Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

“ Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error ; I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may bc, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service, with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

“ Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and acluated by that fervent love toward it, which is so natural 10 a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow.citizens, the benign influence of good laws, under a free government; the ever favourite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labours, and dangers.

66 United States, Sept. 17, 1796."

This valcdictory address of the father of his country, was received in every part of the union with the most unbounded veneration, and recorded with the most pointed respect. Shortly after, the president, for the last ume, met the national legislature in the senate chamber. His address. on the occasion was highly dignified. He congratulated Congress on the in:ernal situation of the United States ; on the progress which had been made for preserving peace with the Indians, and meliorating their condition ; and, after stating the measures which had been adopted in execution of the treaties with Britain, Spain and Algiers, and the negociations which were pending with Tunis and Tripoli, he observed, “ To an active external commerce, the protection of a naval-force is indispensable. This is manifested-with regard to wars in which a state is itself a party. But be. side this, it is in our own experience, that the most sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the depredatioris af nations at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag re

quires a naval force, organized and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even prevent the necessity of going to war, by discouraging belligerent powers fron committing such violations of the rights of the neu-tral party as may first or last leave no other option. From the best information I have been able to obtain, it would seem as if our trade to the Mediterranean, without a protecting force, will always be insecure, and our citizens exposed to the calamities from which numbers of thein lave but just been relieved.

« These considerations invite the United States to look to the means, and to set about the gradual creation of a navy. The increasing progress of their navigation, promises them at no distant period, the requisite supply of seamen, and their incans in other respects, favour the undertaking. It is an encouragement likewise, that their particular situation will give weight and influence to a moderate naval force in their hands. Will it not then be advisable to begin without delay, to provide and lay up the materials for the building and equipping of ships of war, and to proceed in the work by degrees, in proportion as our resources shall render it practicable, without inconvenience ; so thai a future war of Europe may not find our commerce in the same unpro. tected state in which it was found by the present?”

He then recommended the establishment of national works for manufacturing implements of defence; of an institution for the improvement of agriculture ; and pointed out the advantages of a military academy'; of a national university; and the necessity of augmenting the salarics of the officers of the United States.

In respect to the disputes with France, he observed, « While in our external relations some serious inconveniences and embarrassments have been overcome, and otliers lessened, it is with much pain and deep regret I mention, that circumstances of a very unwelcome nature have lately occurred. Our trade has suffered, and is suffering, extensive injuries in the West-Indies, from the cruizers and agents of the French republic; and communications have been received fro:n its ininister here, which indicate the danger of a further disturbance of our commerce by its authority; and which are in other respects far from agreer able.

“ It has been my constant, sincere and earnest wish, in conformity with that.of our nation, to maintain cordial har. mony, and a perfect friendly understanding with that republic. This wish remains unabated, and I shall persevere in the endeavour to fulfil it, to the utmost extent of what shall be consistent with a just and indispensable regard to the rights and honour of our country; nor will I easily cease to cherish the expectation, that a spirit of justice, candour and friendship, on the part of the republic, will eventually ensure success.

« In pursuing this course, however, I cannot forget what is due to the character of our government and nation, or to a full and entire confidence in the good sose, patriotism self-respect, and fortitude of my countrymen.”

This address 'was concluded in the following pathetic terms:

The situation in which I now stand for the last time, in the midst of the representatives of the people of the Unit. ed States, naturally recalls the period when the administration of the present form of government commenced ; and I cannot omit the occasion to congratulate you and my country on the success of the experiment, nor to repeat my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the universe, and Sovereign Arbiter of nations, that his providential care may still be extended to the United States; that the virtue and happiness of the people may be preserved ; and that the government which they have instituted for the protection of their libeities may be perpetual."

1

CHAPTER XIII.

Washington rejoices at the prospect of retiring....Writes to the

Secretary of State, denying the authenticity of letters said to be from him to J. P. Custis and Lund Washington, in 1776..., Peys respect to his successor, Mr. John Adams... Review of Washington's administration .... He retires to Mount Vernon. Resumes agricultural pursuits.

Hears with regret the aggression of the French republic....Corresponds on the subjeet of his taking the command of an army to oppose the French.... Is appointed Lieutenant General ....His commission is sent to him by the secretary of war.c.. His letter to President Adams ont the receipt thereof..... Directs the organizat on of the proposed arıny.... Three Envoys Extraordinary sent to France, who ad. just a') disputes with Bonaparte, after the overthrow of the Dia -rectory ....Gen. Washington dies.... Is honoured by Congress, and by the citizens... Ilis character.

The pleasing emotions which are excited in ordinary men on their acquisition of power, were inferior to those which Washington felt on the resignation of it. To his friend, Gen. Knox, on the day preceding the termination of his office, le observed in a letter; “To thc weary traveller who sees a resting place, and is bending his body thereon, I now compare myself. Although the prospect of retirement is most grateful to my soul, and I have not a wish to mix in the great world, or to partake in its politics, yet I am not without regret at parting with, perhaps never more to meet, the few intimates whom I love. Among those be assured you are one.

The numerous caluinnies of which Washington was the subject, crew from him no public animadversions, except in one case. A'volume of letters, said to be from General Washington to John Parke Custis and Lund Washington, were published by the British, in the year 1776, and were given to the public as being found in a small portmanteau, lest in the care of his servant, who it was said by ihe editors, had been taken prisoner in Fort Lee. These letters were

T 2

intended to produce in the public mind, impressions unfa. vourable to the integrity of Washington's motives, and to represent his inclination at variance with his professions and duty. When the first edition of these spurious letters was forgotten, they were republished during Washington's civil administration, by some of his fellow-citizens who differed from him in politics, On the morning of the last day of his presidency, he addressed a letter to the Secretary of State, in which, after enumerating all the facts and dates connected with the forgery, and declaring that he had hitherto deemed it unnecessary to take any formal notice of the imposition, he concluded as follows : “But as I cannot know how soon a more serious event may succeed to that which will this day take place, I have thought it a duty that I owed to myself, to my country, and to truth, now to detail the circumstances above recited, and to add my solemn declaration, that the letters herein described, are a base forgery ; and that I never saw or heard of them until they appeared in print. The present letter I commit to your care, and desire it may be deposited in the office of the department of state, as a testimony of the truth to the present generation and to posterity."

The moment now approached which was to terminate the official character of Washington, and in which that of his successor, John Adanis, was to commence. The old and new president walked together to the House of Represenfatives, where the oath of office was administered to the latler. On this occasion Mr. Adams concluded an impressive speech with a handsome compliment to his predecessor, by observing, that though he was about to retire, « his nanie may still be a rampart

, and the knowledge that he lives a bulwark against all open or secret enemies of his couniry."

The immense concourse of citizens who were present, gazed with love and affection on the retiring Washington, while cheerfulness overspread his countenance and joy filled his heart, on seeing another invested with the high authoritics he so long exercised, and the way opened for his *re:urn to the long wished for happiness of domestic private life. After paying his most respectful compliments to the new president, he set out for Mount Vernon, the scene of enjoyment which he preferred to all others. His wishes to travel privately were io yain ; for wherever he passed, the

« ForrigeFortsett »