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more difficulty and reluctance than I ever experienced before. 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."
In a letter to General Lincoln, Washington observes, “I may, however, with great sincerity, and I believe without offending against modesty and propriety, say to you, that I most heartily wish the choice to which you allude might not fall upon me; and that if it should, I must reserve to myself the right of making up my final decision, at the last moment, when it can be brought into one view, and when the expediency or inexpediency of a refusal can be more judiciously determined than at present. But be assured, my dear sir, if, from any inducement, I shall be persuaded ultimately to accept, it will not be, (so far as I know my own heart,) from any of a private or personal nature. Every personal consideration conspires to rivet me (if I may use the expression) to retirement. At my time of life, and, under my circumstances, nothing in this world can ever draw me from it, unless it be a conviction that the partiality of my countrymen had made my services absolutely necessary, joined to a fear that my refusal might induce a belief that I preferred the conservation of my own reputation and private ease to the good of my country. After all, if I should conceive myself in a manner constrained to accept, I call Heaven to witness, that this very act would be the greatest sacrifice of my personal feelings and wishes that ever I have been called upon to make. It would be to forego repose and domestic enjoyment, for trouble, perhaps for public obloquy; for I should consider myself as entering upon an unexplored field, enveloped on every side with clouds and darkness.
"From this embarrassing situation, I had naturally supposed that my declarations at the close of the war would have saved me, and that my sincere intentions, then publicly made known, would have effectually precluded me for ever afterwards from being looked upon as a candidate for any office. This hope, as a last anchor of worldly happiness in old age, I had carefully preserved, until the public papers and private letters from my correspondents in almost every quarter, taught me to apprehend that I might soon be obliged to answer the question, whether I would go again into public life or not.'
In a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, Washington ob
"Your sentiments, indeed, coincide much more nearly with those of my other friends than with my own feelings. In truth, my difficulties increase and magnify, as I draw towards the period when, according to the common belief, it will be necessary for me to give a definitive answer in one way or other. Should circumstances render it a matter inevitably necessary to be in the affirmative, be assured, my dear sir, I shall assume the task with the most unfeigned reluctance, and with a real diffidence, for which I shall probably receive no credit from the world. If I know my own heart, nothing short of a conviction of duty will induce me again to take an active part in public affairs. And in that case, if I can form a plan for my own conduct, my endeavours shall be unremittingly exerted (even at the hazard of former fame or present popularity) to extricate my country from the embarrassments in which it is entangled through want of credit, and to establish a general system of policy, which, if pursued, will ensure permanent felicity to the Commonwealth. I think I see a path as clear and as direct as a ray of light, which leads to the attainment of that object. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry, and frugality, are necessary to make us a great and a happy people. Happily the present posture of affairs, and the prevailing disposition of my countrymen, promise to co-operate in establishing those four great and essential pillars of public felicity."
Before the election of a President came on, so universal was the expectation that Washington would be elected, that numerous applications were made to him, in anticipation, for offices in the government, which would be in his gift. To one of such applicants he wrote, as follows:
"Should it become absolutely necessary for me to occupy the station in which your letter presupposes me, I have determined to go into it perfectly free from all engagements of every nature whatsoever. A conduct in conformity to this resolution would enable me, in balancing the various pretensions of different candidates for appointments, to act with a sole reference to justice and the public good. This is, in substance, the answer that I have given to all applications (and they are not few) which have already been made."
For Washington, it was impossible to have rivals. Accordingly he was soon known to have been chosen President of the
United States. As a general and a patriot, he had already filled the measure of his glory; there was no fame left for him to excel but his own, and that task, the mightiest of all his labours, was now about to be accomplished.
The following remarks on Washington's second acceptance of the office of President, occur in the recent work of Mr. Headley, entitled "Washington and his Generals."
"Though he had reached his threescore years, and pined for the rest of a quiet home, he again took on him the burdens of office. The nation prospered under his rule. Words of wisdom and piety dropped from his lips, and stretching out his arms over the Union, both the foundation and topmost stone of which he had laid, he gave it his last blessing. Had his counsels been obeyed, and all his successors followed in his footsteps, this nation would not only have stood first among the powers of the earth, but been the especial favourite of Heaven."