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and to truth, now to detail the circumstances above recited, and to add my solemn declaration, that the letters herein described, are a base forgery ; and that I never saw or heard of them until they ap: peared in print. The present letter I commit to your care, and desire it may be deposited in the Office of the department of state, as a testimony of the truth to the present generation and to pos. · terity.”
The moment now approached which was to terminate the official character of Washington, and in which that of his successor, John Adams, was to commence. The old and new president walked in together to the House of Representatives, where the oath of office was administered to the latter. On this occasion Mr. Adams concluded an impressive speech with a handsome compli. ment to his predecessor, by observing, that though he was about to retire, “ his name may still be a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives a bul. wark against all open or secret enemies of his country.”
The immense concourse of citizens who were present, gazed with love and affection on the retiring Washington, while cheerfulness overspread his countenance and joy filled his heart, on seeing another invested with the bigh authorities he so long exercised, and the way opened for his return. ing to the long wished for happiness of domestic private life. After paying his most respectful compliments to the new president, he set out for Mount Vernon, the scene of enjoyinent which he preferred to all others. His wishes to travel pri. vately were in vain ; for wherever he passed, the gentlemen of the country took every occasion of testifyng their respect for him. In his retire. mont he continued to receive the most flattering addresses from legislative bodies, and various classes of his felloweitizens.
During the cight vears administration of \Vash. ington, the United States enjoyed prosperity and happiness at home; and, by the energy of the government, regained among foreigners that impor. tan e and reputation, which, by its weakness, they had lost. The debts contacted in the revolu. tionary war, which, from the imbecility of the old government, had de preciated to an insignificant sum, were funded; and such ample revenues proa vided for the payment of the interest and the grad. ual extinction of the principal, that their real and nom nal value were in a little time nearly the same.
The government was so firmly established us to be cheerfully and universally obered. The only exception was an insurrection in the western coun. ties of Pennsylvania, which was queiled without bloodshed. Agriculture and commerce were extended far beyond what had ever before taken place. The Indians on the frontiers had been first compelled by force to respect the United States, and to continue in peace; and afterward a humane system was commenced for teaching thein to exchange the tomahawk and hatchet for the plough, the hoe, the shuttle, and the spinning wheel. The free navigation of the Missisippi bad been acquired with the consent of Spain, and all tren. ces compromised with that power. The military
posts which had been long held by Britain within the United States, were peaceably given up. The Mediterranean was opened to Anerican vessels in consequence of treaties made with the Barbary powers. Indeed, differences with all powers, either contiguous to or connected with the United States, had been amicably adjusted, with the exception of France. To accomplish this very desirable object, Washington made repeated advan. ces; but it could not be obtained without surrendering the independence of the nation, and its right of self government.
Washington, on returning to Mount Vernon, resumed agricultural pursuits. These, with the society of men and books, gave to every hour innocent and interesting employment, and promised a serene evening of his life. Though he wished to withdraw not only from public office, but from all auxiety respecting public affairs, yet he feit too much for his country to be indifferent to its interests. He heard with regret the repeated insults offered by the. French Directory to the United States, in the person of their ministers, and the ina jury done to their commerce by illegal captures of their vessels. These indignities and injuries, after a long endurance and a rejection of all advances for an accommodation, at length roused the government, in the hands of Mr. Adams, to adopt vigorous wicasures. To be in readiness to repel a umeatened invasion, Congress authorized the ior. mation of a regular army. As soon as the adoption of this measure was probable, the eyes of all were once more turned on Washington as the
most suitable person to be at its head. Letter froin his friends poured in upon him, urging that he should accept the command. To one from president Adams, in which it was observed ; “ We must have your name if you will in any case per. mit us to use it ; there will be more efficacy in it, than in many an army." Washington replied as follows; “ At the epoch of niy retirement, an invasion of these states by any European power, or even the probability of such an event in my days, was so far from being contemplated by me, that I had no conception either that, or any other occur. rence, would arrive in so short a period, which could turn my eyes from the shades of Mount Vernon. But this seems to be the age of wonders; and it is reserved for intoxicated and law. less France, for purposes far beyond the reach of human ken, to slaughter her own citizens, and to disturb the repose of all the world beside. From a view of the past; from the prospect of the present; and of that which seems to be expected, it is not easy for me to decide satisfactorily on the part it might best become me to act. In case of actual invasion by a formidable force, I certainly should not intrench myself under the cover of age and retirement, if my services should be required by my country to assist in repelling it. And if there be good canse to expect such an event, which certainly must be better known to the government than to private citizens, delay in preparing for it may be dangerous, improper, and not to be is: if by prudence. The uncertainty, however, of the latter, in my mind, creates my em
barrassment; for I cannot bring it to believe, regardless as the French are of treaties and of the laws of nations, and capable as I conceive them to be of any species of despotism and injustice, that they will attempt to invade this country, after such a uniform and unequivocal expression of the determination of the people in all parts to oppose them with their lives and fortunes. That they have been led to believe by their agents and partisans among us, that we are a divided people; that the latter are opposed to their own government; and that the show of a small force would occasion a revolt, I have no doubt; and how far these men, grown desperate, will further attempt to deceive, and may succeed in keeping up the de. ception, is problematical. Without that, the folly of the Directory in such an attempt would, I conceive, be more conspicuous, if possible, than their wickedness.
“ Having with candour made this disclosure of the state of my mind, it remains only for me to add, that to those who know me best it is best known, that should imperious circumstances induce me to exchange once more the smooth paths of retirement for the thorny ways of public life, at a period too when repose is more congenial to na. ture, that it would be productive of sensations which can be more easily. conceived than express
To the Secretary of War, writing on the same subject, Washington replied ; “ It cannot be necessary for me to premise to you, or to others who know iny sentiments, that to quit the tranquillity of retirement, and enter the boundless field of re