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sensations rushed upon his heart, and all the soldier melted in the man. "He, who has no tenderness, has no magnanimity. WASHINGTON could vanquish, and WASHINGTON could weep. Never was affection more cordially reciprocated." The grasped hand; the silent anguish; the spontaneous tear trickling down the scarred cheek; the wistful look, as he passed, after the warrior who should never again point their way to victory; form a scene for nature's painter, and for nature's bard.
But we must not lose, in our sensibility, the remembrance of his penetration, his prudence, his regard of public honor, and of public faith. Abhorring outrage; jealous for the reputation, and dreading the excesses, of even a gallant army, flushed with conquest, prompted by incendiaries, and sheltered by a semblance of right, his last act of authority is to dismiss them to their homes without entering the capital. Accompanied with a handful of troops, he repairs to the council of the states, and, through them, surrenders to his country the sword which he had drawn in her defence. Singular phenomenon! Washington becomes a private citizen. He exchanges supreme command for the tranquillity of domestic life. Go, incomparable man! to adorn no less the civic virtues, than the splendid achievements of the field: go, rich in the consciousness of thy high deserts : go, with the admiration of the world, with the plaudit of millions, and the orisons of millions more for thy temporal and thine eternal bliss!
The glory of Washington seemed now complete. While the universal voice proclaimed that he might decline, with honor, every future burden, it was a wish and an opinion almost as universal, that he would not jeopardize the fame which he had so nobly won. Had personal considerations swayed his mind, this would have been his own decision. But, untutored in the philosophism of the age, he had not learned to separate the maxims of wisdom from the injunctions of duty. His soul was not debased by that moral cowardice which fears to risk popularity for the general good. Having assisted in the formation of an efficient government which he had refused to dictate or enforce at the mouth of his cannon, he was ready to contribute the weight of his character to insure its effect. And his country rejoiced in an opportunity of testifying, that, much as she loved and trusted others, she still loved and trusted him most. Hailed, by her unanimous suffrage, the pilot of the state, he approaches the awful helm, and grasping it with equal firmness and ease, demonstrates that forms of power cause no embarrassment to him.
In so novel an experiment, as a nation framing a government for herself under no impulse but that of reason; adopting it through no force but the force of conviction; and putting it into operation without bloodshed or violence, it was all-important that her first magistrate should possess her unbounded goodwill. Those elements of discord which lurked in the diversity of local interest; in the collision of political theories; in the irritations of party; in the disappointed or gratified ambition of individuals; and which, notwithstanding her graceful transition, threatened the harmony of America, it was for WASHINGTON alone to control and repress. His tried integrity, his ardent patriotism, were instead of a volume of arguments for the excellence of that system which he approved and supported. Among the simple and honest, whom no artifice was omitted to ensnare, there were thousands who knew little of the philosophy of government, and less of the nice machinery of the constitution; but they knew that WASHINGTON was wise and good; they knew it was impossible that he should betray them; and by this, they were rescued from the fangs of faction. Ages will not furnish so instructive a comment on that cardinal virtue of republicans, confidence in the men of their choice; nor a more salutary antidote against the pestilential principle, that the soul of a re
public is jealousy. At the commencement of her fede. ral government, mistrust would have ruined America; in confidence, she found her safety.
The re-appearance of WASHINGTON as a statesman, excited the conjecture of the old world, and the anxie. ty of the new. His martial fame had fixed a criterion, however inaccurate, of his civil administration. Military genius does neither confer nor imply political ability. Whatever merit may be attached to the faculty of arranging the principles, and prosecuting the details, of an army, it must be conceded that vaster comprehensions belong to the statesman. Ignorance, vanity, the love of paradox, and the love of mischief, affecting to sneer at the “ mystery of government,” have, indeed, taught, that common sense and common honesty are his only requisites. The nature of things and the experience of every people, in every age, teach a different doctrine. America had multitudes who possessed both those qualities, but she had only one WASHINGTON. To adjust, in the best compromise, a thousand interfering views, so as to effect the greatest good of the whole with the least inconvenience to the parts; to curb the dragon of faction by means which insure the safety of public liberty; to marshal opinion and prejudice among the auxiliaries of the law; in fine, to touch the mainspring of national agency, so as to preserve the equipoise of its powers, and to make the feeblest movements of the extremities accord with the impulse at the centre, is only for genius of the highest order. To excel equally in military and political science, has been the praise of a few chosen spirits, among whom, with a proud preference, we enrol the father of our country.
It was the fortune of WASHINGTON to direct transactions of which the repetition is hardly within the limits of human possibilities. When he entered on his first presidency, all the interests of the continent were vibrating through the arch of political uncertainty. The departments of the new government were to be marked out, and filled up; foreign relations to be regulated; the physical and moral strength of the nation to be organized; and that, at a time when scepticism in politics, no less than in religion and morals, was preparing, throughout Europe, to spring the mine of revolution and ruin. In discharging his first duties, that same intelligent, cautious, resolute procedure, which had rendered him the bulwark of war, now exhibited him as the guardian of peace. Appropriation of talent to employment, is one of the deep results of political sagacity. And in his selection of men for office, Washington displayed a knowledge of character and of business, a contempt of favoritism, and a devotion to the public welfare, which permitted the General to be rivalled only by the President.
Under such auspices, the fruit and the pledge of divine blessing, America rears her head, and recovers her vigor. Agriculture laughs on the land: commerce ploughs the wave: peace rejoices her at home; and she grows into respect abroad. Ah! too happy, to progress without interruption. The explosions of Europe bring new vexations to her, and new trials and new glories to her WASHINGTON. Vigilant and faithful, he hears the tempest roar from afar, warns her of its approach, and prepares for averting its dangers. Black are the heavens, and angry the billows, and narrow and perilous the passage. But his composure, dignity and firmness, are equal to the peril. Unseduced by fraud, unterrified by threat, unawed by clamor, he holds on his steady way, and again he saves his country. With less decision on the part of WASHINGTON, a generous, but mistaken ardor, would have plunged her into the whirlpool, and left her till this hour the sport of the contending elements. Americans ! bow to that magnanimous policy, which protected your dearest interests at the hazard of incurring your displeasure. It was thus that WASHINGTON proved himself, not in the cant of the day, but in the procurement of substantial good, in stepping between them and perdition, the servant of the people.
The historian of this period will have to record a revolt, raised by infatuation, against the law of the land.* He will have to record the necessity which compelled even WASHINGTON to suppress it by the sword. But he will have to record also his gentleness and his lenity. Deeds of severity were his sad tribute to justice: deeds of humanity the native suggestions of his heart.
Eight years of glorious administration created a claim on the indulgence of his country, which none could think of disputing, but which all lamented should be urged. The ends, which rendered his services indispensable, being mostly attained, he demands his restoration to private life. Resigning, to an able successor, the reins which he had guided with characteristic felicity, he once more bids adieu to public ho
Let not his motives be mistaken or forgotten. It was for him to set as great examples in the relinquishment, as in the acceptance of power. No mortified ambition, no haughty disgusts, no expectation of higher office, prompted his retreat. He knew, that foreign nations considered his life as the bond, and his influence as the vital spirit of our union. He knew, that his own lustre threw a shade over others, not more injurious to them than to his country. He wished to dispel the enchantment of his own name: he wished to relieve the apprehensions of America, by making her sensible of her riches in other patriots; to be a spectator of her prosperity under their management; and to convince herself, and to convince the world, that she depended less on him, than either her enemies or her friends believed. And, therefore, he withdrew.
Haviny lavished all her honors, his country had nothing more to bestow upon him except her blessing. But he had more to bestow upon his country. His views and his advice, the condensed wisdom of all his reflection, observation and experience, he delivers to his compatriots in a manual worthy of them to study,
* The Insurrection in Pennsylvania in 1794.