Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXVII: The discharge of the American army: the evacuation of New-York: The resignation of General Washington: Arrangements of Congress for the disposing of their western territory, and paying their debts: The distresses of the States after the pea - The History of the American Revolution, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XXVII: The discharge of the American army: the evacuation of New-York: The resignation of General Washington: Arrangements of Congress for the disposing of their western territory, and paying their debts: The distresses of the States after the pea - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 2 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 2.
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The discharge of the American army: the evacuation of New-York: The resignation of General Washington: Arrangements of Congress for the disposing of their western territory, and paying their debts: The distresses of the States after the peace: The inefficacy of the articles of the Confederation: A Grand Convention for amending the Government: The New Constitution: General Washington appointed President: An address to the people of the United States.
While the citizens of the United States were anticipating the blessings of peace, their army which had successfully stemmed the tide of British victories, was unrewarded for its services. The States which had been rescued by their exertions from slavery, were in no condition to pay them their stipulated due. To dismiss officers and soldiers, who had spent the prime of their days in serving their country, without an equivalent for their labors, or even a sufficiency to enable them to gain a decent living, was a hard but unavoidable case.March 10, 1783 An attempt was made by anonymous and seditious publications to inflame the minds of the officers and soldiers, and induce them to unite in redressing their own grievances, while they had arms in their hands. As soon as General Washington was informed of the nature of these papers, he requested the General and field officers, with one officer from each company, and a proper representation from the staff of the army, to assemble on an early day.March 15 He rightly judged that it would be much easier to divert from a wrong to a right path, than to recal fatal and hasty steps, after they had once been taken. The period, previously to the meeting of the officers, was improved in preparing them for the adoption of moderate  measures.1783 Gen. Washington sent for one officer after another, and enlarged in private, on the fatal consequences, and particularly on the loss of character to the whole army, which would result from intemperate resolutions. When the officers were convened the commander in chief addressed them in a speech well calculated to calm their mind. He also pledged himself to exert all his abilities and influence in their favor, and requested them to rely on the faith of their country, and conjured them “as they valued their honor—as they respected the rights of humanity, and as they regarded the military and national character of America, to express their utmost detestation of the man, who was attempting to open the floodgates of civil discord, and deluge their rising empire with blood.” Gen. Washington then retired. The minds of those who had heard him were in such an irritable state, that nothing but their most ardent patriotism and his unbounded influence, prevented the proposal of rash resolutions which if adopted, would have sullied the glory of seven years service. No reply whatever was made to the General’s Speech. The happy moment was seized, while the minds of the officers softened by the eloquence of their beloved commander, were in a yielding state, and a resolution was unanimously adopted by which they declared “that no circumstances of distress or danger, should induce a conduct that might tend to sully the reputation and glory they had acquired, that the army continued to have an unshaken confidence, in the justice of Congress and their country. That they viewed with abhorrence and rejected with disdain, the infamous propositions in the late anonymous address to the officers of the army. [”] Too much praise cannot be given to Gen. Washington, for the patriotism and decision which marked his conduct, in the whole of this serious transaction. Perhaps in no instance did the United States receive from heaven a more signal deliverance, through the hands of the commander in chief.
March 22 1783Soon after these events, Congress completed a resolution which had been for some time pending, that the officers of their army, who preferred a sum in gross to an annuity,  should be entitled to receive to the amount of five years full pay, in money or securities at six per cent. per annum, instead of the half pay for life, which had been previously promised to them.
May 26To avoid the inconveniences of dismissing a great number of soldiers in a body, furloughs were freely granted to individuals, and after their dispersion they were not enjoined to return. By this arrangement a critical moment was got over. A great part of an unpaid army, was disbanded and dispersed over the States, without tumult or disorder. The privates generally betook themselves to labor and crowned the merit of being good soldiers, by becoming good citizens. Several of the American officers, who had been bred mechanics resumed their trades. In old countries the disbanding a single regiment, even though fully paid, has often produced serious consequences, but in America where arms had been taken up for self defence, they were peaceably laid down as soon as they became unnecessary. As soldiers had been easily and speedily formed in 1775, out of farmers, planters, and mechanics, with equal ease and expedition in the year 1783, they dropped their adventitious character, and resumed their former occupations. About 80 of the Pennsylvania levies formed an exception to the prevailing peaceable disposition of the army. These in defiance of their officers, set out from Lancaster and marched to Philadelphia to seek a redress of their grievances, from the executive council of the state.June 20, 1783 The mutineers in opposition to advice and intreaties, persisted in their march, till they arrived at Philadelphia. They were there joined by some other troops, who were quartered in the barracks. The whole amounting to upwards of 300 men, marched with fixed bayonets and drums, to the statehouse, in which Congress and the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania held their sessions. They placed guards at every door, and sent in a written message to the President and Council of the state, and threatened to let loose an enraged soldiery upon them, if they were not gratified as to their demand within 20 minutes. The situation of Congress, though they were  not the particular object of the soldiers resentment, was far from being agreeable. After being about three hours under duresse they retired, but previously resolved that the authority of the United States had been grossly insulted. Soon after they left Philadelphia, and fixed on Princeton as the place of their next meeting. General Washington immediately ordered a large detachment of his army, to march for Philadelphia. Previously to their arrival, the disturbances were quieted without bloodshed. Several of the mutineers were tried and condemned, two to suffer death, and four to receive corporal punishment, but they were all afterwards pardoned.
Oct. 18, 1783Towards the close of the year, Congress issued a proclamation, in which the armies of the United States were applauded, “for having displayed in the progress of an arduous and difficult war, every military and patriotic virtue, and in which the thanks of their country were given them, for their long, eminent and faithful services.” Congress then declared it to be their pleasure, “that such part of their foederal armies, as stood engaged to serve during the war, should from and after the third day of November next, be absolutely discharged from the said service.”Nov. 2 On the day preceding their dismission, General Washington issued his farewell orders, in the most endearing language. After giving them his advice respecting their future conduct, and bidding them an affectionate farewell, he concluded with these words,
May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of Heaven’s favours, both here and hereafter, attend those, who under the divine auspices have secured innumerable blessings for others. With these wishes, and this benediction, the commander in chief is about to retire from service; the curtain of separation will soon be drawn, and the military scene, to him, will be closed forever.
With great exertions of the superintendant of finance; four months pay, in part of several years arrearages, were given to the army. This sum, though triffling, was all the immediate recompense the States were able to make to those brave men, who had conducted their country through an eight years war, to peace and independence.
 The evacuation of New-York, took place in about three weeks after the American army was discharged.Nov. 25 For a twelvemonth preceding, there had been an unrestrained communication between that city, though a British garrison, and the adjacent country. The bitterness of war passed away, and civilities were freely interchanged between those, who had lately fought for opportunities to destroy each other. General Washington and Governor Clinton, with their suites, made a public entry into the city of New-York, as soon as the royal army was withdrawn. The Lieutenant Governor, and members of the council, the officers of the American army, and the citizens, followed in an elegant procession. It was remarked that an unusual proportion of those who in 1776, had fled from New-York, were by death cut off from partaking in the general joy, which flowed in upon their fellow citizens, on returning to their ancient habitations. The ease and affluence which they enjoyed in the days of their prosperity, made the severities of exile inconvenient to all, and fatal to many, particularly to such as were advanced in life. Those who survived, both felt and expressed the overflowings of joy, on finding their sufferings and services rewarded with the recovery of their country; the expulsion of their enemies, and the establishment of their independence. In the evening there was a display of fireworks, which exceeded every thing of the kind before seen in the United States. They commenced by a dove’s descending with an olive branch, and setting fire to a marron battery.
The hour now approached in which it became necessary for General Washington to take leave of his officers, who had been endeared to him by a long series of common sufferings and dangers. This was done in a solemn manner. The officers having previously assembled for the purpose, General Washington joined them, and calling for a glass of wine, thus addressed them, “with an Heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you, I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and honourable.”1783 The officers came up successively,  and he took an affectionate leave of each of them. When this affecting scene was over, Washington left the room, and passed through the corps of light infantry, to the place of embarkation. The officers followed in a solemn mute procession, with dejected countenances. On his entering the barge to cross the north river, he turned towards the companions of his glory, and by waving his hat, bid them a silent adieu. Some of them answered this last signal of respect and affection with tears, and all of them hung upon the barge which conveyed him from their sight, till they could no longer distinguish in it the person of their beloved commander in chief.
A proposal was made to perpetuate the friendship of the officers, by forming themselves into a society, to be named after the famous Roman patriot Cincinnatus. The extreme jealousy of the new republics suspected danger to their liberties, from the union of the leaders of their late army, and especially from a part of their institution, which held out to their posterity, the honour of being admitted members of the same society. To obviate all grounds of fear, the general meeting of the society, recommended an alteration of their institution, which has been adopted by eight of the state societies. By this recommendation it was proposed to expunge every thing that was hereditary, and to retain little else than their original name, and a social charitable institution for perpetuating their personal friendships, and relieving the wants of their indigent brethren. General Washington on the approaching dissolution of the American army, by a circular letter to the Governors or Presidents of the individual states, gave his parting advice to his countrymen; and with all the charms of eloquence, inculcated the necessity of union, justice, subordination and of such principles and practices, as their new situation required.
The army being disbanded, the commander in chief proceeded to Annapolis, then the seat of Congress, to resign his commission. On his way thither, he delivered to the Comptroller in Philadelphia an account of the expenditure of all the public money he had ever received.  This was in his own hand writing, and every entry was made in a very particular manner. The whole sum, which in the course of the war had passed through his hands, amounted only to £14,479 18 9 sterling. Nothing was charged or retained as a reward for personal services, and actual disbursements had been managed with such oeconomy and fidelity, that they were all covered by the above moderate sum.
Dec. 19In every town and village, through which the General passed, he was met by public and private demonstrations of gratitude and joy. When he arrived at Annapolis, he informed Congress of his intention to ask leave to resign the commission he had the honor to hold in their service, and desired to know their pleasure in what manner it would be most proper to be done. They resolved that it should be in a public audience.Dec. 23 When the day fixed for that purpose arrived, a great number of distinguished personages attended the interesting scene. At a proper moment, General Washington addressed Thomas Mifflin the President, in the following words:
The great events on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I have now the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands, the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.
Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the Supreme Power of the union, and the patronage of Heaven.
The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous contest.
 While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do1783 injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge, in this place, the peculiar services, and distinguished merits of the persons who have been attached to my person during the war: it was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate: permit me, sir, to recommend in particular those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favourable notice and patronage of Congress.
I consider it as an indispensible duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendance of them, to His holy keeping.
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
To this the President returned the following answer:
The United States in Congress assembled, receive with emotions too affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities under which you have led their troops with success, through a perilous and doubtful war.
Called upon by your country to defend its invaded rights, you accepted the sacred charge before it had formed alliances, and whilst it was without friends or a government to support you.
You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power through all disasters and changes: you have by the love and confidence of your fellow citizens enabled them to display their martial genius, and transmit their fame to posterity; you have persevered, till these United States, aided by a magnanimous King and nation, have been enabled, under a just Providence, to close the war in freedom, safety and independence; on which happy event we sincerely join you in congratulations.
1783 Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world—having taught a lesson useful to those who inflict, and to those who feel oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action, with the blessing of your fellow citizens, but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command, it will continue to animate remotest ages. We feel with you, our obligations to the army in general, and will particularly charge ourselves with the interest of those confidential officers, who have attended your person to this affecting moment.
We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, beseeching Him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens, to improve the opportunity afforded them, of becoming a happy and respectable nation; and for you,we address to Him our earnest prayers, that a life so beloved may be fostered with all His care: That your days may be happy as they have been illustrious, and that He will finally give you that reward which this world cannot give.
The great scenes that crouded in upon the imagination of the General, and of the President, so affected them both, that they almost lost the power of utterance. The mingled emotions that agitated the minds of the spectators, on seeing the commander in chief of their armies, resigning all public employments, and his country acknowledging his services, and loading him with their blessings were beyond description. Immediately on resigning his commission, Mr. Washington, “hastened with ineffable delights,” (to use his own words) to his seat at Mount Vernon, on the banks of the Potowmac in Virginia. Here the historian would wish to make a pause, while he described, the simple and heartfelt joy of neighbours and domestics, who welcomed him to his home. Let it not be deemed foreign to his present subject, to do homage to the feelings and character of the amiable partner of his conjugal happiness, upon this occasion. She deserved this tide of unparalelled female honour and felicity, for she loved her country, and bore with more than Roman—with christian patience and fortitude, the pains to which his  long absence,1783 and the perils of his health and life had exposed her. Fain would the historian pursue the illustrious hero of the revolution, a little further, and attempt to describe his feelings upon his first review of the events of the war, from the quiet station which he now occupied. But this digression would lead him far from the objects of his history.
To pass suddenly from the toils of the first public commission in the United States, to the care of a farm; to exchange the instruments of war, for the implements of husbandry, and to become at once, the patron and example of ingenious and profitable agriculture, would to most men have been a difficult task. But to the elevated mind of the late commander in chief, of the armies of the United States, it was natural and delightful; and should these pages descend to posterity, and war continue ages hence to be the means of establishing national justice, let the commanders of armies learn from the example of General Washington, that the same which is acquired by the sword, without guilt or ambition, may be preserved without power, or splendor, in private life.
Though the war was over, much remained for Congress to do. The proper disposition of their unsettled western and northern frontier, became an object of serious attention. The eastern states had been settled uniformly in townships, but the middle and southern states by indiscriminate location. On a comparison of the merits of these different methods of settling a new country, Congress gave a decided preference to the former. Conformably to these principles, an ordinance was passed on the 20th of May 1785, for disposing of that part of the western territory, which bounds on Pennsylvania. Many settlers soon migrated to this country. Civil Government was established among them. A Governor and Judges were appointed and paid by Congress. They fixed their capital to which they gave the name of Marietta, at the conflux of the Muskingum and Ohio. In the first years of their settlement, Congress ordained that they should be governed as a colony of the United States, but engaged, that as soon as they had attained a population, equal to that of the smallest of the old states, they should be received  into the union on equal terms. By this liberal policy, the blessings of a free government, may be gradually extended to the remotest bounds of the United States.
These arrangements for promoting domestic tranquillity were accompanied by others, for forming commercial connexions with sovereigns of Europe. Towards the close of the war, Dr. Franklin had concluded a treaty between the United States, and the King of Sweden. He Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson were appointed joint commissioners for forming commercial treaties with foreign powers. They succeeded in their negotiation with the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Morocco. Mr. Adams was also appointed Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, to the Court of Great Britain; and was instructed to solicit a treaty between these two powers, but the Ministers of his Britannic Majesty, declined entering into any treaty with him. They assigned the inability of Congress, to compel the different states to observe general commercial regulations, as a reason for declining the proposed connexion. From mismanagement, the United States with respect to trade were in fact nearly as dependent on Great Britain, after the peace, as before the war. They had lost the privileges of British subjects with regard to some branches of commerce, but suffered most of the inconveniences of that political condition, in consequence of their inability to regulate their commerce by one will. In this deranged state of public affairs, Great Britain could expect little more from a treaty with the United States, than what her merchants already possessed. She continued to reap the benefits of an extensive trade with America, without a reciprocity of advantages. Mr. Adams finding his labours ineffectual, desired leave to return to America, which was granted.
To provide funds for paying their continental debt, engaged the attention of Congress, for some time before, and after the peace. The amount of this at the close of the war as nearly as could be calculated, was about forty millions of dollars. In prosecuting the necessary means for discharging it, the inefficacy of the articles of confederation soon became apparent. By these, Congress  though bound to pay, possessed no power of raising a revenue. Its constitutional authority extended no farther, than to make requisitions on the several states for their quotas, to be ascertained in a relative proportion to the value of their lands. A proposition was made to the several states near to the close of the war, to invest Congress with a power to levy an impost of five per cent, at the time and place of importation, on the value of all goods imported from foreign countries, till the whole of their public debt should be extinguished. Danger being now nearly over, selfish passions began to operate. Objections were made, to trusting the purse and the sword into the hands of the same body of men, and that too, for an indefinite period of time. To obviate these scruples, Congress on a reconsideration, proposed to limit the grant of a continental impost to 25 years, and to confine the application of its neat proceeds exclusively, to the discharge of existing debts. On these principles, a system of revenue for funding and ultimately paying the whole public debt was completed, and offered to the states for their ratification.Apr. 18, 1783 By this, it was proposed to raise 2 millions and a half of dollars annually, to defray the interest of the continental debt. It was expected that the impost would bring in the first year one million of dollars, and increase every year afterwards. The states were respectively called upon to raise the balance, according to proportions assigned them, from some permanent established fund subject to the disposal of Congress. A proposition was also made, to change the federal rule of apportioning the public debt, from the value of land, to the more practicable one of numbers of inhabitants in the different states. The whole system was transmitted to the state legislatures, and accompanied by an animated address, enforcing the propriety of its immediate adoption. Some of the states adopted it in the whole; others only in part, and some not at all. The states whose population was great, and whose lands were of an inferior quality, objected to changing the federal rule of apportionment, from the value of lands to numbers. Some of the states which from their having convenient ports,  were called importing states, found it to be more for their immediate advantage, to raise money by impost for their separate use, than for the benefit of the union. They who received foreign goods through neighbouring states, and which were called consuming states, complained that by the revolution they had only changed masters, for that instead of being taxed by Great Britain without their consent, they were virtually taxed in like manner by their sister states, who happened to be more favourably situated for importing foreign goods. From these jarring interests, and from the want of a disposition to support a supreme head, and to give up local advantages for the general benefit, the revenue system of Congress was never put in operation. Its failure was the source of many evils. No efficient funds being provided to pay the interest of the national debt, the public securities of the United States fell in their value to ten for one, and became an article of speculation. The war-worn soldier who received at the close of the contest only an obligation for the payment of his hard earned dues, was from necessity often obliged to transfer his rights for an insignificant sum. The monied man who had trusted his country in the hour of her distress, was deprived not only of his interest, on which he counted for his daily support, but of a great part of the value of his capital. The non-payment of public debts, sometimes inferred a necessity, and always furnished an apology, for not discharging private contracts. Confidence between man and man received a deadly wound. Public faith being first violated, private engagements lost much of their obligatory force. Gen. Washington who nobly refused any thing for himself, had eloquently though unsuccessfully pleaded the cause of the army, and other public creditors, in his circular letter to the governors before his resignation, and predicted the evils which followed from the rejection of the revenue system of Congress. His observations were as follows:
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 to the honor and independency of America, can hesitate a single moment respecting the propriety of complying with the just and honorable 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 or adopted. So pressing are the present circumstances, and such is the alternative now offered to the states.
Congress continued to send forth annual requisitions, for the sums wanted for the public service, and indulged the hope that the states would e’er long be convinced, of the necessity of adopting an efficient system of general revenue: But their requisitions as well as their system of revenue, were disregarded by some of the states, and but partially complied with by others. From this failure of public justice, a deluge of evils overflowed the United States. These were also encreased by an unfavorable balance of trade. The ravages of armies, and the interruption of a free communication, between Europe and America during the war, had multiplied the wants of the latter, to a degree which exceeded allprevious calculations. An inundation of European manufactures, was therefore one of the first effects which followed the establishment of peace. These were purchased by the Americans far beyond their means of payment. Adventurers grasping at the profits of trading with the new formed states, exported to America goods to a great amount, exceeding what either prudence or policy could justify. The Americans soon found themselves involved in a debt, to the discharge of which their resources were unequal. In several instances, these debts were contracted on credit by persons to whom the United States were indebted.  These presuming on the justice of their country, had involved themselves in private engagements, hoping that what they received from the public would furnish them with the means of payment. Such were doubly distressed.
The sufferings of the inhabitants were increased in consequence of the obstructions of their trade. That intercourse with the West-India Islands, from which, when colonies they derived large supplies of gold and silver, was forbidden to them in their new capacity of independent states. Their fisheries received a severe check, from their being excluded from several ports in which, when colonies, they had found a ready sale for the fruits of their industry, which they drew from the ocean. These evils were still farther aggravated by the stoppage of the bounty on whale oil, to which, when British subjects they were entitled. To add to their other misfortunes, they could no longer sail with safety in the Mediterranean, a privilege which they had always enjoyed, while they were a part of the British empire. Unable to defend themselves from the Algerine corsairs, they were obliged either to quit that beneficial trade, or ensure it at a ruinous premium.
The United States from the want of power in their common head, were incapacitated from acting in concert, so as to avail themselves of their natural advantages. Congress called once more upon the States to enlarge their powers, and particularly to entrust them with the regulation of commerce for a limited number of years. Some states fully complied with this call, but others fettered their grants with such conditions, as prevented the formation of an uniform system.
From the combined operation of these causes trade languished; credit expired; gold and silver vanished; and in consequence thereof, real property was depreciated to an extent equal to that of the depression of continental money, in the 2d or 3d year of its emission. Instead of imitating the wise policy of Great Britain, in making an artificial medium of circulation, by funding their debts, several of the states to alleviate the differences  arising from the want of money, adopted the fallacious expedient of emitting paper, to supply the place of gold and silver. But the remedy increased the disease. If the funding plan had been adopted, the sum due by the United States, was so much within their resources, that by the establishment of efficient funds, for the punctual discharge of the interest, the public debt might have easily been made a public blessing. It would have been a capital for the extension of agriculture, commerce and manufactures, as well as an honest and effectual substitute for real coin. But these advantages, which would have lessened much of the sufferings of the inhabitants, were lost by the imbecillity of the general government, and the want of concert in the state legislatures.
When the people on the return of peace supposed their troubles to be ended, they found them to be only varied. The calamities of war were followed by another class of evils, different in their origin, but not less injurious in their consequences. The inhabitants feeling the pressure of their sufferings, and not knowing precisely from what source they originated, or how to remedy them, became uneasy, and many were ready to adopt any desperate measures that turbulent leaders might recommend. In this irritable state, a great number of the citizens of Massachusetts, sore with their enlarged portion of public calamity, were induced by seditious demagogues, to make an open resistance to the operations of their own free government. Insurrections took place in many parts, and laws were trampled upon by the very men whose deputies had enacted them, and whose deputies might have repealed them. By the moderation of the legislature, and especially by the bravery and good conduct of Generals Lincoln, and Shepherd, and the firmness of the well affected militia, the insurgents were speedily quelled, and good order restored, with the loss of about six of the freemen of the state.
The untoward events which followed the re-establishment of peace, though evils of themselves, were overruled for great national good. From the failure of their expectations of an immediate increase of political happiness,  the lovers of liberty and independence began to be less sanguine in their hopes from the American revolution, and to fear that they had built a visionary fabric of government, on the fallacious ideas of public virtue; but that elasticity of the human mind, which is nurtured by free constitutions, kept them from desponding. By an exertion of those inherent principles of self-preservation, which republics possess, a recurrence was had to the good sense of the people, for the rectification of fundamental disorders. While the country, free from foreign force and domestic violence, enjoyed tranquillity, a proposition was made by Virginia to all the other States to meet in convention, for the purpose of digesting a form of government, equal to the exigencies of the union. The first motion for this purpose was made by Mr. Madison, and he had the pleasure of seeing it acceded to by twelve of the States, and finally to issue in the establishment of a New Constitution, which bids fair to repay the citizens of the United States for the toils, dangers and wastes of the revolution. The fundamental distinction between the articles of confederation and the new constitution lies in this; the former acted only on States, the latter on individuals; the former could neither raise men nor money by its own authority, but lay at the discretion of thirteen different legislatures, and without their unanimous concurrence was unable to provide for the public safety, or for the payment of the national debt. The experience of several years had proved the impossibility of a government answering the end of its institution, which was dependent on others for the means necessary for attaining these ends. By the new constitution, one legislative, executive, and judicial power pervades the whole union. This ensures an uniform observance of treaties, and gives a stability to the general government, which never could be attained while the acts and requisitions of Congress were subject to the revision of thirteen legislatures, and while thirteen distinct and unconnected judiciaries, had a constitutional right to decide on the same subject. The people of the United States gave no new powers to their rulers, but made a  more judicious arrangement of what they had formerly ceded. They enlarged the powers of the general government, not by taking from the people, but from the State legislatures. They took from the latter a power of levying duties on the importation of merchandise from foreign countries, and transferred it to Congress for the common benefit of the union. They also invested the general government with a power to regulate trade, levy taxes and internal duties on the inhabitants. That these enlarged powers might be used only with caution and deliberation, Congress, which formerly consisted of only one body, was made to consist of two; one of which was to be chosen by the people in proportion to their numbers, the other by the State legislatures. The execution of the acts of this compounded legislature was committed to a Supreme Magistrate, with the title of President. The constitution, of which these were the principal features, was submitted to the people for ratification. Animated debates took place on the propriety of establishing or rejecting it. Some States, who from their local situation were benefited by receiving import duties into their treasuries, were averse from the giving of them up to the union. Others, who were consuming but not importing States, had an interested inducement of an opposite kind, to support the proposed new constitution. The prospects of increased employment for shipping, and the enlargement of commerce, weighed with those States which abounded in sailors and ships, and also with seaport towns, to advocate the adoption of the new system; but those States or parts of States, which depended chiefly on agriculture, were afraid that zeal for encouraging an American marine, by narrowing the grounds of competition among foreigners for purchasing and carrying their produce, would lessen their profits. Some of this description therefore conceived that they had a local interest in refusing the new system.
Individuals who had great influence in state legislatures, or who held profitable places under them, were unwilling to adopt a government which, by diminishing the power of the states, would eventually diminish their own  importance: others who looked forward to seats in the general government, or for offices under its authority, had the same interested reason for supporting its adoption. Some from jealousy of liberty, were afraid of giving too much power to their rulers; others, from an honest ambition to aggrandize their country, were for paving the way to national greatness by melting down the separate States into a national mass. The former feared the New Constitution; the latter gloried in it. Almost every passion which could agitate the human breast, interested States and individuals for and against the adoption of the proposed plan of government. Some whole classes of people were in its favor. The mass of public creditors expected payment of their debts from the establishment of an efficient government, and were therefore decidedly for its adoption. Such as lived on salaries, and those who, being clear of debt, wished for a fixed medium of circulation and the free course of law, were the friends of a constitution which prohibited the issuing of paper money and all interference between debtor and creditor. In addition to these, the great body of independent men, who saw the necessity of an energetic general government, and who, from the jarring interests of the different States, could not foresee any probability of getting a better one than was proposed, gave their support to what the federal convention had projected, and their influence effected its establishment. After a full consideration, and thorough discussion of its principles, it was ratified by the conventions of eleven of the original thirteen States, and the accession of the other two is soon expected.* The ratification of it was celebrated in most of the capitals of the States with elegant processions, which far exceeded any thing of the kind ever before exhibited in America. Time and experience only can fully discover the effects of this new distribution of the powers of government; but in theory it seems well calculated to unite liberty with safety, and to lay the foundation of national greatness, while it abridges none of the rights of the States, or of the people.
 The new constitution having been ratified by eleven of the States, and senators and representatives having been chosen agreeably to the articles thereof, they met at New-York and commenced proceedings under it.April, 1789 The old Congress; and confederation, like the continental money, expired without a sigh or groan. A new Congress, with more ample powers and a new constitution; partly national and partly federal, succeeded in their place to the great joy of all who wished for the happiness of the United States.
Though great diversity of opinions had prevailed about the new constitution, there was but one opinion about the person who should be appointed its supreme executive officer. The people, as well anti-federalists as federalists, (for by these names the parties for and against the new constitution were called) unanimously turned their eyes on the late commander of their armies, as the most proper person to be their first President. Perhaps there was not a well informed individual in the United States, (Mr. Washington himself only excepted) who was not anxious that he should be called to the executive administration of the proposed new plan of government. Unambitious of farther honors he had retired to his farm in Virginia, and hoped to be excused from all farther public service; but his country called him by an unanimous vote to fill the highest station in its gift. That honest zeal for the public good, which had uniformly influenced him to devote both his time and talents to the service of his country, got the better of his love of retirement, and induced him once more to engage in the great business of making a nation happy. “The intelligence of his election being communicated to him, while on his farm in Virginia, he set out soon after for New-York.” On his way thither, the road was crouded with numbers anxious to see the Man of the people. Escorts of militia, and of gentlemen of the first character and station, attended him from State to State, and he was every where received with the highest honors which a grateful and admiring people could confer. Addresses of congratulation were presented to him by the inhabitants of almost every place of consequence through which he  passed, to all of which he returned such modest unassuming answers as were in every respect suitable to his situation. So great were the honors, with which he was loaded, that they could scarcely have failed to produce haughtiness in the mind of any ordinary man; but nothing of the kind was ever discovered in this extraordinary personage. On all occasions he behaved to all men with the affability of one citizen to another. He was truly great in deserving the plaudits of his country, but much greater in not being elated with them.
Of the numerous addresses which were presented on this occasion, one subscribed by Dennis Ramsay the Mayor of Alexandria, in the name of the people of that city, who were the neighbours of Mr. Washington, was particularly and universally admired. It was in the following words:
To George Washington, Esq.
President of the United States, &c.
Again your country commands your care. Obedient to its wishes, unmindful of your ease, we see you again relinquishing the bliss of retirement; and this too, at a period of life, when nature itself seems to authorize a preference of repose!
Not to extol your gloryas a soldier; not to pour forth our gratitude for past services; not to acknowledge the justice of the unexampled honour which has been conferred upon you by the spontaneous and unanimous suffrage of three millions of freemen, in your election to the supreme magistracy; nor to admire the patriotism which directs your conduct, do your neighbours and friends now address you; themes less splendid but more endearing, impress our minds. The first and best of citizens must leave us; our aged must lose their ornament; our youth their model; our agriculture its improver; our commerce its friend; our infant academy its protector; our poor their benefactor; and the interior navigation of the Potowmack (an event replete with the most extensive utility, already, by your unremitted exertions, brought into partial use) its institutor and promoter.
 Farewell! Go! and make a grateful people happy; a people, who will be doubly grateful, when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for their interest.
To that Being, who maketh and unmaketh at his will, we commend you; and after the accomplishment of the arduous business to which you are called, may he restore to us again, the best of men, and the most beloved fellow citizen!”
To this Mr. Washington returned the following answer:
Although I ought not to conceal, yet I cannot describe the painful emotions which I felt in being called upon to determine whether I would accept or refuse the presidency of the United States. The unanimity in the choice, the opinion of my friends, communicated from different parts of Europe, as well as from America, the apparent wish of those who were not entirely satisfied with the constitution in its present form; and an ardent desire on my own part to be instrumental in connecting the good will of my countrymen towards each other; have induced an acceptance. Those who know me best (and you, my fellow citizens, are from your situation, in that number) know better than any others, my love of retirement is so great, that no earthly consideration, short of a conviction of duty, could have prevailed upon me to depart from my resolution “never more to take any share in transactions of a public nature.” For, at my age, and in my circumstances, what prospects or advantages could I propose to myself, from embarking again on the tempestuous and uncertain ocean of public life?
I do not feel myself under the necessity of making public declarations, in order to convince you, gentlemen, of my attachment to yourselves, and regard for your interests; the whole tenor of my life has been open to your inspection; and my past actions, rather than my present declarations, must be the pledge of my future conduct.
In the mean time, I thank you most sincerely for the expressions of kindness, contained in your valedictory address. It is true, just after having bade adieu to my domestic connexions, this tender proof of your  friendship is but too well calculated, still further to awaken my sensibility, and increase my regret at parting from the enjoyment of private life.
All that now remains for me, is to commit myself and you to the protection of that beneficent Being, who on a former occasion hath happily brought us together, after a long and distressing separation; perhaps the same gracious providence will again indulge me. Unutterable sensations must then be left to more expressive silence; while from an aching heart, I bid you all, my affectionate friends, and kind neighbours, farewell!
Gray’s bridge over the Schuylkill which Mr. Washington had to pass, was highly decorated with laurels and evergreens. At each end of it were erected magnificent arches composed of laurels, emblematical of the ancient Roman triumphal arches; and on each side of the bridge, was a laurel shrubbery. As Mr. Washington passed the bridge, a youth ornamented with sprigs of laurel, assisted by machinery let drop above his head, though unperceived by him, a civic crown of laurel. Upwards of 20,000 citizens lined the fences, fields and avenues between the Schuylkill and Philadelphia. Through these he was conducted to the city, by a numerous and respectable body of the citizens, where he partook of an elegant entertainment provided for him. The pleasures of the day were succeeded by a handsome display of fireworks in the evening.
When Mr. Washington crossed the Delaware, and landed on the Jersey shore, he was saluted with three cheers by the inhabitants of the vicinity. When he came to the brow of the hill, on his way to Trenton, a triumphal arch was erected on the bridge, by the direction of the ladies of the place. The crown of the arch was highly ornamented with imperial laurels and flowers, and on it was displayed in large figures, December 26th 1776. On the sweep of the arch, beneath was this inscription, The defender of the Mothers, will also protect their Daughters. On the north side were ranged a number of young misses dressed in white, with garlands of flowers on their heads, and baskets of flowers on their arms; in the second row stood the young ladies, and behind them the married ladies  of the town. The instant he passed the arch, the young misses began to sing the following ode:
As they sung the last lines, they strewed their flowers on the road before their beloved deliverer. His situation on this occasion, contrasted with what he had in Dec. 1776 felt on the same spot, when the affairs of America were at the lowest ebb of depression, filled him with sensations that cannot be described. He was rowed across the bay from Elizabeth-Town to New-York, in an elegant barge by thirteen pilots. All the vessels in the harbour hoisted their flags. Stairs were erected and decorated for his reception. On his landing, universal joy diffused itself through every order of the people, and he was received and congratulated by the Governor of the State, and officers of the corporation. He was conducted from the landing place to the house which had been fitted up for his reception, and was followed by an elegant procession of militia in their uniforms, and by great numbers of citizens. In the evening, the houses of the inhabitants were brilliantly illuminated. A day was fixed, soon after his arrival, for his taking the oath of office, which was in the following words: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend, the constitution of the United States.” On this occasion he was wholly clothed in American manufactures. In the morning of the day appointed for this purpose, the clergy of different denominations assembled their congregations in the respective places of worship, and offered up public prayers for the President and people of the United States. About  noon a procession, followed by a multitude of citizens, moved from the President’s house to Federal Hall. When they came within a short distance from the Hall, the troops formed a line on both sides of the way, through which Mr. Washington, accompanied by the Vice-President Mr. John Adams, passed into the Senate chamber. Immediately after, accompanied by both houses, he went into the gallery fronting Broad Street, and before them and an immense concourse of citizens, took the oath prescribed by the constitution, which was administered by R. R. Livingston, the Chancellor of the State of New-York. An awful silence prevailed among the spectators during this part of the ceremony. It was a minute of the most sublime political joy. The Chancellor then proclaimed him President of the United States. This was answered by the discharge of 13 guns, and by the effusions of shouts, from near 10,000 grateful and affectionate hearts. The President bowed most respectfully to the people, and the air resounded again with their acclamations. He then retired to the Senate chamber, where he made the following speech to both houses:
Fellow Citizens of the Senate, and of the 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 transmitted by your order, and received on the 14 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 rememberance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendant 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 seem 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, farther than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you 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 recommendaton 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 those honorable qualifications, I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices, or attachments—no separate views, nor 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 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 oeconomy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous  people, 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 entrusted 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 5th 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 to them.
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 an united and effective govenment, or which ought to await the future lesson 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 indispensibly 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 favor 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.
The President, of Congress, then attended on divine service.
In the evening a very ingenious and splendid shew of fire works was exhibited. Betwixt the fort and the bowling green stood conspicuous, a superb and brilliant transparent painting, in the centre of which was the portrait of the President represented under the emblem of fortitude, on his right hand was justice, representing the Senate of the United States, and on his left, Wisdom, representing the house of Representatives.
This memorable day completed the organization of the new constitution. By this establishment the rising generation will have an opportunity of observing the result of an experiment in politics, which before has never been fairly made. The experience of former ages, has given many melancholy proofs, that popular governments have seldom answered in practice, to the theories and warm wishes of their admirers. The present inhabitants of independent America, now have an opportunity to wipe off this aspersion, to assert the dignity of human nature, and the capacity of mankind for self-government.
 Citizens of the United States! you have a well balanced constitution established by general consent, which is an improvement on all republican forms of government heretofore established. It possesses the good qualities of monarchy, but without its vices. The wisdom and stability of an aristocracy, but without the insolence of hereditary masters. The freedom and independence of a popular assembly acquainted with the wants and wishes of the people, but without the capacity of doing those mischiefs which result from uncontrolled power in one assembly. The end and object of it is public good. If you are not happy it will be your own fault. No knave or fool can plead an hereditary right to sport with your property or your liberties. Your laws and your lawgivers must all proceed from yourselves. You have the experience of nearly six thousand years, to point out the rocks on which former republics have been dashed to pieces. Learn wisdom from their misfortunes. Cultivate justice both public and private. No government will or can endure which does not protect the rights of its subjects. Unless such efficient regulations are adopted, as will secure property as well as liberty, one revolution will follow another. Anarchy, monarchy or despotism, will be the consequence. By just laws and the faithful execution of them, public and private credit will be restored, and the restoration of credit will be a mine of wealth to this young country. It will make a fund for agriculture, commerce and manufactures, which will soon enable the United States to claim an exalted rank among the nations of the earth. Such are the resources of your country, and so trifling are your debts, compared with your resources, that proper systems wisely planned and faithfully executed, will soon fill your extensive territory with inhabitants, and give you the command of such ample capitals, as will enable you to run the career of national greatness, with advantages equal to the oldest kingdoms of Europe. What they have been slowly growing to, in the course of near two thousand years you may hope to equal within one century. If you continue under one government, built on the solid foundations of public justice, and public virtue, there is no point of national greatness to which you may not aspire with a well founded hope of  speedily attaining it. Cherish and support a reverence for government, and cultivate union between the East and the South, the Atlantic and the Mississippi. Let the greatest good of the greatest number be the pole star of your public and private deliberations. Shun wars, they beget debt, add to the common vices of mankind, and produce others, which are almost peculiar to themselves. Agriculture, manufactures and commerce, are your proper business. Seek not to enlarge your territory by conquest. It is already sufficiently extensive. You have ample scope for the employment of your most active minds, in promoting your own domestic happiness. Maintain your own rights and let all others remain in quiet possession of theirs. Avoid discord, faction, luxury and the other vices which have been the bane of commonwealths. Cherish and reward the philosophers, the statesmen and the patriots, who devote their talents and time at the expence of their private interests, to the toils of enlightening and directing their fellow citizens, and thereby rescue citizens and rulers of republics, from the common and too often merited charge of ingratitude. Practise industry, frugality, temperance, moderation, and the whole lovely train of republican virtues. Banish from your borders the liquid fire of the West-Indies, which while it entails poverty and disease, prevents industry and foments private quarrels. Venerate the plough, the hoe, and all the implements of agriculture. Honour the men who with their own hands maintain their families, and raise up children who are inured to toil, and capable of defending their country. Reckon the necessity of labour not among the curses, but the blessings of life. Your towns will probably e’re long be engulphed in luxury and effeminacy. If your liberties and future prospects depended on them, your career of liberty would probably be short; but a great majority of your country must, and will be yeomanry, who have no other dependence than on Almighty God for his usual blessing on their daily labour. From the great excess of the number of such independent farmers in these States, over  and above all other classes of inhabitants, the long continuance of your liberties may be reasonably presumed.
Let the hapless African sleep undisturbed on his native shore, and give over wishing for the extermination of the ancient proprietors of this land. Universal justice is universal interest. The most enlarged happiness of one people, by no means requires the degradation or destruction of another. It would be more glorious to civilise one tribe of savages than to exterminate or expel a score. There is territory enough for them and for you. Instead of invading their rights, promote their happiness, and give them no reason to curse the folly of their fathers, who suffered yours to sit down on a soil which the common Parent of us both had previously assigned to them: but above all, be particularly careful that your own descendents do not degenerate into savages. Diffuse the means of education, and particularly of religious instruction, through your remotest settlements. To this end, support and strengthen the hands of public teachers, and especially of worthy clergymen. Let your voluntary contributions confute the dishonourable position, that religion cannot be supported but by compulsory establishments. Remember that there can be no political happiness without liberty; that there can be no liberty without morality; and that there can be no morality without religion.
It is now your turn to figure on the face of the earth, and in the annals of the world. You possess a country which in less than a century will probably contain fifty millions of inhabitants. You have, with a great expence of blood and treasure, rescued yourselves and your posterity from the domination of Europe. Perfect the good work you have begun, by forming such arrangements and institutions as bid fair for ensuring to the present and future generations the blessings for which you have successfully contended.
May the Almighty Ruler of the Universe, who has raised you to Independence, and given you a place among the nations of the earth, make the American Revolution an Era in the history of the world, remarkable for the progressive increase of human happiness!
[*]North-Carolina since writing the above, has acceded to the union.