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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 princi1789. ples, it was ratified by the conventions of eleven of the original thirteen states; and shortly after North Carolina and F.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.
farm in Virginia, and hoped to be excused from all future public service. That honest zeal for the public good which had uniformly influenced him, got the better of his love of retirement, and induced him to undertake the office.
The intelligence of his election being communicated to him while on his farm, he set out soon after for New York. On his way thither, the road *was crowded with numbers anxious to see the man of the people: and he was every where received with the highest honours that a grateful people could confer. Addresses of congratulation were presented to him by the inhabitants of almost every place of consequence through which he passed; to all of which he returned modest and, unassuming answers.
A day was fixed, soon after his arrival, for his taking the oath of office, which was in the following words: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States." This oath was administered by the chancellor of the state of New York. An awful silence prevailed among the spectators durring this part of the ceremony. It was a minute of the most sublime political joy. The chancellor then proclaimed him president of the United States, which was answered by the discharge of thirteen guns, and by the shouts and acclamations of ten thousand joyful voices. John Adams was at the same time elected vice president.
There is nothing more striking in the whole character of general Washington, and which distinguished him more from other extraordinary men, than the circumstances which attended his promo
tion and retreat from office. He eagerly courted privacy, and only submitted to exercise authority as a public duty. The promotions of many men are the triumph of ambition over virtue. The promotions, even of good men, have generally been sought by them from motives which were very much mixed. The promotions of Washington almost alone, seem to have been victories gained by his conscience over his taste. To despise what all other men eagerly pant for, to show himself equal to the highest places without ever seeking any, are the noble peculiarities of the character of this great man.
-Events occurred during his chief magistracy which convulsed the whole political world, and which severely tried his moderation and prudence. The French revolution took place. From the beginning of this revolution Washington had no confidence in its beneficial operation. But, as the first magistrate of the American commonwealth, he was bound only to consider the safety of the people over whom he was placed. He saw that it was wise and necessary for America to preserve a good understanding and a beneficial intercourse with France, however she might be governed, so long as she abstained from committing injury against the United States.
During the turbulent period of the French revolution, when the people of all countries were divided into parties, Mr. Washington was a second time chosen president of the United States, but not unanimously, as in the former inA. D. stance. The disposition which he had shown to take no part in favour of the perpetual changes in France, had created him enemies among those who espoused the cause of the
French, as the cause of mankind at large. He had, however, a decided majority; and Mr. John Adams was again elected vice-president.
Through the whole course of his second presidency, the danger of America was great and imminent, almost beyond example. The spirit of change, indeed, at that period, shook all nations. But in other countries it had to encounter antient and solidly established power. It had to tear up by the roots long habits of attachment in some nations for their government, of awe in others, of acquiescence and submission in all. But in America the government was new and weak.
It was during this period that the president of the United States had to encounter and suppress an insurrection excited in the western counties of Pennsylvania. His character and office had been reviled; his authority had been insulted; his safety and his life had been threatened. Yet neither resentment, nor fear, nor even policy, could extinguish the humanity that dwelt in the breast of Washington. Never was there a revolt of such magnitude quelled with the loss of so little blood. In the month of October, 1796, Mr.
A. D. Washington publicly declared his resolu1796. tion of retiring from public life, and strictly enjoined those who were most sincerely attached to him by ties of friendship, not to nominate him on the ensuing election. The resignation of this great man at this period was deplored by all the moderate party in America, and by the government party in Great Britain. By the latter he was considered as a steady friend; and was indeed regarded as the leader of what was called the English party in America. Such are the vicissitudes of political connection. In 1776, he was considered
in England as a proscribed rebel: in 1796 he was regarded as the best friend that England had in the United States. In 1776 his destruction was thought the only means of preserving America to Great Britain; in 1796 his authority was esteemed the principal security against her failing under the yoke of France. At the former period he looked to the aid of France as his only hope of guarding the liberties of America against England: at the latter he must have considered the power of Great Britain as a main barrier of the safety of America against France.
Nothing was more certain than his re-election, if he had deemed it right to offer himself as a candidate. The conduct however which he pur sued, was the wisest he could have adopted. All the enemies, and many of the best friends, of the American government believed that it had a severe trial to encounter when the aid of Washington's character should be withdrawn from its executive government. Many seriously apprehended that it had scarce vigour enough to survive, the experiment. It was fit, then, that so critical an experiment should be performed under his eye; while his guardian wisdom was at hand to advise and assist in the change.
The election of the first successor to Mr. Washington was the most important event in the history of the infant republic. Nothing could be conducted in a more dignified manner: the choice fell upon John Adams as president, and upon Thomas Jefferson as vice-president. The functions of the new president were not to commence till the 4th of March, previous to which he 1797. repaired to the house of representatives to take the necessary oaths. At this ceremony were
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