Front Page Titles (by Subject) 166: TO THE MAYOR, CORPORATION, AND CITIZENS OF ALEXANDRIA - George Washington: A Collection
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166: TO THE MAYOR, CORPORATION, AND CITIZENS OF ALEXANDRIA - George Washington, George Washington: A Collection 
George Washington: A Collection, compiled and edited by W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988).
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TO THE MAYOR, CORPORATION, AND CITIZENS OF ALEXANDRIA
[Alexandria, April 16, 1789]
Election to PresidencyAlthough 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 of the choice, the opinion of my friends, communicated from different parts of Europe, as well as of America, the apparent wish of those, who were not altogether satisfied with the Constitution in its present form, and an ardent desire on my own part, to be instrumental in conciliating the good will of my countrymen towards each other have induced an acceptance.
Those, who have known me best (and you, my fellow citizens, are from your situation, in that number) know better than any others that 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 possible advantages could I propose to myself, from embarking again on the tempestuous and uncertain ocean of public-life?
Farewell to Alexandria neighborsI 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 farther to awaken my sensibility, and encrease my regret at parting from the enjoyments 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 has happly brought us together, after a long and distressing separation. Perhaps the same gracious Providence will again indulge us with the same heartfelt felicity. But words, my fellow-citizens, fail 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!
TOO LONG and too radical, Washington’s first draft of his first inaugural address was never delivered. Its pages scattered by a thoughtless scholar, it is here partially recreated.” Those are the words with which Dr. Nathaniel Stein opened his publication of the most extensive collection of fragments from the “discarded inaugural” heretofore published. The “thoughtless scholar” to whom he referred was Jared Sparks, the nineteenth-century compiler of Washington’s papers. Sparks took James Madison’s judgment that the address would be an embarrassment to Washington not only as reason to exclude it from Washington’s published works, but also to scissor it into samples of Washington’s autograph for Sparks’s numerous friends and acquaintances throughout the country.
Long presumed to be the work of David Humphreys, Washington’s friend and secretary—in spite of existing in Washington’s own handwriting—this work has been largely ignored. Even the casual reader of this collection, however, will find echos of its ideas throughout Washington’s correspondence reaching back as far as six years. We can only speculate about the meaning of Washington’s having apparently written to James Madison that this was Humphreys’ work, but we cannot rule out the possibility that he did so from a desire to encourage the most candid response from Madison.
It is clear from the fragments we do have (and we now publish here the most extensive compilation yet and in the most coherent order) that if we had the whole of the “discarded inaugural” it would rank alongside and perhaps above Washington’s 1783 “Circular Address” as a comprehensive statement of his political understanding. Standing even in its defective form, it is a manifest contribution to our knowledge of how far Washington’s understanding as opposed to his image contributed to the founding of the United States. We have corrected previous versions against the manuscripts, often resulting in material changes. To give one example: in the manuscript, the line that in previous versions has read, “I presume not to assert that better may not still be devised” should read “presume now” instead of “presume not.” The difference in the sense is great; this is Washington’s retrospective judgment on the work of the Constitutional Convention, many of whose members he had warned beforehand to aim not for the most that is acceptable, but for the best possible.
In this version, I signal alternative readings in the text with brackets. Empty brackets signal missing text. The order in which the fragments appear here is based solely on a reading of the manuscripts and comparison of sense. I believe that the present order is the natural order. This runs counter to the hand pagination of the extant manuscript sheets. I maintain, however, that that pagination is manifestly not in Washington’s hand: it could have been applied subsequently, even by Sparks, who had no particular regard for the order of the leaves. Immediately following the text, I have listed the sources for the fragments, which in their cataloguing indicate the order in which they have been arranged in other versions, particularly that of the Washington Papers Project at the University of Virginia.
On Independence Day of the inauguration year, David Humphreys delivered an oration before the State Society of the Cincinnati in Connecticut. This Fourth of July address was a recasting of the “discarded inaugural.” Many of the passages we have in Washington’s hand also appear there, edited to Humphreys’ third-party use. The oration cannot be employed as an exact template to establish the order of Washington’s fragments, but it does serve definitively to demonstrate that the pagination entered on the fragments does not correspond to the order of Washington’s address.
I have omitted any probable fragments that the Humphreys version of the address might be said to supply, even though it is clear that some of them must have derived from the original address. Humphreys in all probability obtained license to use the address once Washington had discarded it. The editing to which he subjected it, however, suggests that the original could not have reflected his work alone, thereby bolstering our confidence that the “discarded inaugural” reflects Washington’s own thoughts. Humphreys’ oration was published in his “Miscellaneous Works” in 1804, now available in a reprint edition.
Inauguration. The Constitutional Convention had recommended that the Confederation Congress set the place and time to commence proceedings under the new Constitution. They set the first Wednesday in January as the date by which presidential electors had to have been chosen in the states. Electors were to meet and cast their votes on the first Wednesday in February. The sessions of the Senate and the House of Representatives would open the first Wednesday in March. New York was chosen as a provisional capital.
On April 14, Charles Thomson, Secretary to Congress, handed Washington a letter from John Langdon, president pro tempore of the Senate, stating that Washington had been unanimously elected President of the United States. He left Mount Vernon on April 16, 1789 and bade farewell to his friends and neighbors in Alexandria. He arrived at New York on April 23.
The Senate and the House of Representatives completed the plans for the inauguration and ceremony on April 27. The event followed on April 30. Shortly after noon, on the balcony of Federal Hall in front of the Senate chamber, the oath of office was administered to Washington by Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York. Washington then addressed his assembled countrymen.
The Annual Addresses. Washington pursued three objects in his eight annual addresses to Congress. The first was to recount the conduct of the executive in relation to legislation that had been previously enacted. The second was to recommend deliberation upon prospective legislation. Third, and most important, Washington encouraged the cooperation of all the representatives in making provision for the general welfare. In all the addresses, of course, Washington was fulfilling the constitutional obligation to report to Congress on the “state of the union.”
The first addresses focussed almost exclusively upon the responsibilities of the officers of government. As the years passed, however, and corresponding with the growth of political parties and increasing dissension, Washington devoted greater attention to addressing the general public, including the much-remarked 1794 passage in which he condemned the “self-created democratic societies” which had become implicated in the Whiskey Rebellion.
The Farewell Address. With a presidential election and the prospect of a third term of office looming before him, Washington decided upon a definitive retirement in 1796. He devoted considerable thought as to the appropriate manner in which to effectuate his retirement, so as to render it, too, an advantage to his countrymen. On May 10, 1796, he asked Alexander Hamilton to help in preparing a valedictory address. Washington sent to Hamilton a draft, parts of which had been written by James Madison, upon whose offices Washington had called four years earlier—prematurely, as it turned out. The draft contained the outline of and the objects to be considered in the address. There followed four months of correspondence until Washington’s objective had been achieved. Hamilton enlisted the aid of John Jay in the project. Washington published the address on Monday, September 15, 1796, in Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser.