Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Remember When . . . Washington Resigned?

I just got to a crucial part of my Annapolis book--George Washington just resigned his commission before congress and declared that he would be a private citizen from here on out. The date was 23 December 1783, and no one knew at the time that a few short years later, he would be the first President of the United States. At that time, on that day, they saw only that the most influential man in the nation was handing over the key to total power and opting for private life. They saw only that a man so deserving was also so humble as to refuse what was offered him.

Because the speech is simply amazing, I'm going to post it, along with the response from the president of Congress.

"Mr. President,

"The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place, I have now the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself before them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.
"Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union and the patronage of Heaven.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 interposition of Providence and the assistance I have received from my countrymen increases with every review of the momentous 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 gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fotunate. Permit, me, Sir, to recommend in particular those who have continued in the service to the present moment as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.

"I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them to His holy keeping.

“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

General Mifflin, the president of Congress, replied in a speech thought to be penned by Thomas Jefferson,

"The United States in Congress assembled receive, with emotions too affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities under which you have led their troops with success through a perilous and doubtful war."

A woman of Annapolis wrote, "I think the world never produced a greater man and very few so good." I can't help by agree with her.

(The painting is the famed General George Washington Resigning His Commission by Trumbull. He painted it years after the fact and inserted a few historic figures that weren't there, basing his design upon other paintings he had done of said figures. In itself a subject worthy of a post, but you know. I won't bore you.)


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