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worldly happiness in old age, I had still carefully CHAP. II. preserved; until the public papers and private 1789. letters from my correspondents in almost every quarter, taught me to apprehend that I might soon be obliged to answer the question, whether I would go again into public life or not?"
"I can say little or nothing new," said he in a letter to the marquis de la Fayette, "in consequence of the repetition of your opinion on the expediency there will be, for my accepting the office to which you refer. Your sentiments indeed coincide much more nearly with those of my other friends, than with my own feelings. In truth my difficulties increase and magnify as I draw towards the period, when, according to the common belief, it will be necessary for me to give a definitive answer in one way or other. Should circumstances render it, in a manner, inevitably necessary to be in the affirmative, be assured, my dear sir, I shall assume the task with the most unfeigned reluctance, and with a real diffidence, for which I shall probably receive no credit from the world. If I know my own heart, nothing short of a conviction of duty will induce me again to take an active part in public affairs. And in that case, if I can form a plan for my own conduct, my endeavours shall be unremittingly exerted (even at the hazard of former fame or present popularity) to extricate my country from the embarrassments in which it is entangled through want of credit; and to establish a general system of policy, which if pursued, will ensure
CHAP. II. permanent felicity to the commonwealth. I think I see a path, as clear and as direct as a ray of light, which leads to the attainment of that object. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry, and frugality, are necessary to make us a great and happy people. Happily, the present posture of affairs, and the prevailing disposition of my countrymen, promise to co-operate in establishing those four great and essential pillars of public felicity."
He is unani. mously elected
After the elections had taken place, a general resident. persuasion prevailed that the public will respecting the chief magistrate of the union had been too unequivocally manifested not to be certainly obeyed; and several applications were made to general Washington for those offices in the respective states which would be in the gift of the president of the United States.
As marking the frame of mind with which he came into the government, the following extract is given from one of the many letters written to persons whose pretensions he was disposed to favour. "Should it become absolutely necessary for me to occupy the station in which your letter presupposes me, I have determined to go into it, perfectly free from all engagements of every nature whatsoever....A conduct in conformity to this resolution, would enable me in balancing the various pretensions of different candidates for appointments, to act with a sole reference to justice and the public good. This is, in substance, the answer that I have given to all applications (and
they are not few) which have already been made. CHAP. II. Among the places sought after in these applica-1789. tions, I must not conceal that the office to which you particularly allude is comprehended. This fact I tell you merely as matter of information. My general manner of thinking, as to the propriety of holding myself totally disengaged, will apologize for my not enlarging farther on the subject.
"Though I am sensible that the public suffrage which places a man in office, should prevent him from being swayed, in the execution of it, by his private inclinations, yet he may assuredly, without violating his duty, be indulged in the continuance of his former attachments."
The impotence of the late government, added Meeting of to the dilatoriness inseparable from its perplexed congress. mode of proceeding on the public business, and to its continued session, had produced among the members of congress such an habitual disregard of punctuality in their attendance on that body, that although the new government was to commence its operations on the fourth of March 1789, a house of representatives were not formed until the first, nor a senate until the 6th day of April.
At length, the votes for the president and vice president of the United States were as prescribed in the constitution, opened and counted in the senate. Neither the animosity of parties, nor the preponderance of the enemies of the new government in some of the states, could deprive general Washington of a single vote. By the unanimous and uninfluenced voice of an immense continent,
CHAP. II. he was called to the chief magistracy of the nation. 1789. The second number of votes was given to Mr. John
Adams. George Washington and John Adams were therefore declared to be duly elected president and vice president of the United States, to serve for four years from the fourth of March 1789.*
* The reluctance with which general Washington assumed his new dignity, and that genuine modesty which was a distinguished feature of his character, are further illustrated by the following extract from a letter to general Knox. “I feel for those members of the new congress who, hitherto, have given an unavailing attendance at the theatre of action. For myself, the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for in confidence I tell you, (with the world it would obtain little credit) that my movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution; so unwilling am I in the evening of life, nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities, and inclination, which are necessary to manage the helm. I am sensible that I am embarking the voice of the people, and a good name of my own on this voyage; but what returns will be made for them Heaven alone can foretell....Integrity and firmness are all I can promise; these, be the voyage long or short, shall never forsake me, although I may be deserted by all men; for of the consolations which are to be derived from these, under any circumstances, the world cannot deprive me."
The election of Gen. Washington officially announced to him... His departure for the seat of government...Marks of respect and affection shown him on his journey... His inauguration and speech to congress...He forms a system of conduct to be observed in his intercourse with the world... Letters from him on this and other subjects...Answer of both houses of congress to the speech... Situation of the United States at this period in their domestic and foreign relations...Debates on the impost and tonnage bills... On the president's power of removal from office...On the policy of the secretary of the treasury reporting plans for the management of the revenue...On the style by which the president should be addressed... Amendments to the constitution proposed by congress and ratified by the states... Appointment of the officers of the cabinet, council, and of the judges...Adjournment of the first session of congress ...The president visits the New England states... His reception...North Carolina accedes to the Union.
Ar Mount Vernon, on the 14th of April, 1789 The election the appointment of general Washington as first Washington magistrate of the United States was officially an- him. nounced to him. This commission was executed by Mr. Charles Thompson, secretary of the late congress, who presented to him the certificate signed by the president of the senate, stating that he was unanimously elected.
Accustomed to respect the wishes of his fellow citizens, general Washington did not think himself at liberty to decline an appointment conferred upon him by the suffrage of an entire people. His acceptance of it, and his expressions of gratitude for this fresh proof of the esteem and confidence