined upon a course
of strict neutrality; yet this brought upon him the
most violent attacks from the opposition, who were



44 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

friendly to llie French. Party strife now raged with
unwonted violence. / The storm was rendered more
violent by the shameful audacity of citizen Genet,
minister from the French republic. On his arrival,
he was received with enthusiasm by the people, who
remembered with gratitude the aid which his country
had afforded in the struggle of the revolution. Em-
boldened by these indications, he gave immediate
orders, after his landing at Charleston, in South
Carolina, for fitting out vessels to cruise against
those of countries at peace with the United States.

He was politely received by Washington, but his
measures were deemed improper, and a public decla-
ration of the government was made, prohibiting such
a breach of our neutral relations as he had attempted.
The minister protested against this decision, wrote
offensive letters to the secretary of state, and seemed
alike to forget the dignity of his station and the char-
acter of a gentleman. His effrontery was checked
by the firmness of the executive, but he still sought
to force the country to the support of his views.
Under his auspices, democratic societies were formed
in various parts of the country, upon the model of the
Jacobin clubs of France, Vv'hose purpose and effect
were to sow the seeds of jealousy and distrust of the
government, to bring the administration into contempt,
and sap the foundations of the constitution.

In spite of the billows that foamed and fretted
around the government, it went steadily on, acquiring
stability in the midst of agitation. Unbiassed by the
acrimony of parties, the president pursued his calm
career. In the spring of 1794, John Jay was sent as



GEORGE WASHINGTON. 45

minister to England, to attempt to adjust the difficul-
ties with that power, and soon after Mr. Monroe,
though of the democratic party, Avas despatched to
France, in place of Gouvernor Morris, who was
recalled. About the same period, an insurrection in
Pennsylvania, called the " whiskey rebellion," was
suppressed by a show of military force, and without
bloodshed.

In 179-5, the treaty negotiated with England, by
Mr. Jay, was received, and, after calm and anxious
deliberation, Washington gave it his sanction. It
was also ratified by the senate. It was seized upon,
however, by the opposition, and made the ground of
the most bitter invective. This was particularly
turned against Washington. Seldom has any indi-
vidual been the object of such malignant obloquy.
His character was assailed, — his motives impugaed,
— his competency denied. The whole country was
swept as by a tempest. Yet he turned not from his
path. Steadfast in his convictions, he held to his
purpose ; the treaty went into effect, and proved to be
one of the wisest and happiest events in our history.
It saved the country from a war, improved our com-
merce, and contributed to lay the foundation of durable
prosperity. What a triumph was this ! what a proof
of far-sighted sagacity on the part of the president!
As time advances, how great does he appear I — how
deep his wisdom ! — ^how lofty his calmness ! Yes, —
and how contemptible his traducers! — how subdued
the frothy tempest they excited !

During the progress of these events, several changes
had taken place in the cabinet. Mr. Jeflerson



46



GEORGE WASHINGTON.



returned from his mission to France in 1794, and
may from this time be considered as the head of the
democratic party. And it is proper to add, that he
requited the implicit confidence which had been be-
stowed upon him, in a manner to excite the indignation
of Washington. He was succeeded in the depart-
ment of state by Edmund Randolph, the attorney
generaL The same year Hamihon was succeeded
by Oliver Wolcott, of Connecticut, and General Knox,
by Timothy Pickering, of Massachusetts.

In 1796, the captivity of La Fayette in the dungeons
of Olmutz, became known, and it excited in Wash-
ington the keenest anxiety. We had no diplomatic
relations with Germany, and had therefore no poAver
to use direct efforts in his favor. Yet our ministers
abroad were instructed to use their influence to eflect
his liberation, and Washington wrote with his own
hand to the emperor of Austria, soliciting his release.
The effect we do not know; but when the noble
captive was set free, he Vv^as delivered to the charge
of the American consul at Hamburg.

As the end of his second term drew near, Wash-
ington determined not to accept another term of office,
and set about the preparation of his immortal farewell
address. In this he was probably aided by the
admirable quill of Hamilton, yet the sentiments and
substance were his own. It will endure forever, as a
monument of his great wisdom and affectionate
patriotism. So long as its advice is heeded by our
country, we shall advance in the career of prosperity;
if we deviate from its principles, we have cause to
'"ear for our liberties. Let us learn to try every pub-



GEOROK WASHINGTON. 47

lie man, every public measure, by this admirable
document; and, regardless of names, professions and
pretences, approve or condemn, as tbey may conform
to, or depart from, the standards there proposed.

Mr. Adams was chosen president, and Mr. JefTer-
son vice-president ; being duly inaugurated, March 4,
1797, Washington prepared to take his leave. At a
dinner, when many of his friends were present, he
gave as a sentiment, " Ladies and gentlemen, — this
is the last time I shall drink your health as a public
man, — I do it with sincerity, Avishing you all possible
happiness." The hilarity of the party ceased; and
tears which could not be suppressed fell from the eyes
of those around. Taking leave of his friends, and a
final farewell of public life, he left Philadelphia, the
seat of government, and was once more restored to
the farm of Mount Vernon.

He now returned to the simple pursuits, which
had before occupied him in private life. But in the
midst of these scenes, he was called once more to
yield to the calls of his country. The conduct of the
French directory had excited fears of an approaching
contest, and a provincial army was raised, to stand
ready for any emergency. Washington was appointed
to its command, in July, 179S, and accepted the trust.
From this period to the end of his life, he was much
occupied in these military affairs. His official cor-
respondence at this period was extensive, and affords
the finest models of this kind of Avriting, as well as
abundant evidence of the vigor of his intellect and the
fertility of his resources.

And now the closing scene draws near. On the



48 GEORGE WASHIx\GTOx\.

10th of December, 1799, he was several hours op
horseback, and returned in the afternoon, wet and
chilled with rain and sleet. In the night he had an
ague, and on the morning of the 14th, he had a sore
throat, which caused him to breathe with difficulty. His
suffering soon became acute, and was unabated through
tlie day. Medicine afforded no relief. He was per-
suaded that death was at hand. " I die hard," said
he to his physician. Dr. Craik, — "but I am. not afraid
to die. I believed from my first attack that I should
not survive it. My breath cannot last long." No-
thing could be done to arrest the disease. It was the
will of Providence. Patient, and submissive to the
Divine will, he struggled for a brief space, and
expired without a groan, between ten and eleven
o'clock, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. On the
ISth, his rem.ains were deposited in the tomb of
Mount Vernon, where they still repose.

The character of Washington is the finest in history.
It has extorted admiration from every civilized land.
Congress paid him their tribute of affection and
respect; the whole nation mourned for one, on whom
they had bestowed the endearing title of Father of
his Country. Bonaparte, the first consul, eulogized
his character, and appointed public mourning for his
loss. An eulogium was pronounced upon him in the
Temple of Mars, at Avhich the civil and military
authorities of Paris were present. The British fleets
in Torbay hung their flags at half-mast, upon hearing
the news of his death !

The person of Washington was commanding, grace-
ful ^nd finely proportioned. In youth he was remark-



GEORGE WASHINGTON. 49

able for his strength, and his vigor continued, with
little abatement, till he was advanced in life. His
stature was six feet, his features regular, his hair
brown, his eyes blue. His whole aspect was grave,
placid and benigiiant. The dignity of his move-
ments, the grace of his salutation, the calm sweetness
of his smile, were indescribable. An old soldier,
speaking of him at the time he was stationed upon the
heights of Tappan, recently described him thus: "I
saw General Washington almost every day. He
was a noble-looking man; his countenance was
terribly pleasant. He did not talk much, but even
the little children fairly loved him, and they used to
gather about the door of his marquee every morning
to see him ; and he used to pat tlieir heads and smile
on them; it was beautiful to see." Beautiful, indeed!

The character of Washington has been drawn by
many pens. " Illustrious man ! " — says Cliarles Fox,
— "deriving honor less from the splendor of his
situation, than from the dignity of his mind ; before
whom all borrowed greatness sinks into insignificance,
and all the potentates of Europe, excepting the mem-
bers of our own royal family, become little and con-
temptible." "I have a large acquaintance am.ong the
most valuable and exalted classes of men," — says
Mr. Erskine, "but Washington is the only human
being for whom I ever felt an awful reverence."
Such were the deep and powerful feelings excited by


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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 3 of 21)