« PreviousContinue »
sent; and never was there witnessed a more interesting scene* Immediately on his resignation, Mr. Washington hastened to his seat at Mount Vernon, on the banks of the Potowmac, in Virginia,
* At a proper moment, general Washington addressed Thomas Miffin, the President, in the following words:
.« Mr. President, “ The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place, I have now the honour of offering my sincere congratulations to congress, and, of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indul. gence of retiring from the service of my country,
Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the Supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven
The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every
review of the momentous contest.
While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge, in this place, the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the persons who had been attached to my person during the war: it was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate; permit me, sir, to recommend in particular those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favourable notice and patronage of congress.
I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty
wiere he earnestly hoped to spend the remainder of his days in an honourable retirement.
God, and those who have the superintendance of them, to his holy keeping
“ Having now ħnished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”
To this the President returned an appropriate answer.
Disputes in different States. General Convention.
A System of Federal Government recommended. Constitution ratified. Washington appointed President. His Character. Re-elected. Insurrection in Pennsylvania. Washington reigns. Adams chosen President. United States arm against France. Washington elected Commander in Chief. Dies. Peace between France and America. Jellerson elected President. States added to the Union. Louisianu ceded. Population. Expenditure. Delt of the United States. Manners and Customs of the Inhulitants of the United States.
O sooner was peace restored by the definitive
treaty, and the British troops withdrawn from their country, than the United States began to experience the defects of their general government. Whilst an enemy was in the country, fear, which liad first impelled the colonists to associate in mutual defence, continued to operate as a band of political union. It gave to the resolutions and recommendations of congress the force of laws, and generally commanded a ready acquiescence on the part of state legislatures. But now each state assumed the right of disputing the propriety of the. resolutions of congress, and the interest of an individual state was placed in opposition to the common welfare of the union. In addition to this source of division, a jealousy of the powers of congress began to be excited in the minds of the people. And the war had not long ceased before in
surrection and rebellion reared their head in some of the states. The want of money was generally felt; this, with other calamities in which the coun. try seemed to be involved, led the house of dele. A. D.
gates in Virginia to recommend the for
mation of a system of commercial regula1785.
tions for the United States. Commissioners from several of the provinces were appointed, who met át Annapolis in the ensuing summer, to consult what measures should be taken to unite the states in some general and efficient commercial system. As however the states were not all re. presented, and the powers of the commissioners were, in their opinion, too limited to propose a system of regulations adequate to the purpose of government, they agreed to recommend a general convention to be held at Philadelphia the next year. This measure appeared to the commissioners absolutely necessary.
The old confederation was essentially defective, and it was destitute of almost every principle necessary to give effect to legislation.
month of May delegates from all the 1787
states except Rhode Island assembled at
Philadelphia, and chose general Washington for their president. After four months deliberation, in which the clashing interests of the several states appeared in all their force, the convention agreed to recommend the plan of a federal govern. ment.
As soon as the federal constitution was submitted to the legislatures of the several states, they proceeded to take measures for collecting the sense of the people upon the propriety of adopting it. It would be a tedious and fruitless task to enter
into the debates which the ratification of the new constitution * occasioned in the different states, suffice it to say, that after a full considera
A.D. tion and thorough discussion of its principles, it was ratified by the conventions of
1789. eleven of the original thirteen states; and shortly after North Carolina and I.hode Island acceded to the union. The ratification of it was celebrated in most of the capitals of the states with elegant processions, which far exceeded any thing of the kind ever before exhibited in America.
The new constitution having been ratified by the states and senators, and representatives having been chosen agreeably to the articles of it, they met at New York and commenced their proceedings. The old congress and confederation expired, and a new one with more ample powers, and a new constitution, partly national and partly federal succeeded in their place, to the great joy of all who wished for the happiness of the United States.
Though great diversity of opinions had prevailed about the new constitution, there was but one opinion about the person who should be appointed its supreme executive officer.
All of every party turned their eyes on the late commander of their armies, as the most proper person to be their first president. Perhaps there was not a well informed person in the United States, Mr. Washington himself only excepted, who was not anxious that he should be called to the executive administration of the proposed new plan of government. Unambitious of farther honours, he had retired to his
A copy of this federal constitution may be seen in Morse's American Geography: