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154

Chap. ur.

1789.

His departure for the seat of government.

Marks or respect and affection shown him on his iourney.

THE LIFE OPof his country, were connected with declarations of diffidence in himself. "I wish," he said, "that there may not be reason for regretting the choice, ...for indeed, all I can promise, is to accomplish that which can be done by an honest zeal."

Knowing well that the urgency of the public business required the immediate attendance of the president at the seat of government, he hastened his departure; and on the second day after receiving notice of his appointment, he took leave of Mount Vernon.

In a contemporaneous entry made by himself in his diary, the feelings inspired by an occasion so affecting to his mind are thus described, "about ten o'clock, I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in company with Mr. Thompson, and colonel Humphries, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations."

By a number of gentlemen residing in Alexandria, he was received on the road, and escorted to their city, where a public dinner had been prepared to which he was invited. The sentiments of veneration and affection which were felt by all classes of his fellow citizens for their patriot chief, were manifested by the most flattering marks of heart felt respect; and by addresses which evinced the unlimited confidence reposed in his virtues and his talents. Although a place cannot be given to these addresses generally, yet that Chap. in. from the citizens of Alexandria derives such pre- 1789. tensions to particular notice from the recollection that it is to be considered as an effusion from the hearts of his neighbours and private friends, that its insertion may be pardoned. It is in the following words.

"Again your country commands your care. Obedient to its wishes, unmindful of your ease, we see you again relinquishing the bliss of retirement; and this too at a period of life, when nature itself seems to authorize a preference of repose!

"Not to extol your glory as a soldier; not to pour forth our gratitude for past services; not to acknowledge the justice of the unexampled honour which has been conferred upon you by the spontaneous and unanimous suffrages of three millions of freemen, in your election to the supreme magistracy ; nor to admire the patriotism which directs your conduct, do your neighbours and friends now address you. Themes less splendid but more endearing, impress our minds. The first and best of citizens must leave us: our aged must lose their ornament; our youth their model; our agriculture its improver; our commerce its friend; our infant academy its protector; our poor their benefactor; and the interior navigation of the Potomack (an event replete with the most extensive utility, already, by your unremitted exertions, brought into partial use,) its institutor and promoter.

Chap. m. "Farewell !...go! and make a grateful people 1789. happy, a people, who will be doubly grateful when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for their interest.

"To that Being who maketh and unmaketh at his will, we commend you; and after ihe accomplishment of the arduous business to which you are called, may he restore to us again, the best of men, and the most beloved fellow citizen!"

To this affectionate address general Washington returned the following answer. "Gentlemen,

"Although I ought not to conceal, yet I cannot describe the painful emotions which I felt in being called upon to determine whether I would accept or refuse the presidency of the United States. The unanimity in the choice, the opinion of my friends communicated from different parts of Europe as well as from America, the apparent wish of those who were not entirely satisfied with the constitution in its present form; and an ardent desire on my own part to be instrumental in connecting the good will of my countrymen towards each other; have induced an acceptance. Those who know me best (and you my fellow citizens are, from your situation, in that number) know better than any others, my love of retirement is so great, that no earthly consideration, short of a conviction of duty, could have prevailed upon me to depart from my resolution 'never more to take any share in transactions of a public nature.' For, at my age, and in my circumstances, what prospects or advantages could 1 propose to myself, from embarking again on the tempestuous and uncertain ocean Chap. in. of public life? I789T

"I do not feel myself under the necessity of making public declarations, in order to convince you, gentlemen, of my attachment to yourselves, and regard for your interests. The whole tenor of my life has been open to your inspection; and my past actions, rather than my present declarations, must be the pledge of my future conduct.

"In the mean time, I thank you most sincerely for the expressions of kindness contained in your valedictory address. It is true, just after having bade adieu to my domestic connexions, this tender proof of your friendships is but too well calculated still further to awaken my sensibility, and increase my regret at parting from the enjoyments of private life. "All that now remains for me is to commit myself and you to the protection of that beneficent Being who, on a former occasion, hath happily brought us together, after a long and distressing separation. Perhaps, the same gracious Providence will again indulge me. Unutterable sensations must then be left to more expressive silence ; while from an aching heart, I bid you all, my affectionate friends, and kind neighbours, farewell!"

In the afternoon of the same day, he left Alexandria, and was attended by his neighbours to George Town, out of the limits of Virginia, where a number of citizens from the state ol Maryland had assembled to receive him.

Although general Washington hastened his journey, and wished to render it private, his

Chap. in. wish could not prevail. The public feelings were 1789. too strong to be suppressed. Crowds flocked around him wherever he stopped; and corps of militia, and companies of the most respectable citizens escorted him through their respective states. At Philadelphia, he was received with peculiar splendor. Gray's bridge over the Schuylkill was highly decorated. In imitation of the triumphal exhibitions of ancient Rome, an arch composed of laurel, in which was displayed the simple elegance of true taste, was erected at each end of it, and on each side was a laurel shrubbery. As the object of universal admiration passed under the arch, a civic crown was, unperceived by him, let down upon his head by a youth ornamented with sprigs of laurel, who was assisted by machinery. The fields and avenues leading from the Schuylkill to Philadelphia were crowded with people, through whom general Washington was conducted into the city by a numerous and respectable body of citizens; and at night the town was illuminated. The next day, at Trenton, he was welcomed in a manner as new as it was pleasing. In addition to the usual demonstrations of respect and attachment which were given by the discharge of cannon, by military corps, and by private persons of distinction, the gentler sex prepared in their own taste, a tribute of applause indicative of the grateful recollection in which they held their deliverance twelve years before from an insulting enemy. On the bridge over the creek which passes through the town, was erected a triumphal arch highly ornamented with laurels

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