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LIVES OF THE PRESIDENTS
OF THE UNITED STATES.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, The founder of American Independence, and first Presj.sent of the United States, was born in 1732, in the County of Fairfax, in Virginia. He was descended from an English family which emigrated from Cheshire, about 10.50; and his father, in the place of his nativity, was possessed of great landed property. He received his education from a private tutor; and was particularly instructed in mathematics and engineering. His abilities were first employed by Dinwiddie, in 1753, in making remonstrances to the French commander on the Ohio, for the infraction of the treaty between the two nations; and he afterwards negotiated with the Indians on the back settlements, for which he received the thanks of the British government. In the expedition of Braddock he served as aid-de-camp; and, on the fall of that brave but rash commander, he displayed great talent in conducting the retreat, and saving the army from a dangerous position. He retired from the service with rank of colonel ; but, while engaged in the peaceful employments of an agriculturist, at Mount Vernon, he was elected senator in the national council for Frederic county, and afterwards for Fairfax.
At the commencemert of the revolutionary war, he was selected as the most proper person to take the chief comunand of the provincial troops. On receiving from the president of Congress official notice of this appoint. ment, he thus addressed him: “Mr. President; although I ain truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service, and for support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks, for this distinguished testimony of their approbation. But, lest some unlucky event should happen, unfavorable to my réputation, I beg‘it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare, with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with. As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress, that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses; these, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire.”
From the moment of taking upon himself this important office, in June, 1775, he employed the great powers of his mind to his favorite object, and, by his prudence, his valor, and presence of mind, he deserved and obtained the confidence and gratitude of his country, and finally triumphed over all opposition.
The record of his services is the history of the whole war. He joined the army at Cambridge in July, 1775. On the evacuation of Boston, in March, 1776, he proceeded to New York. The battle of Long Island was fought on the 27th of August, and the battle of Whiteplains on the 25th of October. On the 25th of December, he crossed the Delaware, and soon gained the victories at Trenton and Princeton. The battle of Brandywine was fought on September 11th, 1777; of Germantown, October 4th ; of Monmouth, February 28th, 1778. 1779 and 1780, he continued in the vicinity of New York, and closeil the important military operations of the war by the capture of Cornwallis, at Yorktown, in 1781.
On the second of November, 1783, General Washing: ton issued his farewell orders to the armies of the United States. After noticing a recent proclamation of Congress, he observed that it only remained to address himself for the last time to the armies of the United States, and to hid them an affectionate farewell. He remarked upon. the circumstances under which the war was begun; the signal interpositions of Providence in their behalf, and their unparalleled perseverance through eight years of every possible suffering and discouragement. His closing words were—“Your general being now to conclude these his last public orders, to take his ultimate leave, in a short time, of the military character, and to bid adieu to the armies he has so long had the honor to command, he can only again offer in their behalf his recommendations to their grateful country, and his prayers to the God of armies. May ample justice be done to them here, and may the choicest of Heaven's favors, both here and here. after, attend those, who, under the divine auspices, have secured innumerable blessings for others! With these wishes, and this benediction, the commander-in-chief is about to retire from service. The curtain of separation will soon be drawn, and the military scene, to him, will be closed forever.”
On Tuesday noon, the fourth of December, the principal. officers of the army assembled at Francis's tavern, to take a final leave of their beloved commander-in-chief. When Washington entered the room, his emotions were too strong to be repressed or concealed. Filling a glass, he turned to the surrounding officers and said With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable." Having drank, he added, “I cannot come to each of you to take my leave, but shall be obliged to you, if each of you will come and take me by the hand.” General Knox, being nearest, turned to him. Washington, in tears, grasped his hand, embraced and kissed him. In the same manner he took leave of each
succeeding officer, Lincoln, and Greene, and La Fayette, and the other valiant men with whom he had been connected in hcurs of peril and darkness, to be rewarded with endless gratitude and glory.
Every eye was moistened with tears. Not a word was spoken to interrupt the silent solemnity of the parting. Leaving the room, Washington passed through the corps of light infantry, and walked to Whitehall, where a coach was in waiting to receive him. The whole company followed in mute procession, with sad and dejected countenances. On entering the barge, he turned to his companions, and, waving his hat, bade them a silent farewell. They paid him a similar mark of respect and affection, and, when they could no longer distinguish in the barge the person of their beloved commander, returned, in the same solemn manner, to the place where they had first assembled.
On the disbanding of the army, Washington proceeded to Annapolis, then the seat of Congress, to resign his commission. On his way thither, he delivered to the comptroller of accounts, at Philadelphia, an account of his receipts and expenditures of public money. The whole amount that had passed through his hands, was only £14,479 18s. 9d. sterling. Nothing was charged or retained for his own services. The resignation of his command was made in a public audience. Congress received him as the guardian of his country and her liberties. He appeared there under the most affecting circumstances. The battles of a glorious war had been fought since he first appeared before them to accept, with a becoming modesty, the command of their armies. Now the eyes of a whole nation were upon him, and the voices of a liberated people proclaimed him their preserver.
His high character and services naturally entitled him to the highest gists his country could bestow; and, on the organization of the government, he was called upon to be the first president of the states which he had preserved and established. It was a period of great difficulty and danger. The unsubdued spirit of liberty had been roused and kindled by the revolution of France, and inany of his fellow-citizens were eager that the freedom and
equality which they themselves enjoyed should be extended to the subjects of the French monarch. Wash ington anticipated the plans of the factious, and by pru. dence and firmness subdued insurrection, and silenced discuntent, till the parties which the intrigues of Genet, the French envoy, had roused to rebellion, were convinced of the wildness of their measures, and of the wisdom of their governor.
The president completed, in 1796, the business of his office, by signing a commercial treaty with Great Britain, and then voluntarily resigned his power at a moment when all hands and all hearts were united again to confer upon nim the sovereignty of the country. Restored to the peaceful retirement of Mount Vernon, he devoted himseli to the pursuits of agriculture; and though he accepted the command of the army in 1798, it was merely to unite the affections of his fellow.citizens to the general good, and was one more sacrifice to his high sense of duty. He died, after a short illness, on the 14th of December, 1799. He was buried with the honors due to the noble founder of a happy and prosperous republic.
History furnishes no parallel to the character of Washington. Wisdom, says a contemporary writer, was the predominant feature of his character. His patience, his forbearance, his firmness, in adverse as well as in prosperous events, proved of more solid advantage to his cour:ry than his bravery and talents. No man has ever appeared upon the theatre of public action whose integrity was more incorruptible, or whose principles were more perfectly free from the contamination of those selfish and unworthy passions which find their nourishment in the conflicts of party. Having no views which required concealment, his real and avowed motives were the same; and his whole correspondence does not furnish a single case from which even an enemy would infer that he was capable, under any circumstances, of stooping to the employment of duplicity.
No truth can be uttered with more confidence than that his ends were always upright, and his means always pure. He exhibits a rare example of a politician to whom wille were absolutely unknown, and whose professions to