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...General Washington's valedictory address to the people
After retiring to private life, general Washington devotes his time to rural pursuits, to the duties of friendship, and to institutions of public utility....Resolves of congress and of the legislature of Virginia for erecting statues in honour of him....Recommends the opening and improving the inland navigation of the great rivers in Virginia....He declines accepting a donation made to him by his native state....Establishment of the society of the Cincinnati, of which he is elected president....The causes which led to a change of the government of the United States....Letters of general Washington to the governors of the several states.
1 O a mind inflamed by ambition, or corrupted ■ by the love of power, it will appear impossible that the late commander in chief could have descended, without reluctance, from the exalted station which he had filled so long, and with so much glory. But the actions of Washington had never been influenced by selfish motives. To preserve the liberties of his country his sword had been drawn, and to establish her independence he had remained at the head of her armies. These Vol. v. B
^hap.^ objects being achieved, he could resign the 1783 supreme command without a sigh, and withdraw 1787. from office without regret. The practicability of perpetuating his authority created no illegitimate desires, nor did a near view of all that could tempt the human heart seduce him for an instant from the path of integrity. No candidate for supreme power ever anticipated more delight from the accomplishment of his utmost wishes, than did the American general from returning to
tiringw private life. "The scene" said he in a letter to
private life* *-.!• • i I n t • •
gentrai governor Clinton written three days after his arriSnTtomrai valat Mount Vernon, "is at length closed. I feel theTuti'«of myself eased of a load of public care, and hope andtoinsti. to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating
tutioiu of * J • °
pubiicutiiuy. the affections of good men, and in the practice of the domestic virtues." His numerous letters of that date evince the perfect contentment which accompanied him in his retirement. "At length my dear marquis" said he to his noble and highly valued friend, La Fayette, "I have become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac; and under the shadow of my own vine, and my own fig tree, free from the bustle of a camp, and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame...the statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own...perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all...and the courtier who is always watching the countenance of his prince in the hope of catching a gracious smile...can have very little conception, Chap. I. I hare not only retired from all public employ- ,783 ments, but am retiring within myself, and shall \^, be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life, with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this, my dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my fathers."
But a mind accustomed to labour for a nation's welfare, does not immediately divest itself of ancient habits. Though incapable of a wish for personal aggrandizement, that custom of thinking on public affairs, and that solicitude respecting them, which belong to the patriot in office, follow him into his retreat. In a letter to general Knox, written soon after his resignation, general Washington thus expressed the feelings attendant upon this sudden transition from public to private pursuits. "I am just beginning to experience the ease and freedom from public cares, which, however desirable, takes some time to realize: for strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that it was not until lately I could get the better of my usual custom of ruminating, as soon as I awoke in the morning, on the business of the ensuing day; and of my surprise at finding, after revolving many things in my mind, that I was no longer a public man, or had any thing to do with public transactions. I feel now however, as I conceive a wearied traveller must do, who, after treading many a painful step with a heavy burden on his shoulders, is eased of the