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ment might be the result of a full acquaintance with all circumstances.
Thus situated, the General reviewed the subject, that he might upon thorough deliberation make the decision which duty and patriotism enjoined. He had, by a circular letter to the state societies, declined being re-elected the President of the Cincinnati, and had an. nounced that he should not attend their general meeting at Philadelphia on the next May; and he appre. hended, that if he attended the Convention at the time and place of their meeting, that he should give offence to all the officers of the late army who com. posed this body. He was under apprehension that the states would not be generally represented on this occasion, and that a failure in the plan would diminish the personal influence of those who engaged in it. Some of his confidential friends were of opinion that the occasion did not require his interposition, and that he ought to reserve himself for a state of things which would unequivocally demand his agency and influence. Even on the supposition that the plan should succeed, they thought that he ought not to engage in it; because his having been in Convention would obligate him to make exertions to carry the measures that body might recommend, into effect, and would necessarily “sweep him into the tide of publick affairs.” His own experience since the close of the revolutionary war created in his mind serious doubts, whether the respective states would quietly adopt any system, calculated to give stability and vi. gour to the national government. “ As we could not," to use his own language, “remain quiet more than three or four years in times of peace, under the constitutions of our own choosing, which were believed in many states to have been formed with deliberation and wisdom, I see little prospect either of our agreeing on any other, or that we should remain long satisfied under it, if we could. Yet I would wish any thing
and every thing essayed to prevent the effusion of blood, and to divert the humiliating and contemptible figure we are about to make in the annals of mankind.”
These considerations operated powerfully to confirm him in the opinion first formed not to attend the Convention.
On the other hand, he realized the greatness of the publick stake. The confederation was universally considered as a nullity. The advice of a Convention, composed of respectable characters from every part of the union, would probably have great influence with the community, whether it should be to amend the articles of the old government, or to form a new constitution.
Amidst the various sentiments which at this time prevailed, respecting the state of publick affairs, many entertained the supposition that the times must be worse before they could be better," and that the American people could be induced to establish an efficient and liberal national government only by the scourge of anarchy. Some seemed to think that the experiment of a republican government in America had already failed, and that one, more energetick, must soon by violence be introduced. General WASHINGTON entertained some apprehension, that his declining to attend the Convention would be considered as a dereliction of republican principles.
While he was balancing these opposite circum. stances in his mind, the insurrection of Massachusetts occurred, which turned the scale of opinion in favour of his joining the Convention. He viewed this event as awfully alarming. “For God's sake tell me," said he in a letter to Colonel Humphreys, “ what is the cause of all these commotions? Do they proceed from licentiousness, British influence disseminated by the tories, or real grievances which admit of redress? If the lat: ter, why was redress delayed until the publick mind had become so much agitated ? If the former, why are not the powers of government tried at once? It is as well to be without as not to exercise them.”
To General Knox and other friends, similar apprehensions were expressed. “I feel infinitely more than I can express to you, for the disorders which have arisen in these states. Good God! who besides a torý could have foreseen, or a Briton have predicted them? I do assure you that even at this moment, when I reflect upon the present aspect of our affairs, it seems to me like the visions of a dream. My mind can scarcely realize it as a thing in actual existence :-So strange, so wonderful, does it appear to me. In this, as in most other matters, we are too slow. When this spirit first dawned, it might probably have been easily checked; but it is scarcely within the reach of human ken, at this moment, to say when, where, or how, it will terminate. There are combustibles in every state, to which a spark might set fire. In bewailing, which I have often done with the keenest sorrow, the death of our much lamented friend General Greene, I have accompanied my regrets of late with a query whether he would not have preferred such an exit, to the scenes which it is more than probable many of his compatriots may live to bemoan.
“ You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be found ; nor if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for these disorders. Influence is not government. Let us have a government by which our lives, liberties, and proper. ties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once. Under these impressions my humble opinion is that there is a call for decision. Know then precisely what the insurgents aim at. If they have real grievances, redress them if possible ; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it in the present moment. If they have not, employ the force of the government against them at once. If this is inade.
quate, all will be convinced that the superstructure is bad, or wants support. To be more exposed in the eyes of the world, and more contemptible than we already are, is hardly possible. To delay one or the other of these expedients is to exasperate on the one hand, or to give confidence on the other, and will add to their numbers; for, like snow-balls, such bodies increase by every movement, unless there is something in the way to obstruct and crumble them, before their weight is too great and irresistible.
“ These are my sentiments. Precedents are dangerous things. Let the reins of government then be braced, and held with a steady hand; and every violation of the Constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon while it has an existence.”
A friend having intimated by letter his apprehension, that civil discord was near, in which event he would be obliged to act a publick part, or to leave the continent. “ It is," said the General in reply," with the deepest and most heart-felt concern, I perceive, by some late paragraphs extracted from the Boston papers, that the insurgents of Massachusetts, far from being satisfied with the redress offered by their General Court, are still acting in open violation of law and government, and have obliged the Chief Magistrate, in a decided tone, to call upon the militia of the state to support the constitution.
" What, gracious God, is man! That there should be such inconsistency and perfidiousness in his conduct. It is but the other day, that we were shedding our blood to obtain the constitutions under which we live ; constitutions of our own choice and making; and now we are unsheathing the sword to overturn them. The thing is so unaccountable that I hardly know how to realize it; or to persuade myself that I am not under the illusion of a dream. My mind, previous to the receipt of your letter of the first ultimo, Vol. II.
had often been agitated by a thought similar to the one you expressed respecting a friend of yours; but heaven forbid that a crisis should come when he shall be driven to the necessity of making a choice of either of the alternatives there mentioned.”
Having learned that the states had generally elected their representatives to the Convention, and Congress having given its sanction to it, he on the 28th of March communicated to the Governour of Virginia, his consent to act as one of the delegates of his state on this important occasion.
On the second Monday in May 1787, the delegates of twelve states met in Convention at Philadelphia, and unanimously elected General GEORGE WASHINGTON their President. The present Constitution of Government of the United States was the result of the deliberations and concessions of this venerable body.
Although the friends of General WASHINGTON had fully acquiesced in the propriety of his retiring from publick life at the close of the revolutionary war, yet from the moment of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, all eyes were directed to him as the first President of the United States. His correspondents early endeavoured to prepare his mind to gratify the expectations of his country. Mr. Johnson, a distinguished patriot of Maryland, wrote him, “We cannot do without you, and I and thousands more can explain to any body but yourself why we cannot do without you."
The struggle between inclination and duty was long and severe. His feelings on this occasion fully ap. peared in the lettors which he wrote to his friends on the subject. Colonel Lee, then a member of Congress, communicating to General WASHINGTON the measures which that body were adopting to introduce the new government, thus alludes to the presidency.
« The solemnity of the moment, and its application to yourself, have fixed my mind in contemplations of