Washington, George“Father of his country” ; born on Pope's Creek, Westmoreland co., Va., Feb. 22, 1732; was descended from an old and titled English family; and was the eldest child of his father's second wife, Mary Ball. His father died when George was a small child, and the task of the education and guidance of the future leader through the dangers of youthhood devolved upon his mother. So judicious was her training that Washington, through life, remembered her affectionate care with profound gratitude. He received a common English education, and upon that foundation his naturally thoughtful and right-conditioned mind, with the cardinal virtues of truth, integrity, and justice, was built the structure of his greatness. He was always beloved by his young companions, and was invariably chosen the leader in their military plays. He had a desire, at the age of fourteen years, to become a seaman, but was dissuaded from embarking by his mother. When he was seventeen years of age he had become one of the most accurate land surveyors in Virginia. He was appointed public surveyor at the age of eighteen. In pursuit of his profession, he learned much of wood-craft and the topography of the country; also of the habits of the Indians in the camp and on the war-path. These were useful lessons, of great value  to him in after-life. At the age of nineteen young Washington was appointed an adjutant-general of the militia of a district, with the rank of major, but soon afterwards resigned to accompany his invalid half-brother, Lawrence, to Barbadoes, where George had the small-pox. His brother soon afterwards died, and by his will George became heir to the fine estate of Mount Vernon. In 1753 he was sent on a delicate mission, by the governor of Virginia, to the commander of the French forces making encroachments on the English domain, and performed the duties with great credit, for which he was thanked by the Virginia legislature. So highly were his character and services valued, that when, in 1755,
|Plan showing foundation of Wakefield House, Westmoreland, Va., in which President Washington was born.|
|Monument marking Washington's birthplace.|
|Fac-Simile of the entry of Washington's birth in his mother's Bible.|
|Houdon's bust of Washington.1|
|Cave Castle, the ancient seat of the Washingtons in England.|
|Washington surveying land in Virginia.|
|Residence of the Washington family.2|
|Combined arms of the Washington family.|
Washington's addresses to the churches.Washington's addresses to the American churches, in reply to their congratulations upon his election to the Presidency, constitute one of the most interesting divisions of his writings, and illustrate one of the noblest and most salutary features of his life and influence. The governors and legislatures of many of the States, the mayors and aldermen of leading cities, the presidents and trustees of colleges, and the representatives of organizations of various character sent formal addresses to him, expressing their satisfaction in his inauguration, and his replies to all were full of dignity and wisdom; but his replies to the churches, which, as they met in general convention or otherwise during the months succeeding his election, successively addressed him, are especially memorable for their revelations of his broad spirit of toleration and sympathy and their inculcation of the duty of fraternity and mutual respect which should always govern the various religious bodies living together in the free republic. It has been well said that all lines of our national policy seem to lead back to Washington as all roads lead to Rome. If party spirit becomes extravagant and dangerous, we turn to him for the best words with which to rebuke it. If  reckless politicians would postpone the public peace and embroil the nation for their own selfish purposes, his word and great example are their shame and the people's refuge; and, whenever bigotry and intolerance raise their heads, and men would stir up the animosity of one part of the people against another in the name of religion, Washington's addresses to the churches will still be appealed to by good citizens. Such will remember how he wrote to the Lutheran, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Episcopalian, the Quaker, the Universalist, the Swedenborgian, the Roman Catholic, and the Jew, reminding all of their common duties as citizens, and assuring all of the common protection of the national government, which knows no differences of creeds, but holds all creeds alike before the law. The student is referred to the valuable essay on Washington's religious opinions, in Sparks's edition of Washington's writings, vol. XII., appendix, p. 399. Two expressions of Washington, quoted in this essay, should be given here as well supplementing the addresses printed in the leaflet. To Lafayette Washington wrote, Aug. 15, 1787, alluding to the proceedings of the Assembly of Notables: “I am not less ardent in my wish that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in
|Washington's seal (from a letter to Bouquet, 1758).|
|Mount Vernon in Washington's day.|
|Private seal, 1783.|
To the ministers, Church-wardens, and vestry-men of the German Lutheran congregation, in and near the City of Philadelphia.April 20th, 1789. While I request you to accept my thanks for your kind address, I must profess myself highly gratified by the sentiments of esteem and consideration contained in it. The approbation my past conduct has received from so worthy a body of citizens as that, whose joy for my appointment you announce, is a proof of the indulgence with which my future transactions will be judged by them. I could not, however, avoid apprehending, that the partiality of my countrymen in favour of the measures now pursued, had led them to expect too much from the present government, did not the same Providence, which has been visible in every stage of our progress to this interesting crisis, from a combination of circumstances, give us cause to hope for the accomplishment of all our reasonable desires. Thus partaking with you in the pleasing anticipation of the blessings of a wise and efficient government, I flatter myself that opportunities will not be wanting for me to show my disposition to encourage the domestic and public virtues of industry, economy, patriotism, philanthropy, and that righteousness which exalteth a nation. I rejoice in having so suitable an occasion to testify the reciprocity of my esteem for the numerous people whom you represent. From the excellent character for diligence, sobriety, and virtue, which the Germans in general, who are settled in America, have ever maintained, I cannot forbear felicitating myself on receiving from so respectable a number of them such strong assurances of their affection for my person, confidence in my integrity, and zeal to support me in my endeavours for promoting the welfare of our common country. So long as my conduct shall merit the approbation of the wise and the good I hope to hold the same place in your affections, which your friendly declarations induce
To the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. May, 1789. I receive with great sensibility the testimonial given by the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United  States of America, of the lively and unfeigned pleasure experienced by them on my appointment to the first office in the nation. Although it will be my endeavour to avoid being elated by the too favourable opinion, which your kindness for me may have induced you to express of the importance of my former conduct and the effect of my future services, yet, conscious of the disinterestedness of my motives, it is not necessary for me to conceal the satisfaction I have felt upon finding that my compliance with the call of my country, and my dependence on the assistance of Heaven to support me in my arduous undertakings, have, so far as I can learn, met the universal approbation of my countrymen. While I reiterate the professions of my dependence upon Heaven, as the source of all public and private blessings, I will observe, that the general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs, particularly necessary for advancing and confirming the happiness of our country. While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences, it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will all be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his own religious society. I desire you to accept my acknowledgments for your laudable endeavours to render men sober, honest, and good citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government, as well as for your prayers to Almighty God for his blessing on our common country, and the humble instrument, which he has been pleased to make use of in the administration of its government.
To the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. May, 1789. I return to you individually, and, through you, to your society collectively in the United States, my thanks for the demonstrations of affection and the expressions of joy, offered in their behalf, on my late appointment. It shall still be my endeavour to manifest, by overt acts, the purity of my inclinations for promoting the happiness of mankind, as well as. the sincerity of my desires to contribute whatever may be in my power towards the preservation of the civil and religious liberties of the American people. In pursuing this line of conduct, I hope, by the assistance of Divine Providence, not altogether to disappoint the confidence which you have been pleased to repose in me. It always affords me satisfaction, when I find a concurrence in sentiment and practice between all conscientious men in acknowledgments of homage to the great Governor of the Universe, and in professions of support to a just civil government. After mentioning that I trust the people of every denomination, who demean themselves as good citizens, will have occasion to be convinced that I shall always strive to prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine, vital religion, I must assure you in particular that I take in the kindest part the promise you make of presenting your prayers at the throne of grace for me, and that I likewise implore the divine benediction on yourselves and your religious community...
To the General committee, representing the United Baptist churches in Virginia.May, 1789. I request that you will accept my best acknowledgments for your congratulation on my appointment to the first office in the nation. The kind manner in which you mention my past conduct equally claims the expression of my gratitude. After we had, by the smiles of Heaven on our exertions, obtained the object for which we contended, I retired, at the conclusion of the war, with an idea that my country could have no further occasion for my services, and with the intention of never entering again into public life; but, when the exigencies of my country seemed to require me once more to engage in public affairs, an honest conviction of duty  superseded my former resolution, and became my apology for deviating from the happy plan which I had adopted. If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the constitution framed in the convention, where I had the honour to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and, if I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution. For you doubtless remember, that I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience. While I recollect with satisfaction, that the religious society of which you are members have been, throughout America, uniformly and almost unanimously the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution, I cannot hesitate to believe, that they will be the faithful supporters of a free, yet efficient general government. Under this pleasing expectation I rejoice to assure them, that they may rely on my best wishes and endeavours to advance their prosperity. In the mean time be assured, gentlemen, that I entertain a proper sense of your fervent supplications to God for my temporal and eternal happiness.
To the ministers and elders of the German, Reformed congregations in the United States.June, 1789. I am happy in concurring with you in the sentiments of gratitude and piety towards Almighty God, which are expressed with such fervency of devotion in your address; and in believing that I shall always find in you, and the German Reformed Congregations in the United States, a conduct correspondent to such worthy and pious expressions. At the same time, I return you my thanks for the manifestation of your firm purpose to support in your persons a government founded in justice and equity, and for the promise, that it will be your constant study to impress the minds of the people intrusted to your care with a due sense of the necessity of uniting reverence to such a government, and obedience to its laws, with the duties and exercises of religion. Be assured, gentlemen, it is by such conduct very much in the power of the virtuous members of the community to alleviate the burden of the important office which I have accepted, and to give me occasion to rejoice, in this world, for having followed therein the dictates of my conscience. Be pleased, also, to accept my acknowledgments for the interest you so kindly take in the prosperity of my person, family, and administration. May your devotions before the throne of grace be prevalent in calling down the blessings of Heaven upon yourselves and your country.
To the Directors of the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen. July, 1789. I receive with satisfaction the congratulations of your society, and of the Brethren's congregations in the United States of America. For you may be persuaded, that the approbation and good wishes of such a peaceable and virtuous community cannot be indifferent to me. You will also be pleased to accept my thanks for the treatise3 you presented, and be assured of my patronage in your laudable undertakings. In proportion as the general government of the United States shall acquire strength by duration, it is probable they may have it in their power to extend a salutary influence to the aborigines in the extremities of their territory. In the mean time, it will be a desirable thing, for the protection of the Union, to cooperate, as far as the circumstances may  conveniently admit, with the disinterested endeavours of your society to civilize and christianize the savages of the wilderness. Under these impressions, I pray Almighty God to have you always in his holy keeping.
To the Bishops, clergy, and laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, in General convention assembled.Aug. 19, 1789. I sincerely thank you for your affectionate congratulations on my election to the chief magistracy of the United States. After having received from my fellowcitizens in general the most liberal treatment, after having found them disposed to contemplate, in the most flattering point of view, the performance of my military services, and the manner of my retirement at the close of the war, I feel that I have a right to console myself in my present arduous undertakings with a hope that they will still be inclined to put the most favourable construction on the motives, which may influence me in my future public transactions. The satisfaction arising from the indulgent opinion entertained by the American people of my conduct will, I trust, be some security for preventing me from doing any thing, which might justly incur the forfeiture of that opinion. And the consideration, that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected, will always continue to prompt me to promote the progress of the former by inculcating the practice of the latter. On this occasion, it would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt in perceiving the fraternal affection, which appears to increase every day among the friends of genuine religion. It affords edifying prospects, indeed, to see Christians of different denominations dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more Christianlike spirit, than ever they have done in any former age, or in any other nation. I receive with the greater satisfaction your congratulations on the establishment of the new constitution of government, because I believe its mild yet efficient operations will tend to remove every remaining apprehension of those, with whose opinions it may not entirely coincide, as well as to confirm the hopes of its numerous friends; and because the moderation, patriotism, and wisdom of the present federal legislature seem to promise the restoration of order and our ancient virtues, the extension of genuine religion, and the consequent advancement of our respectability abroad, and of our substantial happiness at home. I request, most reverend and respected gentlemen, that you will accept my cordial thanks for your devout supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe in behalf of me. May you, and the people whom you represent, be the happy subjects of the divine benedictions both here and hereafter.
To the Synod of the Reformed Dutch Church in North America. October, 1789. I receive with a grateful heart your pious and affectionate address, and with truth declare to you that no circumstance of my life has affected me more sensibly, or produced more pleasing emotions, than the friendly congratulations, and strong assurances of support, which I have received from my fellow-citizens of all descriptions upon my election to the Presidency of these United States. I fear, gentlemen, your goodness has led you to form too exalted an opinion of my virtues and merits. If such talents as I possess have been called into action by great events, and those events have terminated happily for our country, the glory should he ascribed to the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence. My military services have been abundantly recompensed by the flattering approbation of a grateful people; and if a faithful discharge of my civil duties can insure a like reward, I shall feel myself richly compensated for any personal sacrifice I may have made by engaging again in public life. The citizens of the United States of America have given as signal a proof of their wisdom and virtue, in framing and adopting a constitution of government without bloodshed or the intervention of force, as they, upon a former occasion,  exhibited to the world, of their valour, fortitude, and perseverance; and it must be a pleasing circumstance to every friend of good order and social happiness to find that our new government is gaining strength and respectability among the citizens of this country, in proportion as its operations are known and its effects felt. You, gentlemen, act the part of pious Christians and good citizens by your prayers and exertions to preserve that harmony and good will towards men, which must be the basis of every political establishment; and I readily join with you, that, “while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.” I am deeply impressed with your good wishes for my present and future happiness, and I beseech the Almighty to take you and yours under his special care.
To the religious Society called Quakers, at their yearly meeting for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Western part of Maryland and Virginia.October, 1789. I receive with pleasure your affectionate address, and thank you for the friendly sentiments and good wishes, which you express for the success of my administration and for my personal happiness. We have reason to rejoice in the prospect that the present national government which, by the favour of Divine Providence, was formed by the common counsels and peaceably established with the common consent of the people, will prove a blessing to every denomination of them. To render it such, my best endeavours shall not be wanting. Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the persons and consciences of men from oppression, it certainly is the duty of rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but, according to their stations, to prevent it in others. The liberty enjoyed by the people of these States, of worshipping Almighty God agreeably to their consciences, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights. While men perform their social duties faithfully, they do all that society or the state can with propriety demand or expect; and remain responsible only to their Maker for the religion, or modes of faith, which they may prefer or profess. Your principles and conduct are well known to me; and it is doing the people called Quakers no more than justice to say, that (except their declining to share with others the burthen of the common defence) there is no denomination among us who are more exemplary and useful citizens. I assure you very explicitly that in my opinion the conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire that the laws may always be as extensively accommodated to them as a due regard to the protection and essential interests of the nation may justify and permit.
To the Roman Catholics in the United States.December, 1789. While I now receive with much satisfaction your congratulations on my being called by a unanimous vote to the first station in my country, I cannot but duly notice your politeness in offering an apology for the unavoidable delay. As that delay has given you an opportunity of realizing, instead of anticipating, the benefits of the general government, you will do me the justice to believe that your testimony to the increase of the public prosperity enhances the pleasure which I should otherwise have experienced from your affectionate address. I feel that my conduct in war and in peace has met with more general approbation, than could reasonably have been expected; and I find myself disposed to consider that fortunate circumstance, in a great degree, resulting from the able support and extraordinary candour of my fellow-citizens of all denominations. The prospect of national prosperity now before us is truly animating, and ought to excite the exertions of all good men to establish and secure the happiness of their country, in the permanent duration of its freedom and independence. America, under the smiles of Divine Providence, the protection of a good government, the cultivation of manners,  morals, and piety, can hardly fail of attaining an uncommon degree of eminence in literature, commerce, agriculture, improvements at home, and respectability abroad. As mankind become more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those, who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community, are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality. And I presume, that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part, which you took in the accomplishment of their revolution and the establishment of their government, or the important assistance, which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic religion is professed. I thank you, gentlemen, for your kind concern for me. While my life and my health shall continue, in whatever situation I may be, it shall be my constant endeavour to justify the favourable sentiments you are pleased to express of my conduct. And may the members of your society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity.
To the Hebrew Congregation of the City of Savannah. May, 1790. I thank you, with great sincerity, for your congratulations on my appointment to the office which I have the honour to hold by the unanimous choice of my fellow-citizens; and especially for the expressions, which you are pleased to use in testifying the confidence that is reposed in me by your congregation. As the delay, which has naturally intervened between my election and your address, has afforded an opportunity for appreciating the merits of the federal government, and for communicating your sentiments of its administration, I have rather to express my satisfaction, than regret, at a circumstance, which demonstrates (upon experiment) your attachment to the former, as well as approbation of the latter. I rejoice, that a spirit of liberality and philanthropy is much more prevalent than it formerly was among the enlightened nations of the earth, and that your brethren will benefit thereby in proportion as it shall become still more extensive. Happily, the people of the United States of America have, in many instances, exhibited examples worthy of imitation, the salutary influence of which will doubtless extend much farther, if, gratefully enjoying those blessings of peace, which, under the favour of Heaven, have been obtained by fortitude in war, they shall conduct themselves with reverence to the Deity, and charity towards their fellow-creatures. May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors, and planted them in the promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation, still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven, and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.
To the convention of the Universal Church lately assembled in Philadelphia. 1790. I thank you cordially for the congratulations, which you offer on my appointment to the office I have the honour to hold in the government of the United States. It gives me the most sensible pleasure to find, that, in our nation, however different are the sentiments of citizens on religious doctrines, they generally concur in one thing; for their political professions and practices are almost universally friendly to the order and happiness of our civil institutions. I am also happy in finding this disposition particularly evinced by your society. It is, moreover, my earnest desire that all the members of every association or community, throughout the United States, may make such use of the auspicious years of peace, liberty, and free inquiry, with which they are now favoured, as they  shall hereafter find occasion to rejoice for having done. With great satisfaction I embrace this opportunity to express my acknowledgments for the interest my affectionate
fellow-citizens have taken in my recovery from a late dangerous indisposition; and I assure you, gentlemen, that, in mentioning my obligations for the effusions of your benevolent wishes in my behalf, I feel animated with new zeal, that my conduct may ever be worthy of your favourable opinion, as well as such as shall, in every respect, best comport with the character of an intelligent and accountable being.
|Triumphal arch erected near Philadelphia, for the reception of General Washington, April 20, 1789.|
To the Congregational Church and Society at Medway, formerly St. John's parish, in the State of Georgia.May, 1791. I learn, with gratitude proportioned to the occasion, your attachment to my person, and the pleasure you express on my election to the Presidency of the United States. Your sentiments on the happy influence of our equal government impress me with the most sensible satisfaction. They vindicate the great interests of humanity; they reflect honour on the liberal minds that entertain them; and they promise the continuance and improvement of that tranquillity, which is essential to the welfare of nations and the happiness of men. You overrate my best exertions when you ascribe to them the blessings which our country so eminently enjoys. From the gallantry and fortitude of her citizens, under the auspices of Heaven. America has derived her independence. To their industry, and the natural advantages of the country, she is indebted for her prosperous situation. From their virtue she may expect long to share the protection of a free and equal government, which their wisdom has established, and which experience justifies, as admirably adapted to our social wants and individual felicity. Continue, my fellow-citizens, to cultivate the peace and harmony which now subsist between you and your Indian neighbours. The happy consequence is immediate. The reflection, which arises on justice and benevolence, will be lastingly grateful. A knowledge of your happiness will lighten the cares of my station, and be among the most pleasing of their rewards.
To the members of the New Church in Baltimore.
January, 1793.It has ever been my pride to merit the approbation of my fellow-citizens, by a faithful and honest discharge of the duties annexed to those stations, in which they have been pleased to place  me; and the dearest rewards of my services have been those testimonies of esteem and confidence with which they have honoured me. But to the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence, and to the patriotic exertions of United America, are to be ascribed those events which have given us a respectable rank among the nations of the earth. We have abundant reason to rejoice that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, and in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States. Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude;
Washington's Inaugurals.The first inauguration took place on April 30, 1789. At nine o'clock in the morning there were religious services in all the churches, and prayers put up for the blessing of Heaven on the new government. At twelve o'clock the city troops paraded before Washington's door, and soon after the committees of Congress and heads of departments came in their carriages. At half-past 12 the procession moved forward preceded by the troops; next came the committees and heads of departments in their carriages; then Washington in a coach of state, his aide-de-camp Colonel Humphreys, and his secretary Mr. Lear in his own carriage. The foreign ministers and a long train of citizens brought up the rear. About 200 yards before reaching the ball, Washington and his suite alighted from their carriages, and passed through the troops, who were drawn up on each side, into the hall and Senate chamber, where the Vice-President, the Senate, and House of Representatives were assembled. The Vice-President, John Adams, recently inaugurated, advanced and conducted 
|Federal Hall, New York, where Washington was inaugurated.|
inaugural speech to both Houses of Congress, April 30, 1789. Fellow-citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives,—Among the
vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties, than that of which the notification was trans-
mitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month.
On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years; a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time.
On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust, to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.
In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected.
All I dare hope is, that, if in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me; my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.
In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either.
No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States.
Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.
And, in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seems to presage.
These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed.
You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none, under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.
By the article establishing the executive department, it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
The circumstances, under which I now meet you, will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer you to the great constitutional charter under which we are assembled; and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given.
It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism, which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them.
In these honourable qualifications I behold the surest pledges, that as, on one side, no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views or party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye, which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests; so, on another, that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the pre-eminence of a free government be exemplified by all the attributes, which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world.
I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire; since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people.
Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth
Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that, whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of a united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience; a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen, and a regard for the public harmony, will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question, how far the former can be more impregnably fortified, or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.
To the preceding observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives.
It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible.
When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation.
From this resolution I have in no instance departed.
And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may, during my continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.
Having thus imparted to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the human race, in humble supplication, that, since he has been pleased to favour the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this government must depend.
reply to the answer of the Senate.
Gentlemen,—I thank you for your address, in which the most affectionate sentiments are expressed in the most obliging terms.
The coincidence of circumstances, which led to this auspicious crisis, the confidence reposed in me by my fellowcitizens, and the assistance I may expect from counsels, which will be dictated by an enlarged and liberal policy, seem to presage a more prosperous issue to my administration than a diffidence of my abilities had taught me to anticipate.
I now feel myself inexpressibly happy in a belief that Heaven, which has done so much for our infant nation, will not withdraw its providential influence before our political felicity shall have been completed; and in a conviction that the Senate will at all times co-operate in every measure which may tend to promote the welfare of this confederated republic.
Thus supported by a firm trust in the great Arbiter of the universe, aided by the collected wisdom of the Union, and imploring the divine benediction on our joint exertions in the service of our country, I readily engage with you in the arduous but pleasing task of attempting to make a nation happy.
reply to the answer of the House of Representatives.
Gentlemen,—Your very affectionate address produces emotions which I know not how to express.
I feel that my past endeavours in the service of my country are far overpaid by its goodness; and I fear much that my future ones may not fulfil your kind anticipation.
All that I can promise is, that they will be invariably directed by an honest and an ardent zeal.
Of this resource my heart assures me. For all beyond, I rely on the wisdom and patriotism of those with whom I am to co-operate, and a continuance of the blessings of Heaven on our beloved country.
|Pew occupied by Washington at St. Paul's, New York.|
|Celebration in New York on the night of Washington's inauguration.|
Washington took the oath of office for his second term on March 4, 1793. The address which is here printed as his second  inaugural is the address delivered upon the assembling of Congress in December following. In the time of Washington's administration, it was customary for the President, at the opening of each session of Congress, to meet the two Houses in person and deliver a written speech. Each House returned an answer to this speech some days afterwards, by a committee, who waited on him for the purpose, and he at the same time made a brief reply. All of Washington's speeches to Congress, and all his replies to the answers of the two Houses, are given in vol. XII. of Sparks's edition of the Writings of Washington. speech to both Houses of Congress, Dec. 3, 1793. Fellow-citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives,—Since the commencement of the term, for which I have been again called into office, no fit occasion has arisen for expressing to my fellow-citizens at large, the deep and respectful sense, which I feel, of the renewed testimony of public approbation. While, on the one hand, it awakened my gratitude for all those instances of affectionate partiality, with which I have been honoured by my country; on the other, it could not prevent an earnest wish for that retirement, from which no private consideration should ever have torn me. But influenced by the belief that my conduct would be estimated according to its real motives, and that the people, and the authorities derived from them, would support exertions having nothing personal for their object, I have obeyed the suffrage, which commanded me to resume the executive power; and I humbly implore that Being, on whose will the fate of nations depends, to crown with success our mutual endeavours for the general happiness. As soon as the war in Europe had embraced those powers, with whom the United States have the most extensive relations, there was reason to apprehend, that our intercourse with them might be interrupted, and our disposition for peace drawn into question, by the suspicions too often entertained by belligerent nations. It seemed, therefore, to be my duty to admonish our citizens of the consequences of a contraband trade, and of hostile acts to any of the parties; and to obtain, by a declaration of the existing legal state of things, an easier admission of our right to the immunities belonging to our situation. Under these impressions, the Proclamation, which will be laid before you, was issued. In this posture of affairs, both new and delicate, I resolved to adopt general rules, which should conform to the treaties and assert the privileges of the United States. These were reduced into a system, which will be communicated to you. Although I have not thought myself at liberty to forbid the sale of the prizes, permitted by our treaty of commerce with France to be brought into our ports, I have not refused to cause them to be restored, when they were taken within the protection of our territory, or by vessels commissioned or equipped in a warlike form within the limits of the United States. It rests with the wisdom of Congress to correct, improve, or enforce this plan of procedure; and it will probably be found expedient to extend the legal code, and the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, to many cases which, though dependent on principles already recognized, demand some further provisions. Where individuals shall within the United States array themselves in hostility against any of the powers at war; or enter upon military expeditions or enterprises within the jurisdiction of the United States; or usurp and exercise judicial authority within the United States; or where the penalties on violations of the law of nations may have been indistinctly marked, or are inadequate; these offences cannot receive too early and close an attention, and require prompt and decisive remedies. Whatsoever those remedies may be, they will be well administered by the judiciary, who possess a long-established course of investigation, effectual process, and officers in the habit of executing it. In like manner, as several of the courts have doubted, under particular circumstances, their power to liberate the vessels of a nation at peace, and even of a citizen of the United States, although seized under a false colour of being hostile property; and have denied their power to liberate certain captures within the protection of  our territory; it would seem proper to regulate their jurisdiction in these points. But if the executive is to be the resort in either of the two last-mentioned cases, it is hoped that he will be authorized by law to have facts ascertained by the courts, when, for his own information, he shall request it. I cannot recommend to your notice measures for the fulfilment of our duties to the rest of the world, without again pressing upon you the necessity of placing ourselves in a condition of complete defence, and of exacting from them the fulfilment of their duties towards us. The United States ought not to indulge a persuasion, that, contrary to the order of human events, they will for ever keep at a distance those painful appeals to arms, with which the history of every other nation abounds. There is a rank due to the United States among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war. The documents, which will be presented to you, will show the amount and kinds of arms and military stores now in our magazines and arsenals; and yet an addition even to these supplies cannot with prudence be neglected, as it would leave nothing to the uncertainty of procuring a warlike apparatus in the moment of public danger. Nor can such arrangements, with such objects, be exposed to the censure or jealousy of the warmest friends of republican government. They are incapable of abuse in the hands of the militia, who ought to possess a pride in being the depository of the force of the republic, and may be trained to a degree of energy, equal to every military exigency of the United States. But it is an inquiry, which cannot be too solemnly pursued, whether the act “more effectually to provide for the national defence by establishing a uniform militia throughout the United States,” has organized them so as to produce their full effect; whether your own experience in the several States has not detected some imperfections in the scheme; and whether a material feature, in an improvement of it, ought not to be to afford an opportunity for the study of those branches of the military art, which can scarcely ever be attained by practice alone. The connexion of the United States with Europe has become extremely interesting. The occurrences, which relate to it, and have passed under the knowledge of the executive, will be exhibited to Congress in a subsequent communication. When we contemplate the war on our frontiers, it may be truly affirmed that every reasonable effort has been made to adjust the causes of dissension with the Indians north of the Ohio. The instructions given to the commissioners evince a moderation and equity proceeding from a sincere love of peace, and a liberality having no restriction but the essential interests and dignity of the United States. The attempt, however, of an amicable negotiation having been frustrated, the troops have marched to act offensively. Although the proposed treaty did not arrest the progress of military preparation, it is doubtful how far the advance of the season, before good faith justified active movements, may retard them, during the remainder of the year. From the papers and intelligence, which relate to this important subject, you will determine, whether the deficiency in the number of troops, granted by law, shall be compensated by succours of militia; or additional encouragements shall be proposed to recruits. An anxiety has been also demonstrated by the executive for peace with the Creeks and the Cherokees. The former have been relieved with corn and with clothing, and offensive measures against them prohibited, during the recess of Congress. To satisfy the complaints of the latter, prosecutions have been instituted for the violences committed upon them. But the papers, which will be delivered to you, disclose the critical footing on which we stand in regard to both those tribes; and it is with Congress to pronounce what shall be done. After they shall have provided for the present emergency, it will merit their most serious labours, to render tranquillity with the savages permanent by creating ties of interest. Next to a  rigorous execution of justice on the violators of peace, the establishment of commerce with the Indian nations on behalf of the United States is most likely to conciliate their attachment. But it ought to be conducted without fraud, without extortion, with constant and plentiful supplies, with a ready market for the commodities of the Indians, and a stated price for what they give in payment, and receive in exchange. Individuals will hot pursue such a traffic unless they be allured by the hope of profit; but it will be enough for the United States to be reimbursed only. Should this recommendation accord with the opinion of Congress, they will recollect that it cannot be accomplished by any means yet in the hands of the executive. Gentlemen of the House of Representatives,—The commissioners, charged with the settlement of accounts between the United and individual States, concluded their important functions within the time limited by law; and the balances, struck in their report, which will be laid before Congress, have been placed on the books of the treasury. On the first day of June last, an instalment of one million of florins became payable on the loans of the United States in Holland. This was adjusted by a prolongation of the period of reimbursement, in the nature of a new loan, at interest at five per cent. for the term of ten years; and the expenses of this operation were a commission of three per cent. The first instalment of the loan of two millions of dollars from the bank of the United States has been paid, as was directed by law. For the second, it is necessary that provision should be made. No pecuniary consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt; on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable. The productiveness of the public revenues hitherto has continued to equal the anticipations which were formed of it; but it is not expected to prove commensurate with all the objects which have been suggested. Some auxiliary provisions will, therefore, it is presumed, be requisite; and it is hoped that these may be made, consistently with a due regard to the convenience of our citizens, who cannot but be sensible of the true wisdom of encountering a small present addition to their contributions, to obviate a future accumulation of burdens. But here I cannot forbear to recommend a repeal of the tax on the transportation of public prints. There is no resource so firm for the government of the United States, as the affections of the people, guided by an enlightened policy; and to this primary good, nothing can conduce more than a faithful representation of public proceedings, diffused without restraint throughout the United States. An estimate of the appropriations necessary for the current service of the ensuing year, and a statement of a purchase of arms and military stores made during the recess, will be presented to Congress. Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives,—The several subjects, to which I have now referred, open a wide range to your deliberations, and involve some of the choicest interests of our common country. Permit me to bring to your remembrance the magnitude of your task. Without an unprejudiced coolness, the welfare of the government may be hazarded; without harmony, as far as consists with freedom of sentiment, its dignity may be lost. But as the legislative proceedings of the United States will never, I trust, be reproached for the want of temper or candour; so shall not the public happiness languish from the want of my strenuous and warmest co-operations.
Washington's legacy.Washington's circular letter addressed to the governors of all the States on disbanding the army was felt by him to be so important that, supposing himself at the time to be finally retiring from public life, he spoke of it as his legacy. The feelings with which it was written, as well as its own contents and character, naturally prompt a comparison of it with the farewell address of 1796. The occasion of the letter was a much more critical occasion than that of the farewell address. It was the time, as Washington well said, of the “political probation” of the American people. “This is the moment,” he said,  “when the eyes of the whole world are turned upon them; this is the moment to establish or ruin their national character forever.... With this conviction of the importance of the present crisis, silence in me would be a crime.” He then proceeds to the discussion of those things which he considered essential to the wellbeing and to the existence of the United States as an independent power. The effect of the letter upon the country, in the disordered condition of the time, was important. The legislatures that were then in session passed resolves in honor of the commander-in-chief; and the governors of the States wrote letters expressing the public gratitude for his great services. For the conditions under which this address appeared, see Irving's Life of Washington, IV., 426. For an account of the discontents in the army just previous, which for a time threatened such serious dangers, see Irving, IV., 406; Marshall, IV., 585; and Sparks, VIII., appendix XII., on The Newburg addresses. See in this general connection Washington's letters to the president of Congress, March 19, and April 18, 1783; to Benjamin Harrison, governor of Virginia, March 18, 1783; to Lafayette, April 5, 1783, and his farewell address to the armies, Nov. 2, 1783 (Sparks, VIII., 396, 403, 411, 421, 491). Washington's deep sense of the obligations of the country to the officers and soldiers of the army, which finds such strong expression in this circular letter, may be further studied in The life, journal, and correspondence of Rev. Manassch Cutler, vol. i., chap. IV.; in Cone's Life of Gen. Rufus Putnam; and in the St. Clair papers. The following is the text of the address:
Headquarters, Newburg, June 8, 1783.Sir.—The great object, for which I had the honor to hold an appointment in the service of my country, being accomplished, I am now preparing to resign it into the hands of Congress, and to return to that domestic retirement which, it is well known, I left with the greatest reluctance; a retirement for which I have never ceased to sigh, through a long and painful absence, and in which (remote from the noise and trouble of the world) I meditate to pass the remainder of life, in a state of undisturbed repose. But before I carry this resolution into effect, I think it a duty incumbent on me to make this my last official communication; to congratulate you on the glorious events which Heaven has been pleased to produce in our favour; to offer my sentiments respecting some important subjects, which appear to me to be intimately connected with the tranquillity of the United States; to take my leave of your Excellency as a public character; and to give my final blessing to that country in whose service 1 have spent the prime of my life, for whose sake I have consumed so many anxious days and watchful nights, and whose happiness, being extremely dear to me, will always constitute no inconsiderable part of my own. Impressed with the liveliest sensibility on this pleasing occasion, I will claim the indulgence of dilating the more copiously on the subjects of our mutual felicitation. When we consider the magnitude of the prize we contended for, the doubtful nature of the contest, and the favourable manner in which it has terminated, we shall find the greatest possible reason for gratitude and rejoicing. This is a theme that will afford infinite delight to every benevolent and liberal mind, whether the event in contemplation be considered as the source of present enjoyment or the parent of future happiness; and we shall have equal occasion to felicitate ourselves on the lot which Providence has assigned us, whether we view it in a natural, a political, or moral point of light. The citizens of America, placed in the most enviable condition, as the sole lords and proprietors of a vast tract of continent, comprehending all the various soils and climates of the world, and abounding with all the necessaries and conveniences of life, are now, by the late satisfactory pacification, acknowledged to be possessed of absolute freedom and independency. They are, from this period, to be considered as the actors on a most conspicuous theatre, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity. Here they are not only surrounded with everything which can contribute to the  completion of private and domestic enjoyment; but Heaven has crowned all its other blessings, by giving a fairer opportunity for political happiness than any other nation has ever been favoured with. Nothing can illustrate these observations more forcibly than a recollection of the happy conjuncture of times and circumstances, under which our republic assumed its rank among the nations. The foundation of our empire was not laid in the gloomy age of ignorance and superstition; but at an epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined than at any former period. The researches of the human mind after social happiness have been carried to a great extent; the treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of philosophers, sages, and legislators, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the establishment of our forms of government. The free cultivation of letters, the unbounded extension of commerce, the progressive refinement of manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and, above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had a meliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of society. At this auspicious period the United States came into existence as a nation; and, if their citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own. Such is our situation, and such are our prospects; but, notwithstanding the cup of blessing is thus reached out to us; notwithstanding happiness is ours, if we have a disposition to seize the occasion and make it our own; yet it appears to me there is an option still left to the United States of America, that it is in their choice, and depends upon their conduct, whether they will be respectable and prosperous, or contemptible and miserable, as a nation. This is the time of their political probation; this is the moment when the eyes of the whole world are turned upon them; this is the moment to establish or ruin their national character for ever; this is the favourable moment to give such a tone to our federal government, as will enable it to answer the ends of its institution, or this may be the illfated moment for relaxing the powers of the Union, annihilating the cement of the confederation, and exposing us to become the sport of European politics, which may play one State against another, to prevent their growing importance, and to serve their own interested purposes. For, according to the system of policy the States shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall; and by their confirmation or lapse it is yet to be decided, whether the revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse; a blessing or a curse, not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn millions be involved. With this conviction of the importance of the present crisis, silence in me would be a crime. I will therefore speak to your Excellency the language of freedom and of sincerity without disguise. I am aware, however, that those who differ from me in political sentiment may perhaps remark that I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty, and may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation what I know is alone the result of the purest intention. But the rectitude of my own heart, which disdains such unworthy motives; the part I have hitherto acted in life; the determination I have formed, of not taking any share in public business hereafter; the ardent desire I feel, and shall continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying, in private life, after all the toils of war, the benefits of a wise and liberal government, will, I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my countrymen that I could have no sinister views in delivering, with so little reserve, the opinions contained in this address. There are four things which, I humbly conceive, are essential to the well-being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States, as an independent power. First. An indissoluble union of the States under one federal head. Second. A sacred regard to public justice. Third. The adoption of a proper peace establishment; and, Fourth. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and  policies; to make those mutual concessions, which are requisite to the general prosperity; and, in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the community. These are the pillars on which the glorious fabric of our independency and national character must be supported. Liberty is the basis; and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the structure, under whatever specious pretext he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured country. On the three first articles I will make a few observations, leaving the last to the good sense and serious consideration of those immediately concerned. Under the first head, although it may not be necessary or proper for me, in this place, to enter into a particular disquisition on the principles of the Union, and to take up the great question which has been frequently agitated, whether it be expedient and requisite for the States to delegate a larger proportion of power to Congress, or not; yet it will be a part of my duty, and that of every true patriot, to assert without reserve, and to insist upon, the following positions. That, unless the States will suffer Congress to exercise those prerogatives they are undoubtedly invested with by the Constitution, every thing must very rapidly tend to anarchy and confusion. That it is indispensable to the happiness of the individual States that there should be lodged somewhere a supreme power to regulate and govern the general concerns of the confederated republic, without which the Union cannot be of long duration. That there must be a faithful and pointed compliance, on the part of every State, with the late proposals and demands of Congress, or the most fatal consequences will ensue. That whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the Union, or contribute to violate or lessen the sovereign authority, ought to be considered as hostile to the liberty and independency of America, and the authors of them treated accordingly. And lastly, that unless we can be enabled, by the concurrence of the States, to participate of the fruits of the revolution, and enjoy the essential benefits of civil society, under a form of government so free and uncorrupted, so happily guarded against the danger of oppression, as has been devised and adopted by the Articles of Confederation, it will be a subject of regret that so much blood and treasure have been lavished for no purpose, that so many sufferings have been encountered without a compensation, and that so many sacrifices have been made in vain. Many other considerations might here be adduced to prove that, without an entire conformity to the spirit of the Union, we cannot exist as an independent power. It will be sufficient for my purpose to mention but one or two, which seem to me of the greatest importance. It is only in our united character, as an empire, that our independence is acknowledged, that our power can be regarded, or our credit supported among foreign nations. The treaties of the European powers with the United States of America will have no validity on a dissolution of the Union. We shall be left nearly in a state of nature; or we may find, by our own unhappy experience, that there is a natural and necessary progression from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of tyranny, and that arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty, abused to licentiousness. As to the second article, which respects the performance of public justice, Congress have, in their late address to the United States, almost exhausted the subject; they have explained their ideas so fully, and have enforced the obligations the States are under, to render complete justice to all the public creditors, with so much dignity and energy that, in my opinion, no real friend of the honour and independency of America can hesitate a single moment, respecting the propriety of complying with the just and honourable measures proposed. If their arguments do not produce conviction, I know of nothing that will have greater influence; especially when we recollect that the system referred to, being the result of the collected wisdom of the continent, must be esteemed, if not perfect, certainly the least objectionable of any that could be devised; and that, if it shall not be carried into immediate execution, a national  bankruptcy, with all its deplorable consequences, will take place, before any different plan can possibly be proposed and adopted. So pressing are the present circumstances, and such is the alternative now offered to the States. The ability of the country to discharge the debts, which have been incurred in its defence, is not to be doubted; and inclination, I flatter myself, will not be wanting. The path of our duty is plain before us; honesty will be found, on every experiment, to be the best and only true policy. Let us then, as a nation, be just; let us fulfil the public contracts, which Congress had undoubtedly a right to make for the purpose of carrying on the war, with the same good faith we suppose ourselves bound to perform our private engagements. In the mean time, let an attention to the cheerful performance of their proper business, as individuals and as members of society, be earnestly inculcated on the citizens of America; then will they strengthen the hands of government, and be happy under its protection; every one will reap the fruit of his labours, every one will enjoy his own acquisitions, without molestation and without danger. In this state of absolute freedom and perfect security, who will grudge to yield a very little of his property to support the common interest of society, and insure the protection of government? Who does not remember the frequent declarations, at the commencement of the war, that we should be completely satisfied if, at the expense of one-half, we could defend the remainder of our possessions? Where is the man to be found who wishes to remain indebted for the defence of his own person and property to the exertions, the bravery, and the blood of others, without making one generous effort to repay the debt of honour and gratitude? In what part of the continent shall we find any man, or body of men, who would not blush to stand up and propose measures, purposely calculated to rob the soldier of his stipend, and the public creditor of his due? And were it possible that such a flagrant instance of injustice could ever happen, would it not excite the general indignation, and tend to bring down upon the authors of such measures the aggravated vengeance of Heaven? If, after all, a spirit of disunion, or a temper of obstinacy and perverseness should manifest itself in any of the States; if such an ungracious disposition should attempt to frustrate all the happy effects that might be expected to flow from the Union; if there should be a refusal to comply with the requisitions for funds to discharge the annual interest of the public debts; and if that refusal should revive again all those jealousies and produce all those evils which are now happily removed, Congress, who have, in all their transactions, shown a great degree of magnanimity and justice, will stand justified in the sight of God and man; and that State alone, which puts itself in opposition to the aggregate wisdom of the continent, and follows such mistaken and pernicious counsels, will be responsible for all the consequences. For my own part, conscious of having acted, while a servant of the public, in the manner I conceived best suited to promote the real interests of my country; having, in consequence of my fixed belief, in some measure pledged myself to the army, that their country would finally do them complete and ample justice; and not wishing to conceal any instance of my official conduct from the eyes of the world, I have thought proper to transmit to your Excellency the enclosed collection of papers, relative to the half-pay and commutation granted by Congress to the officers of the army. From these communications, my decided sentiments will be clearly comprehended, together with the conclusive reasons which induced me, at an early period, to recommend the adoption of the measure, in the most earnest and serious manner. As the proceedings of Congress, the army, and myself, are open to all, and contain, in my opinion, sufficient information to remove the prejudices and errors, which may have been entertained by any, I think it unnecessary to say anything more than just to observe, that the resolutions of Congress, now alluded to, are undoubtedly as absolutely binding upon the United States as the most solemn acts of confederation or legislation. As to the idea which, I am informed, has in some instances prevailed, that the half-pay and commutation are to be regarded merely in the odious light of a  pension, it ought to be exploded forever. That provision should be viewed, as it really was, a reasonable compensation offered by Congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give to the officers of the army for services then to be performed. It was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of the service. It was a part of their hire. I may be allowed to say, it was the price of their blood, and of your independency; it is therefore more than a common debt, it is a debt of honour; it can never be considered as a pension or gratuity, nor be cancelled until it is fairly discharged. With regard to a distinction between officers and soldiers, it is sufficient that the uniform experience of every nation of the world, combined with our own, proves the utility and propriety of the discrimination. Rewards, in proportion to the aids which the public derives from them, are unquestionably due to all its servants. In some lines, the soldiers have perhaps generally had as ample compensation for their services, by the large bounties which have been paid to them, as their officers will receive in the proposed commutation; in others, if, besides the donation of lands, the payment of arrearages of clothing and wages (in which articles all the component parts of the army must be put upon the same footing), we take into the estimate the bounties many of the soldiers have received, and the gratuity of one year's full pay, which is promised to all, possibly their situation (every circumstance being duly considered) will not be deemed less eligible than that of the officers. Should a further reward, however, be judged equitable, I will venture to assert, no one will enjoy greater satisfaction than myself, on seeing an exemption from taxes for a limited time (which has been petitioned for in some instances), or any other adequate immunity or compensation granted to the brave defenders of their country's cause; but neither the adoption nor rejection of this proposition will in any manner affect, much less militate against, the act of Congress, by which they have offered five years full pay, in lieu of the half-pay for life, which had been before promised to the officers of the army. Before I conclude the subject of public justice, I cannot omit to mention the obligations this country is under to that meritorious class of veteran non-commissioned officers and privates who have been discharged for inability, in consequence of the resolution of Congress of the 23d of April, 1782, on an annual pension for life. Their peculiar sufferings, their singular merits, and claims to that provision, need only be known, to interest all the feelings of humanity in their behalf. Nothing but a punctual payment of their annual allowance can rescue them from the most complicated misery; and nothing could be a more melancholy and distressing sight than to behold those, who have shed their blood or lost their limbs in the service of their country, without a shelter, without a friend, and without the means of obtaining any of the necessaries or comforts of life, compelled to beg their daily bread from door to door. Suffer me to recommend those of this description, belonging to your State, to the warmest patronage of your Excellency and your legislature. It is necessary to say but a few words on the third topic which was proposed, and which regards particularly the defence of the republic; as there can be little doubt that Congress will recommend a proper peace establishment for the United States, in which a due attention will be paid to the importance of placing the militia of the Union upon a regular and respectable footing. If this should be the case, I would beg leave to urge the great advantage of it in the strongest terms. The militia of this country must be considered as the palladium of our security, and the first effectual resort in case of hostility. It is essential, therefore, that the same system should pervade the whole: that the formation and discipline of the militia of the continent should be absolutely uniform, and that the same species of arms, accoutrements, and military apparatus, should be introduced in every part of the United States. No one, who has not learned it from experience, can conceive the difficulty, expense, and confusion, which result from a contrary system, or the vague arrangements which have hitherto prevailed. If, in treating of political points, a greater latitude than usual has been  taken in the course of this address, the importance of the crisis, and the magnitude of the objects in discussion, must be my apology. It is, however, neither my wish nor expectation, that the preceding observations should claim any regard, except so far as they shall appear to be dictated by a good intention, consonant to the immutable rules of justice, calculated to produce a liberal system of policy, and founded on whatever experience may have been acquired by a long and close attention to public business. Here I might speak with the more confidence, from my actual observations; and, if it would not swell this letter (already too prolix) beyond the bounds I had prescribed to myself, I could demonstrate, to every mind open to conviction, that in less time, and with much less expense, than has been incurred, the war might have been brought to the same happy conclusion, if the resources of the continent could have been properly drawn forth; that the distresses and disappointments, which have very often occurred, have, in too many instances, resulted more from a want of energy in the Continental government, than a deficiency of means in the particular States; that the inefficacy of measures arising from the want of an adequate authority in the supreme power, from a partial compliance with the requisitions of Congress in some of the States, and from a failure of punctuality in others, while it tended to damp the zeal of those, who were more willing to exert themselves, served also to accumulate the expenses of the war, and to frustrate the best concerted plans; and that the discouragement occasioned by the complicated difficulties and embarrassments, in which our affairs were by this means involved, would have long ago produced the dissolution of any army, less patient, less virtuous, and less persevering, than that which I have had the honour to command. But, while I mention these things, which are notorious facts, as the defects of our federal constitution, particularly in the prosecution of a war, I beg it may be understood, that, as I have ever taken a pleasure in gratefully acknowledging the assistance and support I have derived from every class of citizens, so shall I always be happy to do justice to the unparalleled exertions of the individual States on many interesting occasions. I have thus freely disclosed what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your Excellency as the chief magistrate of your State, at the same time I bid a last farewell to the cares of office, and all the employments of public life. It remains, then, to be my final and only request, that your Excellency will communicate these sentiments to your legislature at their next meeting, and that they may be considered as the legacy of one, who has ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his country, and who, even in the shade of retirement, will not fail to implore the Divine benediction upon it. I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellowcitizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. I have the honour to be, with much esteem and respect, sir, your Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant, George Washington.
Washington's letters on the Constitution.—The personal influence of Washington in securing the meeting of the constitutional convention, in directing its deliberations, and in commending the new Constitution to the people, was the greatest and the determining influence in that critical period. The accompanying  selections from his large correspondence upon this important subject while it was pending will indicate the character of that influence and of Washington's sentiments concerning the new national government. The student is referred to vol. XI. of Ford's edition of the writings of Washington for the complete collection of his letters during this period. He will also find in that volume Washington's diary during the constitutional convention, which, although but a skeleton, will give him an insight into Washington's life in Philadelphia from May to September, 1787. In the various Lives of Washington, in the last volume of Bancroft's History of the United States, in Fiske's Critical period of American history, and in other American histories, are good accounts of the disorders following the Revolution, and of the successful measures, so largely directed by Washington, which gradually brought order out of chaos. In the series of Old South leaflets are many which will be of use in this connection. Among these are Washington's circular letter to the governors of the States in 1783 (No. 15), Washington's letter to Benjamin Harrison in 1784 (No. 16), Selections from the debates in the constitutional convention (No. 70), Selections from the Federalist (No. 12), and Washington's inaugural (No. 10).
Aug. 1, 1786. To John Jay. Your sentiments, that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be, is also beyond the reach of my foresight. We have errors to correct. We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us that man will not adopt and carry into execution measures the best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power. I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a manner as the authority of the State governments extends over the several States. To be fearful of investing Congress, constituted as that body is, with ample authorities for national purposes, appears to me the very climax of popular absurdity and madness. Could Congress exert them for the detriment of the public without injuring themselves in an equal or greater proportion? Are not their interests inseparably connected with those of their constituents? By the rotation of appointment, must they not mingle frequently with the mass of citizens? Is it not rather to be apprehended, if they were possessed of the powers before described, that the individual members would be induced to use them, on many occasions, very timidly and efficaciously for fear of losing their popularity and future election? We must take human nature as we find it. Perfection falls not to the share of mortals. Many are of opinion that Congress have too frequently made use of the suppliant, humble tone of requisition in applications to the States, when they had a right to assert their imperial dignity and command obedience. Be that as it may, requisitions are a perfect nullity where thirteen sovereign, independent, disunited States are in the habit of discussing and refusing compliance with them at their option. Requisitions are actually little better than a jest and a by-word throughout the land. If you tell the legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace, and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy, they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things cannot go on in the same train forever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people, being disgusted with the circumstances, will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme to another. To anticipate and prevent disastrous contingencies would be the part of wisdom and patriotism. What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing. I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking; thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous! What a triumph for our enemies to verify their predictions! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on  the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious! Would to God, that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend. Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I cannot feel myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet, having happily assisted in bringing the ship into port, and having been fairly discharged, it is not my business to embark again on a sea of troubles. Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have much weight on the minds of my countrymen. They have been neglected, though given as a last legacy, in the most solemn manner. I had then perhaps some claims to public attention. I consider myself as having none at present.
Nov. 5, 1786. To James Madison. Fain would I hope that the great and most important of all subjects, the federal government, may be considered with that calm and deliberate attention which the magnitude of it so critically and loudly calls for at this critical moment. Let prejudices, unreasonable jealousies, and local interests yield to reason and liberality. Let us look to our national character, and to things beyond the present moment. No morn ever dawned more favourably than ours did; and no day was ever more clouded than the present. Wisdom and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm. Virginia has now an opportunity to set the latter, and has enough of the former, I hope, to take the lead in promoting this great and arduous work. Without an alteration in our political creed, the superstructure we have been seven years in raising, at the expense of so much treasure and blood, must fall. We are fast verging to anarchy and confusion. By a letter which I have received from General Knox, who had just returned from Massachusetts, whither he had been sent by Congress consequent of the commotions in that State, is replete with melancholy accounts of the temper and designs of a considerable part of that people. Among other things he says:
Their creed is, that the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscation of Britain by the joint exertions of all; and therefore ought to be the common property of all; and he that attempts opposition to this creed is an enemy to equity and justice, and ought to be swept from off the face of the earth.Again: “They are determined to annihilate all debts, public and private, and have agrarian laws, which are easily effected by the means of unfunded paper money, which shall be a tender in all cases whatever.” He adds: “The number of these people amount in Massachusetts to about one-fifth part of several populous counties, and to them may be collected people of similar sentiments from the States of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, so as to constitute a body of about twelve or fifteen thousand desperate and unprincipled men. They are chiefly of the young and active part of the community.” How melancholy is the reflection that in so short a space we should have made such large strides towards fulfilling the predictions of our transatlantic foes! “Leave them to themselves, and their government will soon dissolve.” Will not the wise and good strive hard to avert this evil? Or will their supineness suffer ignorance and the arts of self-interested, designing, disaffected, and desperate characters to involve this great country in wretchedness and contempt? What stronger evidence can be given of the want of energy in our government than these disorders? If there is not a power in it to check them, what security has a man for life, liberty, or property? To you I am sure I need not add aught on this subject. The consequences of a lax or inefficient government are too obvious to be dwelt upon. Thirteen sovereignties pulling against each other, and all tugging at the federal head, will soon bring ruin on the whole; whereas a liberal and energetic constitution, well guarded and closely watched to prevent encroachments, might restore us to that degree of respectability and consequences, to which we had a fair claim and the brightest prospect of attaining.
Dec. 26, 1786. To Henry Knox. In both your letters you intimate that  the men of reflection, principle, and property in New England, feeling the inefficacy of their present government, are contemplating a change; but you are not explicit with respect to its nature. It has been supposed that the constitution of the State of Massachusetts was amongst the most energetic in the Union. May not these disorders then be ascribed to an indulgent exercise of the powers of administration? If your laws authorized, and your powers are equal to the suppression of these tumults in the first instance, delay and unnecessary expedients were improper. These are rarely well applied; and the same causes would produce similar effects in any form of government, if the powers of it are not exercised. I ask this question for information. I know nothing of the facts. That Great Britain will be an unconcerned spectator of the present insurrections, if they continue, is not to be expected. That she is at this moment sowing the seeds of jealousy and discontent among the various tribes of Indians on our frontiers admits of no doubt in my mind; and that she will improve every opportunity to foment the spirit of turbulence within the bowels of the United States, with a view of distracting our governments and promoting divisions, is with me not less certain. Her first manoeuvres in this will no doubt be covert, and may remain so till the period shall arrive when a decided line of conduct may avail her. Charges of violating the treaty, and other pretexts, will then not be wanting to colour overt acts, tending to effect the great objects of which she has long been in labour. A man is now at the head of their American affairs well calculated to conduct measures of this kind, and more than probably was selected for the purpose. We ought not therefore to sleep nor to slumber. Vigilance in watching and vigour in acting is become in my opinion indispensably necessary. If the powers are inadequate, amend or alter them; but do not let us sink into the lowest state of humiliation and contempt, and become a by-word in all the earth.
Feb. 3, 1787. To Henry Knox. In your letter of the 14th you express a wish to be informed of my intention, respecting the convention proposed to be held in Philadelphia May next. In confidence I inform you, that it is not, at this time, my intention to attend it. When this matter was first moved in the Assembly of this State, some of the principal characters of it wrote to me, requesting they might be permitted to put my name in the delegation. To this I objected. They again pressed, and I again refused, assigning among other reasons my having declined meeting the Society of the Cincinnati at that place about the same time, and that I thought it would be disrespectful to that body, to whom I owe much, to be there on any other occasion. Notwithstanding these intimations, my name was inserted in the act; and an official communication thereof made by the executive to me, to whom, at the same time that I expressed my sense for the confidence reposed in me, I declared that, as I saw no prospect of my attending, it was my wish that my name might not remain in the delegation to the exclusion of another. To this I have been requested in emphatical terms not to decide absolutely, as no inconvenience would result from the new appointment of another, at least for some time yet. Thus the matter stands, which is the reason of my saying to you in confidence, that at present I retain my first intention not to go. In the mean while, as I have the fullest conviction of your friendship for and attachment to me, know your abilities to judge, and your means of information, I shall receive any communications from you on this subject with thankfulness. My first wish is to do for the best, and to act with propriety. You know me too well to believe that reserve or concealment of any opinion or circumstance would be at all agreeable to me. The legality of this convention I do not mean to discuss, nor how problematical the issue of it may be. That powers are wanting none can deny. Through what medium they are to be derived will, like other matters engage the attention of the wise. That which takes the shortest course to obtain them, in my opinion will under present circumstances, be found best; otherwise, like a house on fire, whilst the most regular mode of extinguishing the  flames is contended for, the building is reduced to ashes. My opinions of the energetic wants of the federal government are well known. My public annunciations and private declarations have uniformly expressed these sentiments; and, however constitutional it may be for Congress to point out the defects of the federal system, I am strongly inclined to believe that it would not be found the most efficacious channel for the recommendations, more especially the alterations, to flow, for reasons too obvious to enumerate.4 The system on which you seem disposed to build a national government is certainly more energetic, and I dare say in every point of view more desirable than the present, which from experience we find is not only slow, debilitated, and liable to be thwarted by every breath, but is defective in that secrecy which, for the accomplishment of many of the most important national objects, is indispensably necessary; and besides, having the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments concentred, is exceptionable. But, at the same time that I gave this opinion, I believe the political machine will yet be much tumbled and tossed, and possibly be wrecked altogether, before that or anything like it will be adopted. The darling sovereignties of each State, the governors elected and elect, the legislators, with a long tribe of et ceteras, whose political importance will be lessened, if not annihilated, would give their weight of opposition to such a revolution. But I may be speaking without book; for, scarcely ever going off my own farms, I see few people, who do not call upon me, and am very little acquainted with the sentiments of the great public. Indeed, after what I have seen, or rather after what I have heard, I shall be surprised at nothing; for, if three years since any person had told me that there would have been such a formidable rebellion as exists at this day against the laws and Constitution of our own making, I should have thought him a bedlamite, a fit subject for a mad-house.
March 31, 1787. To James Madison. I am glad to find that Congress have recommended to the States to appear in the convention proposed to be holden in Philadelphia next May. I think the reasons in favour have the preponderancy over those against it. It is idle in my opinion to suppose that the sovereign can be insensible to the inadequacy of the powers under which they act, and that, seeing it, they should not recommend a revision of the federal system; especially when it is considered by many as the only constitutional mode by which the defects can be remedied. Had Congress proceeded to a delineation of the powers, it might have sounded an alarm; but, as the case is, I do not conceive that it will have that effect.5... I am fully of opinion that those who lean to a monarchical government have either not consulted the public mind, or that they live in a region which (the levelling principles in which they were bred being entirely eradicated) is much more productive of monarchical ideas than are to be found in the Southern States, where, from the habitual distinctions which have always existed among the people, one would have expected the first generation and the most rapid growth of them. I am also clear that, even admitting the utility, nay, necessity of the form, yet that the period is not arrived for adopting the change without shaking the peace of this country to its foundation. That a thorough reform of the present system is  indispensable, none, who have capacities to judge, will deny; and with hand [and heart] I hope the business will be essayed in a full convention. After which, if more powers and more decision is not found in the existing form, if it still wants energy and that secrecy and despatch (either from the non-attendance or the local views of its members) which is characteristic of good government, and if it shall be found (the contrary of which, however, I have always been more afraid of than of the abuse of them), that Congress will, upon all proper occasions, exert the powers which are given, with a firm and steady hand, instead of frittering them back to the States, where the members, in place of viewing themselves in their national character, are too apt to be looking—I say, after this essay is made, if the system proves inefficient, conviction of the necessity of a change will be disseminated among all classes of the people. Then, and not till then, in my opinion, can it be attempted without involving all the evils of civil discord. I confess, however, that my opinion of public virtue is so far changed that I have my doubts whether any system, without the means of coercion in the sovereign, will enforce due obedience to the ordinances of a general government; without which everything else fails. Laws or ordinances unobserved, or partially attended to, had better never have been made; because the first is a mere nihil, and the second is productive of much jealousy and discontent. But what kind of coercion, you may ask. This indeed will require thought, though the non-compliance of the States with the late requisition is an evidence of the necessity. It is somewhat singular that a State (New York), which used to be foremost in all federal measures, should now turn her face against them in almost every instance.... It gives me great pleasure to hear that there is a probability of a full representation of the States in convention; but if the delegates come to it under fetters, the salutary ends proposed will, in my opinion, be greatly embarrassed and retarded, if not altogether defeated. I am desirous of knowing how this matter is, as my wish is that the convention may adopt no temporizing expedients, but probe the defects of the constitution to the bottom, and provide a radical cure, whether they are agreed to or not. A conduct of this kind will stamp wisdom and dignity on their proceedings and hold up a light which sooner or later will have its influence.6
Sept. 24, 1787. To Patrick Henry. In the first moment after my return, I take the liberty of sending you a copy of the Constitution, which the federal convention has submitted to the people of these States. I accompany it with no observations. Your own judgment will at once discover the good and the exceptionable parts of it; and your experience of the difficulties, which have ever arisen when attempts have been made to reconcile such variety of interests and local prejudices as pervade the several States will render explanation unnecessary. I wish the Constitution, which is offered, bad been made more perfect; but I sincerely believe it is the best that could be  obtained at this time. And, as a constitutional door is open for amendment hereafter, the adoption of it, under the present circumstances of the Union, is in my opinion desirable. From a variety of concurring accounts it appears to me that the political concerns of this country are in a manner suspended by a thread, and that the convention has been looked up to, by the refleeting part of the community, with a solicitude which is hardly to be conceived; and, if nothing had been agreed on by that body, anarchy would soon have ensued, the seeds being deeply sown in every soil.
Oct., 1787. To Henry Knox. The Constitution is now before the judgment-seat. It has, as was expected, its adversaries and supporters. Which will preponderate is yet to be decided. The former more than probably will be most active, as a major part of them will, it is to be feared, be governed by sinister and self-important motives, to which everything in their breasts must yield. The opposition from another class of them may perhaps (if they should be men of reflection, candour, and information), subside in the solution of the following simple questions: 1. Is the Constitution, which is submitted by the convention, preferable to the government (if it can be called one) under which we now live? 2. Is it probable that more confidence would at the time be placed in another convention, provided the experiment should be tried, than was placed in the last one, and is it likely that a better agreement would take place therein? What would be the consequences if these should not happen, or even from the delay which must inevitably follow such an experiment? Is there not a constitutional door open for alterations or amendments? and is it not likely that real defects will be as readily discovered after as before trial? and will not our successors be as ready to apply the remedy as ourselves, if occasion should require it? To think otherwise will, in my judgment, be ascribing more of the amor patrioe, more wisdom and more virtue to ourselves, than I think we deserve. It is highly probable that the refusal of our governor and Colonel Mason to subscribe to the proceedings of the convention will have a bad effect in this State; for, as you well observe, they must not only assign reasons for the justification of their own conduct, but it is highly probable that these reasons will be clothed in most terrific array for the purpose of alarming.7 Some things are already addressed to the fears of the people, and will no doubt have their effect. As far, however, as the sense of this part of the country has been taken, it is strongly in favour of the proposed Constitution. Further I cannot speak with precision. If a powerful opposition is given to it, the weight thereof will, I apprehend, come from the south side of James River, and from the western counties.
Nov. 10, 1787. To Bushrod Washington. That the Assembly would afford the people an opportunity of deciding on the proposed Constitution, I had scarcely a doubt. The only question with me was whether it would go forth under favourable auspices, or receive the stamp of disapprobation. The opponents I expected (for it ever has been that the adversaries to a measure are more active than its friends) would endeavour to stamp it with unfavourable impressions, in order to bias the judgment that is ultimately to decide on it. This is evidently the case with the writers in opposition, whose objections are better calculated to alarm the fears than to convince the judgment of their readers. They build their objections upon principles that do not exist, which the Constitution does not support them in, and the existence of which has been, by an appeal to the Constitution itself, flatly denied; and then, as if they were unanswerable, draw all the dreadful consequences that are necessary to alarm the apprehensions of the ignorant or unthinking. It is not the interest of the major  part of those characters to be convinced; nor will their local views yield to arguments which do not accord with their present or future prospects. A candid solution of a single question, to which the plainest understanding is competent, does, in my opinion, decide the dispute; namely, Is it best for the States to unite or not to unite? If there are men who prefer the latter, then unquestionably the Constitution which is offered must, in their estimation, be wrong from the words, “We the people,” to the signature, inclusively; but those who think differently, and yet object to parts of it, would do well to consider that it does not lie with any one State, or the minority of the States, to superstruct a constitution for the whole. The separate interests, as far as it is practicable, must be consolidated; and local views must be attended to, as far as the nature of the case will admit. Hence it is that every State has some objection to the present form, and these objections are directed to different points. That which is most pleasing to one is obnoxious to another, and so vice versa. If then the union of the whole is a desirable object, the component parts must yield a little in order to accomplish it. Without the latter, the form is unattainable; for again I repeat it, that not a single State, nor the minority of the States, can force a constitution on the majority. But, admitting the power, it will surely be granted that it cannot be done without involving scenes of civil commotion of a very serious nature. Let the opponents of the proposed Constitution in this State be asked, and it is a question they certainly ought to have asked themselves, what line of conduct they would advise to adopt, if nine other States, of which I think there is little doubt, should accede to the Constitution. Would they recommend that it should stand single? Will they connect it with Rhode Island? Or even with two others checkerwise, and remain with them, as outcasts from the society, to shift for themselves? Or will they return to their dependence on Great Britain? Or, lastly, have the mortification to come in when they will be allowed no credit for doing so? The warmest friends and the best supporters the Constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable, and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise therefrom, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment it is not to be obtained; and, as there is a constitutional door open for it, I think the people (for it is with them to judge) can, as they will have the advantage of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary, as ourselves. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us. The power under the Constitution will always be in the people. It is intrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and, whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can and undoubtedly will be recalled. It is agreed on all hands that no government can be well administered 2without powers; yet the instant these are delegated, although those who are intrusted with the administration are no more than the creatures of the people, act as it were but for a day, and are amenable for every false step they take, they are, from the moment they receive it, set down as tyrants; their natures, they would conceive from this, immediately changed, and that they can have no other disposition but to oppress. Of these things, in a government constituted and guarded as ours is, I have no idea; and do firmly believe that, whilst many ostensible reasons are assigned to prevent the adoption of it, the real ones are concealed behind the curtains, because they are not of a nature to appear in open day. I believe further, supposing them pure, that as great evils result from too great jealousy as from the want of it. We need look, I think, no further for proof of this, than to the constitution of some, if not all, of these States. No man is a warmer advocate for proper restraints and wholesome checks in every department of government than I am; but I have never yet been able to discover the propriety of placing it absolutely out of  the power of men to render essential services because a possiblity remains of their doing ill.
Nov. 30, 1787. To David Stuart. I have seen no publication yet that ought, in my judgment, to shake the proposed Constitution in the mind of an impartial and candid public. In fine, I have hardly seen one that is not addressed to the passions of the people, and obviously calculated to alarm their fears. Every attempt to amend the Constitution at this time is in my opinion idle and vain. If there are characters, who prefer disunion, or separate confederacies, to the general government, which is offered to them, their opposition may, for aught I know, proceed from principle; but as nothing, according to my conception of the matter, is more to be deprecated than a disunion of these distinct confederacies, as far as my voice can go it shall be offered in favour of the latter. That there are some writers, and others perhaps who may not have written, that wish to see this Union divided into several confederacies, is pretty evident. As an antidote to these opinions, and in order to investigate the ground of objections to the Constitution which is submitted, the Federalist, under the signature of Publius, is written. The numbers which have been published, I send you. If there is a printer in Richmond who is really well disposed to support the new Constitution, he would do well to give them a place in his paper. They are, I think I may venture to say, written by able men; and before they are finished will, or I am mistaken, place matters in a true point of light. Although I am acquainted with the writers, who have a hand in this work, I am not at liberty to mention names, nor would I have it known that they are sent by Me to You for promulgation.8
Jan. 8, 1788. To Edmund Randolph. The diversity of sentiments upon the important matter, which has been submitted to the people, was as much expected as it is regretted by me. The various passions and motives, by which men are influenced, are concomitants of fallibility, engrafted into our nature for the purposes of unerring wisdom; but had I entertained a latent hope (at the time you moved to have the Constitution submitted to a second convention) that a more perfect form would be agreed to, in a word, that any constitution would be adopted under the impressions and instructions of the members, the publications which have taken place since would have eradicated every form of it. How do the sentiments of the influential characters in this State, who are opposed to the Constitution, and have favoured the public with their opinions, quadrate with each other? Are they not at variance on some of the most important points? If the opponents in the same State cannot agree in their principles, what prospect is there of a coalescence with the advocates of the measure, when the different views and jarring interests of so wide and extended an empire are to be brought forward and combated? To my judgment it is more clear than ever that an attempt to amend the Constitution, which is submitted, would be productive of more heat and greater confusion than can well be conceived. There are some things in the new form, I will readily acknowledge, which never did, and I am persuaded never will, obtain my cordial approbation; but I then did conceive, and do now most firmly believe, that in the aggregate it is the best Constitution that can be obtained at this epoch, and that this, or a dissolution of the Union, awaits our choice, and are the only alternatives before us. Thus believing, I  had not, nor have I now, any hesitation in deciding on which to lean.
April 25, 1788. To the Marquis de Chastellux. The Constitution which was proposed by the federal convention has been adopted by the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Georgia. No State has rejected it. The convention of Maryland is now sitting, and will probably adopt it; as that of South Carolina is expected to do in May. The other conventions will assemble early in the summer. Hitherto there has been much greater unanimity in favour of the proposed government than could have reasonably been expected. Should it be adopted (and I think it will be), America will left up her head again, and in a few years become respectable among the nations. It is a flattering and consolatory reflection that our rising republics have the good wishes of all the philosophers, patriots, and virtuous men in all nations; and that they look upon them as a kind of asylum for mankind. God grant that we may not disappoint their honest expectations by our folly or perverseness....
Aug. 31, 1788. To Thomas Jefferson. The merits and defects of the proposed Constitution have been largely and ably discussed. For myself, I was ready to have embraced any tolerable compromise that was competent to save us from impending ruin; and I can say there are scarcely any of the amendments, which have been suggested, to which I have much objection, except that which goes to the prevention of direct taxation. And that, I presume, will be more strenuously advocated and insisted upon hereafter than any other. I had indulged the expectation that the new government would enable those entrusted with its administration to do justice to the public creditors, and retrieve the national character. But, if no means are to be employed but requisitions, that expectation was vain, and we may as well recur to the old confederation. If the system can be put in operation, without touching much the pockets of the people, perhaps it may be done; but, in my judgment, infinite circumspection and prudence are yet necessary in the experiment. It is nearly impossible for anybody who has not been on the spot (from any description) to conceive what the delicacy and danger of our situation have been. Though the peril is not past entirely, thank God the prospect is somewhat brightening. You will probably have heard, before the receipt of this letter, that the general government has been adopted by eleven States, and that the actual Congress have been prevented from issuing their ordinance for carrying it into execution, in consequence of a dispute about the place at which the future Congress shall meet. It is probable that Philadelphia or New York will soon be agreed upon. I will just touch on the bright side of our national state before I conclude; and we may perhaps rejoice that the people have been ripened by misfortune for the reception of a good government. They are emerging from the gulf of dissipation and debt, into which they had precipitated themselves at the close of the war. Economy and industry are evidently gaining ground. Not only agriculture, but even manufactures are much more attended to than formerly. Notwithstanding the shackles under which our trade in general labours, commerce to the East Indies is prosecuted with considerable success. Salted provisions and other produce (particularly from Massachusetts) have found an advantageous market there. The voyages are so much shorter, and the vessels are navigated at so much less expense, that we may hope to rival and supply (at least through the West Indies) some part of Europe with commodities from thence. This year the exports from Massachusetts have amounted to a great deal more than their imports. I wish this was the case everywhere....
Sept. 22, 1788. To Henry Lee. Your observations on the solemnity of the crisis, and its application to myself, bring before me subjects of the most momentous and interesting nature. In our  endeavours to establish a new general government, the contest, nationally considered, seems not to have been so much for glory as existence. It was for a long time doubtful whether we were to survive as an independent republic, or decline from our federal dignity into insignificant and wretched fragments of an empire. The adoption of the Constitution so extensively, and with so liberal an acquiescence on the part of the minorities in general, promised the former; until lately the circular letter of New York carried, in my apprehension, an unfavourable if not an insidious tendency to a contrary policy. I still hope for the best; but, before you mentioned it, I could not help fearing it would serve as a standard to which the disaffected might resort. It is now evidently the part of all honest men, who are friends to the new Constitution, to endeavour to give it a chance to disclose its merits and defects, by carrying it fairly into effect in the first instance. For it is to be apprehended that, by an attempt to obtain amendments before the experiment has been candidly made, “more is meant than meets the ear,” that an intention is concealed to accomplish slyly what could not have been done openly, to undo all that has been done. If the fact so exists, that a kind of combination is forming to stifle the government in embryo, it is a happy circumstance that the design has become suspected. Preparations should be the sure attendant upon forewarning. Probably prudence, wisdom, and patriotism were never more essentially necessary than at the present moment; and so far as it can be done in an irreproachably direct manner, no effort ought to be left unessayed to procure the election of the best possible characters to the new Congress. On their harmony, deliberation, and decision everything will depend. I heartily wish Mr. Madison was in our Assembly, as I think with you it is of unspeakable importance Virginia should set out with her federal measures under right auspices. The principal topic of your letter is to me a point of great delicacy indeed, insomuch that I can scarcely without some impropriety touch upon it. In the first place, the event to which you allude may never happen; among other reasons, because, if the partiality of my fellow-citizens conceive it to be a means by which the sinews of the new government would be strengthened, it will of consequence be obnoxious to those who are in opposition to it, many of whom unquestionably will be placed among the electors. This consideration alone would supersede the expediency of announcing any definite and irrevocable resolution. You are among the small number of those who know my invincible attachment to domestic life, and that my sincerest wish is to continue in the enjoyment of it solely until my final hour. But the world would be neither so well instructed, nor so candidly disposed, as to believe me uninfluenced by sinister motives, in case any circumstance should render a deviation from the line of conduct I have prescribed to myself indispensable. Should the contingency you suggest take place, and (for argument's sake alone let me say it) should my unfeigned reluctance to accept the office be overcome by a deference for the reasons and opinions of my friends, might I not, after the declarations I have made (and Heaven knows they were made in the sincerity of my heart), in the judgment of the impartial world and of posterity, be chargeable with levity and inconsistency, if not with rashness and ambition? Nay, further, would there not even be some apparent foundation for the two former charges? Now justice to myself and tranquillity of conscience require that I should act a part, if not above imputation, at least capable of vindication. Nor will you conceive me to be too solicitous for reputation. Though I prize as I ought the good opinion of my fellow-citizens, yet, if I know myself, I would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue. While doing what my conscience informed me was right, as it respected my God, my country, and myself, I could despise all the party clamour and unjust censure, which must be expected from some whose personal enmity might be occasioned by their hostility to the government. I am conscious that I fear alone to give any real occasion for obloquy, and that I do not dread to meet with unmerited reproach. And certain  I am, whensoever I shall be convinced the good of my country requires my reputation to be put in risk, regard for my own fame will not come in competition with an object of so much magnitude. If I declined the task, it would lie upon quite another principle. Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my increasing fondness for agricultural amusements, and my growing love of retirement, augment and confirm my decided predilection for the character of a private citizen, yet it would be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to which my former reputation might be exposed, nor the terror of encountering new fatigues and troubles, that would deter me from an acceptance; but a belief that some other person, who had less pretence and less inclination to be excused, could execute all the duties fully as satisfactorily as myself. To say more would be indiscreet, as a disclosure of a refusal beforehand might incur the application of the fable in which the fox is represented as undervaluing the grapes he could not reach. You will perceive, my dear sir, by what is here observed (and which you will be pleased to consider in the light of a confidential communication), that my inclinations will dispose and decide me to remain as I am, unless a clear and insurmountable conviction should be impressed on my mind that some very disagreeable consequences must, in all human probability, result from the indulgence of my wishes.
Oct. 3, 1788. To Alexander Hamilton.9 Although I could not help observing, from several publications and letters, that my name had been sometimes spoken of, and that it was possible the Contingency which is the subject of your letter might happen, yet I thought it best to maintain a guarded silence, and to lack the counsel of my best friends (which I certainly hold in the highest estimation), rather than to hazard an imputation unfriendly to the delicacy of my feelings. For, situated as I am, I could hardly bring the question into the slightest discussion, or ask an opinion even in the most confidential manner, without betraying, in my judgment, some impropriety of conduct, or without feeling an apprehension, that a premature display of anxiety might be construed into a vainglorious desire of pushing myself into notice as a candidate. Now, if I am not grossly deceived in myself, I should unfeignedly rejoice in case the electors, by giving their votes in favor of some other person, would save me from the dreaded dilemma of being forced to accept or refuse. If that may not be, I am in the next place earnestly desirous of searching out the truth, and of knowing whether there does not exist a probability that the government would be just as happily and effectually carried into execution without my aid as with it. I am truly solicitous to obtain all the previous information which the circumstances will afford, and to determine (when the determination can with propriety be no longer postponed) according to the principles of right reason and the dictates of a clear conscience, without too great a reference to the unforeseen consequences which may affect my person or reputation. Until that period, I may fairly hold myself open to conviction, though I allow your sentiments to have weight in them; and I shall not pass by your arguments without giving them as dispassionate a consideration as I can possibly bestow upon them. In taking a survey of the subject, in whatever point of light I have been able to place it, I will not suppress the acknowledgment, my dear sir, that I have always felt a kind of gloom upon my mind, as often as I have been taught to expect I might, and perhaps must, ere long, be called to make a decision. You will, I am well assured, believe the assertion (though I have little expectation it would gain credit from those who are less acquainted with me), that, if I should receive the appointment, and if I should be prevailed upon to accept it, the acceptance would be attended with more diffidence and reluctance than I ever experienced before in my life. It would be, however, with a  fixed and sole determination of lending whatever assistance might be in my power to promote the public weal, in hopes that at a convenient and early period my services might be dispensed with, and that I might be permitted once more to retire, to pass an unclouded evening after the stormy day of life, in the bosom of domestic tranquillity.