Page images
PDF
EPUB

. The prisoners, cannon, and military stores, feil to the

Americans, except the seamen, who, with the ship iig I found they were, by the articles of capitulation, to be de

livered up to the French. . After this event the subjugation of the colonies was. virtually given up. Some inconsiderable skirmishes took place between the Refugees and the Americans, afterwards ; but were not of that importance as to merit a place in history.

On the fifth of May, 1782, Sir Guy Carleton arrived at. New York, being appointed to the command of the British troops in North America: soon after his arrival he wrote a letter to general Washington, informing him that admiral Digby, with himself, were appointed commissioners to treat for peace with the people of America. Another letter was sent, dated the second of August, and signed by Sir Guy Carleton and admiral Digby, in which they informed general Washington, that negociations for a general peace had commenced at Paris. Notwithstanding these favourable appearances, the Americans were jealous, that it was the design of the British couri to disunite them, or induce them to treat of a peace separately from their ally the king of France.

Congress, therefore, passed a resolution : that any man, or body of men, who should presume to make any separate treaty, partial convention, or agreement, with the king of Great Britain, or with any, commissioner, or commissioners, under the crown of Great Britain, ought to be treated as open and avowed enemies of the United States of America, and that those States could not with propricty hold any conference or treaty with any commissioners on the part of Great Britain, unless they should, as a pruia minary thereto, either withdraw their fleets and armics, or in express terms acknowledge the Independence of the said States. On the thirtieth of November, 1782, the provisional articles of peace and reconcisiotion between Great Britain and the American States were si; ned ai Paris; by which Great Britain acknowledged the Inde pendence and sovereignty of ie United studies of Ajnerica. These articles were ratified by a definitive treaty, Sest mber the third, 1783. JOUD Agams, Juin Jey, ila Benja. min Franklin, Esars. were the gentlemen appointed by

Congress to negociate this peace, on the part of America : and two gentlemen Oswald and Hartley on the part of the British. It ought to be remarked here, and known to every American citizen, that France repeatedly declared that her only view in assisting the Americans, was to diminish the power of Great Britain, and thereby promote her own interest, that she officiously interfered in the proposed treaty between Spain and America by her ene deavours to circumscribe the latter within very narrow limits, proposing to deprive the Americans of the right. of navigation on the Mississippi, &c.

Thus ended a long and unnatural contest, in which Great Britain expended many millions of pounds sterling, lost thousands of her bravest subjects, and won nothing. America obtained her Independence, at the expense of many thousands of lives, and much treasure ; and has suffered exceedingly in the religious and moral character of her citizens.

The great influx of foreigners which poured into America from all quarters, disseminated their pernicious principles amongst the people. Infidelity spread like the plague, through the different states, and threatens the subversion of those sober manners, and that love of order, which the christian religion inculcates.

The eighteenth of October 1783, Congress issued a proclamation, in which the armies of the United States were applauded “ for having displayed through the progress of an arduous, and difficult war, every military and patriotic virtue, and for which the thanks of their country were given them." They also declared that such part of their armies as stood engaged to serve during the war, should from and after the third day of November, be discharged from the said service. The day preceding their dismission general Washington issued his farewell orders, The evacuation of New York took place about three weeks after the American army. was discharged. For a twelvemonth preceding, there had been an unrestrained communication between that city, though a British garrison, and the adjacent country ; the bitterness of war had passed away, and civilities were freely exchanged between those who lately were engaged in deadly contests, and sought for all opportunities to destroy each other.

As soon as the royal army was withdrawn, general Washington and governor Clinton, with their suites, made a public entry into New York : a general joy was mani. fested by the citizens on their return to their habitations, and in the evening there was a display of fire-works : they exceeded everything of the kind which had been seen in America. General Washington soon after took leave of his officers, they having been previously assembled for that purpose. Calling for a glass of wine he thus addressed them, “with a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you, I niost devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and honourable.”

He afterwards took an affectionåte leave of each of them : when this affecting scene was over, Washington left the room, and passed through the corps of light infantry, to the place of embarkation; as he entered the barge, to cross the North river, he turned to his companions in glory, and waved his hat, and took a silent adieu. The officers who had followed him in mute procession, answered his last signal with tears, and hung upon the barge which conveyed him from their sight, till they could no longer distinguish their beloved commander in chiet. The general proceeded to Annapolis, the seat of congress, to resign his commission. On his syay thither, he delivered to the comptroller in Philadelphia, an account of the expenditure of all the public money he had ever received, This was in his own hand-writing, and every entry made in a very exact manner. The whole sum which passed through his hands during the war amounted only to fourteen thousand four hundred and seventy-nine pounds eighteen shillings and nine pence, sterling; no sum charged or retained for personal services.

The day on which he resigned his commission, a greae number of distinguished personages attended the interesting scene, on the twenty-third of December, 1783 : he addressed the president, Thomas Miffin, as follows : « Mr. President,

The great events on which my resignation dependecis 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 hords, the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgeilce of retiring from the service of my country.

Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sorereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the Cuited States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointnicnt I accepted with diftidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduonis a tusk, wlicin, however, was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreine 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 interPosliion of providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every review of the inomentous 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 wil o bave been attached to my pere son during the war : it was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my fanily should have been inore fortunate : permil me, Sil', 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 interest of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendance of them, to his holy keeping,

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to tliis 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 which the president made a suitable reply. The mingled emotions that agitated the minds of the spectators during this interesting and solemn scene, were beyond descripuon,

Immediately on resigning his commission, general Washington “ hastened with ineffable delights” (to use his own words) to his seat at Mount Vernon, on the banks of the Polowmac, in Virginia.

The country now free from foreign force and domestic violence, and in the enjoyment of general tranquillity, a proposition was made by Virginia to all the other states, to meet in convention, for the purpose of digesting a form of government; which finally issued in the establishment of a new constitution. Congress, which formerly consisted of one body, was made to consist of two : one of which was to be chosen by the people, in proportion to their numbers, the other by the state legislatures. Warm and animating debates took place on the propriety of establishing or rejecting it. The ratification of it was celebrated in most of the states with elegant processions.

The first congress under the new constitution met at New York in April, 1789. Though there were a great diversity of, opinions about the new constitution, all wei'e of one mind who should be their chief executive officer. The people unanimousiy turned their eyes on the late commander in chief, as the most proper person to be their first president. Unambitious of any increase of honours, he had retired to his farm in Virginia, and hoped to be excused from all further public service. But his country called him by an unanimous vote to fill the highest station in its gift.

That pure and upright zeal for his country's welfare, which had uniformly influenced him to devote his time and talents to its service, again influenced him to relinquish the more pleasing scenes of retirement, and induced him once more to engage in the important concerns of public life. The intelligence of his election was communicated to him, while he was on his farın in Virginia ; he soon after set out for New York : on his way thither, every expression of respect, that a grateful people could bestow, was shewn him. Gentlemen of the first character and station, attended him from state to state. A day was fixed soon after his arrival at New York, for liis taking the oath of office. In the morning of the day appointed for this purpose, the ciergy, of different denominations, assembled their congregations in their respective places

« PreviousContinue »