Front Page Titles (by Subject) PARTICULAR ACCOUNT OF THE LATE ILLNESS AND DEATH OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
PARTICULAR ACCOUNT OF THE LATE ILLNESS AND DEATH OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIV (1798-1799).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
PARTICULAR ACCOUNT OF THE LATE ILLNESS AND DEATH OF GEORGE WASHINGTON.
Alexandria, 21 December, 1799.
Some time in the night of Friday, the 10th instant, having been exposed to a rain on the preceding day, General Washington was attacked with an inflammatory affection of the upper part of of the windpipe, called in technical language Cynache Trachealis. The disease commenced with a violent ague, accompanied with some pain in the upper and forepart of the throat, a sense of stricture in the same part, a cough, and a difficult, rather than painful deglutition, which was soon succeeded by fever and a quick and laborious respiration. The necessity of blood-letting suggesting itself to the General, he procured a bleeder in the neighborhood, who took from his arm in the night twelve or fourteen ounces of blood. He could not by any means be prevailed on by the family to send for the attending physician till the following morning, who arrived at Mount Vernon at about 11 o’clock on Saturday. Discovering the case to be highly alarming, and foreseeing the fatal tendency of the disease, two consulting physicians were immediately sent for, who arrived, one at half after three, and the other at four o’clock in the afternoon: in the mean time were employed two pretty copious bleedings, a blister was applied to the part affected, two moderate doses of calomel were administered, which operated on the lower intestines, but all without any perceptible advantage, the respiration becoming still more difficult and distressing. Upon the arrival of the first of the consulting physicians, it was agreed, as there were yet no signs of accumulation in the bronchial vessels of the lungs, to try the result of another bleeding, when about thirty-two ounces of blood were drawn, without the smallest apparent alleviation of the disease. Vapours of vinegar and water were frequently inhaled, ten grains of calomel were given, succeeded by repeated doses of emetic tartar, amounting in all to five or six grains, with no other effect than a copious discharge from the bowels. The powers of life seemed now manifestly yielding to the force of the disorder; blisters were applied to the extremities, together with a cataplasm of bran and vinegar to the throat. Speaking, which was painful from the beginning, now became almost impracticable; respiration grew more and more contracted and imperfect, till half after 11 on Saturday night, retaining the full possession of his intellect—when he expired without a struggle.
He was fully impressed at the beginning of his complaint, as well as through every succeeding stage of it, that its conclusion would be mortal; submitting to the several exertions made for his recovery, rather as a duty, than from any expectation of their efficacy. He considered the operations of death upon his system as coeval with the disease; and several hours before his death, after repeated efforts to be understood, succeeded in expressing a desire that he might be permitted to die without further interruption.1
During the short period of his illness, he economized his time, in the arrangement of such few concerns as required his attention, with the utmost serenity; and anticipated his approaching dissolution with every demonstration of that equanimity for which his whole life has been so uniformly and singularly conspicuous.
Elisha C. Dick,
[1 ]“After it became impossible to get anything down his throat, he undressed himself and went to bed, there to die, and to his friend and physician, Doctor Craik, who sat on his bed, and took his head in his lap, he said with difficulty: ‘Doctor, I am dying, and have been dying for a long time, but I am not afraid to die.’ ”—Marshall, Life of Washington, based upon a private letter from Dr. Craik.
[1 ]“I have lately met Dr. Dick again, in consultation, and the high opinion I formed of him when we were in conference at Mt. Vernon last month, concerning the situation of our illustrious friend, has been confirmed.