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be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaugh
I can not in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to con ceive is the intention of congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice. That their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt; but, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their determinations are slow. Why, then, should we distrust them; and, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired, and tárnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done ? To bring the object we seek nearer? No; most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance. For myself (and I take no merit for giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice, and a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me), a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command, will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe to my country, and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost extent of my abilities.
“While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner to exert whatever abilities I am possessed of in your favor, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, and sully the glory, you have hitherto maintained. Let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of congress, that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in the resolutions which were published to you two days ago; and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you for your faithful and meritorious services, And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our country; and who wickedly attempts to open the flood-gates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in blood.
"By thus determining, and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes ; you will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice ; you will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings ; and you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind : ‘Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining:
That eloquent and impassioned production greatly increased the sensation which before existed : the crisis was alarming. Even in the army of a firmly established government, such a general spirit of dissatisfaction would have been unpleasant; but in a new, feeble, and tottering government, and in an army ill trained to strict subordination, the occurrence was far more formidable. The
sagacious General Washington clearly saw the danger, and prohibited the proposed meeting ; but, deeming it safer to direct and weaken the current than immediately to oppose it, he appointed a similar meeting on a subsequent day. General Gates, as the senior officer of rank, presided. General Washington, who had been diligent in preparing the minds of the officers for the occasion, addressed the assembly, strongly combated the address, and, by his sound reasoning and high influential character, succeeded in dissipating the storm.
These proceedings of the officers induced congress to pay some regard to its promises, and to commute the half-pay for a sum equal to five years' full pay. It was insulted by a body of lately-raised troops of Pennsylvania, and much agitation prevailed in the army. But as the dread of foreign enemies subsided, che state governments became careless of the claims and comfort of their defend
To disband an army in a state of irritation, and to which large arrears were due, many of whom had not money to supply their most pressing wants, or to defray their expenses on the way home, was a dangerous experiment; but it was ultimately executed without any convulsion.
General Washington's military career was now about to close ; and, on the 4th of December, he met the principal officers of the army at Frances' tavern. The officers assembled at noon, and their revered and beloved commander soon entered the room. His emotions were too strong to be concealed: filling a glass, and addressing the officers, he said: “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you, and devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been honorable.” Having drank, he added, “I can not come to take each of you by the hand, bnt shall be obliged to you if each of you will come and take me by the hand.” In the midst of profound silence, and with the liveliest sensibility and tenderness, each of the Officers took him by the hand; and, at the close of the affecting ceremony, they all accompanied him to Whitehall, where a barge was in readiness to carry him across the river. Having embarked, General Washington turned round to his late companions-in-arms, took off his hat, respectfully bowed to them, and bade them a silent farewell. They returned the compliment, and went back in mute procession to the place where they had assembled.
Congress was then sitting at Annapolis in Maryland; and thither General Washington proceeded, for the purpose of resigning that power which he had so successfully exercised. He remained a few days in Philadelphia, in order to settle his accounts with the treasury; and, on the 19th of December, arrived at Annapolis. At noon, on the 23d, in presence of a numerous company of spectators, he resigned his commission into the hands of congress; and afterward retired to his patrimonial mansion at Mount Vernon.
In the course of the revolution, a number of men of no mean abilities arose, both in the military and civil departments ; but General Washington appears with pre-eminent lustre among them all ; not only by the brilliancy of his genius, but by the soundness of his understanding, and the moral dignity of his charac
His courage was unquestionable, and it was governed by discretion. His glory, however, lies in the moral excellence of his character, his spotless integrity, disinterested patriotism, general humanity, invincible fortitude, and inflexible perseverance. In trying times, he occupied the most difficult situation in which a man can be placed. At the head of an unorganized militia, unaccustomed to military subordination, he was exposed to clamor and calumny, and sometimes fettered by the presumption of rulers, who were forward to decide on what they did not understand, to enjoin measures the consequences of which they did not foresee, and to dictate on subjects of which they had but a very imperfect knowledge. He was unmoved by the clamors of the former; and he bore, with invincible patience, the aberrations of the latter; he remonstrated and reasoned with them, and often succeeded in setting them right. With a steady hand he steered the vessel amid the terrors of the storm, and through fearful breakers brought it safe into port. America owes him much, and seems not insensible of the obligation; but the best mode for the Americans to show their gratitude would be to imitate his virtues, and the character of every American to reflect the moral image of General Washington.