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“ Long live George Washington, President of the United States !”—a signal-flag rose into the air, the artillery pealed from the batteries, and the renewed acclamations of the populace announced the completion of this simple, but impressive ceremony.
While it lasted, old friends and fellow-soldiers were grouped around their beloved chief; and among the foremost was Hamilton. For this day he had long schemed and toiled, and it must have been with no small satisfaction that he at length saw the fruit of his labours, in the establishment of a regular government, with the greatest of American citizens at its head. It was, indeed, one of those moments of exultation which do not often occur in the life of any man, when success comes to reward the efforts of the past, and even the wisest may be excused for indulging in too sanguine hopes of the future. But however Hamilton might rejoice in what he had already accomplished, he well knew how much remained to be done, before the institutions of his country could repose upon a solid basis.
THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
CARCELY was the inauguration over, when
Washington's difficulties began. At first, he was beset with visitors, who intruded on his privacy, and left him not a moment to himself. "By the time I had done breakfast,” he writes, “and thence till dinner, and afterwards till bed-time, I could not get rid of the ceremony of one visit, before I had to attend to another. In a word, I had no leisure to
, read or to answer the despatches that were pouring in upon me from all quarters.”
It was necessary at once to take some steps to protect him from this annoyance, and to secure the respect due to the dignity of his office. He consulted several persons on the subject, and amongst them Adams and Hamilton. The former advised, that he should, to a great extent, adopt the ceremonial of European courts, and that none should be admitted to his presence, except on proper application to a chamberlain, or other great officer. The latter also was of opinion that it was essential to maintain the dignity of the chief magistrate, but, at the same time, he considered it expedient to offend, as little as possible, the republican prejudices of the country. He counselled that the President should hold a levee once a week, for not more than half an hour; that he should accept no invitations, and only give formal entertainments at certain stated intervals; and that the heads of departments, foreign ministers, and the members of the Senate, should alone have the general right of access. Other suggestions were made in
. different quarters, and at length some sort of etiquette was established. But the most obvious regulations in these matters provoked the jealous spirit of the people, and were soon made use of by hostile factions to injure the popularity of the President.
In the same way, accusations were brought against him of an excessive love of pomp and parade. Nothing could be further from the truth, for Washington was a man of noble and simple tastes. But he rightly thought, that the chief magistrate of a great empire should appear in public with some regard to the decencies of his station, and that to neglect them would really be to insult the nation he represented. If, therefore, he drove through the streets of New York with four horses to his carriage, gave splendid and hospitable entertainments, and received his guests in a full suit of black velvet, with bag, and sword, and powdered hair—the usual dress of state and ceremony in those days—he showed himself wiser and more consistent than his assailants, who, by their senseless cavils and objections, only proved the undue importance they attached to such trifles. These were the persons who could find, in a sofa at the President's ball, some fancied resemblance to a throne; and such as they have ever since continued the same system of attack, till they have driven the best minds of America from office, lowered the standard of public life, and substituted a class of nameless adventurers, for the really eminent order of men, who founded, and might have saved the republic.
But Washington was soon occupied with more serious questions than those of etiquette. It was necessary to organize executive departments, and to appoint the members of the cabinet. Before anything could be done, the constitution of the several departments had to be settled by Congress, and, while the
matter was still pending, the President was taken alarmingly ill. For some weeks he was in great pain and danger, and prepared himself for the worst with his accustomed courage and resignation. " Whether to-night or twenty years hence,” he said to his physician, “makes no difference. I know that I am in the hands of a good Providence.” His illness had, however, the effect of rousing the people to a sense of what they might suffer by his loss, and of silencing for the moment the cabals already formed against him. While slowly recovering, he received intelligence of the death of the venerable mother, who had guided his childhood with so firm and steady a hand, and whom in age he had never ceased to revere. He was deeply affected by the news, and his strength had been much shaken by his late malady ; but the public service demanded his immediate attention, and he never postponed the national interest to any private consideration.
It was Madison who proposed in Congress the plan for the establishment of executive departments. After long discussion, bills were passed, instituting the several offices of a Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to be called the Secretary of State, who was also to have the custody of the seals and archives—a