Page images
PDF
EPUB

of worship, and offered up prayers for the president and people of the United States. About noon, a procession, followed by a multitude of citizens, moved from the presiden:'s house to Federal Hall. When they came within a short distance of the hall, the troops formed a line on both sides of the way, throuzh which the president and vice-president John Adams, passed into the senate chamber. Immediately after, accompanied by both houses, be went into the gallery fronting Broad street, and before them and an immense crowd of spectators, took the oath prescribed by the constitution : which was administered by R. R. Livingston, the chancellor of the state of New York.

During the performance of this ceremony, an awful silence prevailed. The chancellor then proclaimed him, President of the United States of America. This was announced by the discharge of thirteen guns, and by the joyful acclamations of near ten thousand citizens. He then retired to the senate-chamber, where he delivered a speech to both houses : near the conclusion of which he renounced all pecuniary compensation).

This memorable day completed the organization of the new constitution. The experience of former ages, as well as of later times, has given many melancholy and fatal proofs, that popular goverments have seldom answered in practice. The inhabitants of the United States are now making the experiment. That they may succeed in asserting the dignity of human nature, and a capacity for self government, is devoutly to be wished.

The appointment of general Washington to the presidency of the United States, was peculiarly fortunate ; he possessed such a commanding influence in the minds of the great bulk of the people, arising from a sure and vell placed confidence in his patriotism and integrity ; that they, with cheerfulness acquiesced in all his measures for the public welfare ; and notwithstanding, that during his administration, Great Britain and France, were involved in a ruinous war, and there were many partizans in America, in favour of the latter, and would gladly have made a cominon cause with her against Great Britain ; yet his firmness and sagacity, prevented the threatened evil, though they were encouraged by Genet, the ambassador

from France, who openly, and in defiance of the government of the United States, attempted to commission American citizens to arm, and fit out vessels, to cruize against the British subjects. The president's proclamation enjoining a strict neutrality, was sanctioned by the great body of the people ; and the insolent ravings of Genet was taken no further notice of, than to furnish the different states with a fresh opportunity of expressing their continued approbation and confidence, in his political measures.

When the term of his appointment as president had expired, he intimated to his friends, his intention to return once more to his loved retirement; he had even contemplated his farewell address, and was preparing to retire from the weight of public cares, when his countrymen, apprehensive - for the public safety, in so critical a moment, united to implore him to desist from a resolution so alarming to their fears. Their interposition prevailed, and he again entered upon the arduous task, to the manifest satisfaction of every honest American ; but what made the task set more easy upon him, was, the assistance of eminent men in the executive department. The names of Adams, Hamilton, Pickering, Vollcott and others, are names which will long be remembered with gratitude by posterity, when the envenomed tongue of detraction will be forgotten. In 1796, in the month of September, a new election was to take place, when the public was anxiously desirous, that general Washington would again accept the first office in their gift ; but his unalterable resolution was taken, to recede from the toils of state. His farewell address, contains such prudent and sound advice to his fellow citizens, as shews that his country's welfare was still dear to his heart.

« Friends and Fellow-Citizens,

The period for a new election of a citizen to adininis. ter the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to ine proper, especially as it may conduce to a more dis

tinct expression of the public voice, that I should now as prize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made. .

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation wl.ich binds a dutiful citizen to his country ; and that, in withdrawing the tender of service which silence in my situation mighi imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest; no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been an uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to this, previous to the lası election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you ; but mature refl: ction on the then perplexed and critical posture of our ff irs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, inpelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer rentiers the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the ar. duous trust, were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government, the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Nui u rine scious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualificati ans, experience in my o'yn eves. perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of

myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me, as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary; I have the consolation to believe, that while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it. :

In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country, for the many honours it has conferred upon me; still more for the stedfast confidence with which it bas supported me ; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my in violable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to inislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which, not unfrequently, want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism,, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.... Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave,, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows, that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual ; that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained ; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue ; that in fine, the happiness of the people of these states, under the uspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation, and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to applause, the affection and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop ; but a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural 10 that solicitude, urge: VOL. II.

II ir

[blocks in formation]

me on an occasion like the present, to offer to your so. lemn contemplations, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments, which are the result of much reilection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your feli. city as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinter, ested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly liave no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgeni reception of my senuments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty which every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attacliment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people, is also low dear to you. It is justly so ; for it is ä main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety ; of your prosperity ; of that very liberty which you so liguly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that from different causes, and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the bat. teries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national unior), to your collective and individual happiness : that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immoveable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the paledium ci your political safety and prosperity ; waich. in, for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in n event be abandoned : and indignan ly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienuit any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfecbie the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common cour:. try, that country has a right to concentrate your filctions. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your pa.

« PreviousContinue »