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George Washington
by Thayer, William Roscoe

The doubt, the drifting, the incongruities and inconsistencies, the mistakes and follies which marked the five years after 1783 form what has been well called "The Critical Period of American History." They proved that the conquests of peace may not only be more difficult than the conquests of war, but that they may outlast those of war. Who should be the builders of the Ship of State? Those who had courage and clear vision, who loved justice, who were patient and humble and unflagging, and who believed with an ineluctable conviction that righteousness exalteth a nation; they were the simple fishermen who in the little church at Torcello predicted the splendor and power of Venice; they were the stern pioneers of Plymouth and Boston who laid the foundations of an empire greater than that of Rome.

It happened that during the American Revolution and immediately afterward, a larger number of such men existed in what had been the American Colonies than anywhere else at any other time in history. At the beginning of the Revolution, within a few weeks of the Declaration of Independence, some of these men, impelled by a common instinct, adopted Articles of Confederation which should hold the former Colonies together and enable them to maintain a common front against the enemy during the war. The Congress controlled military and civic affairs, but the framers of the Articles were wary and too timid to grant the Congress sufficient powers, with the result that Washington, who embodied the dynamic control of the war, was always most inadequately supported; and as he fared, so fared his subordinates.

At the end of the war the Americans found that they had won, not only freedom, but also Independence, the desire for which was not among their original motives. Each of the thirteen States was independent; they all felt the need of a union which would enable them to protect themselves; of a common coinage and postage; of certain common laws for criminal and similar cases; of a common government to direct their affairs with other nations. But by habit and by training each was local rather than National in its outlook. The Georgian had nothing in common with the men of Massachusetts Bay whose livelihood depended upon fisheries, or with the Virginian of the Western border, to whom his relations with the Indians were his paramount concern. The Rhode Islander, busy with his manufactures, knew and cared nothing for the South Carolinian with his rice plantations. How to find a common denominator for all these? That was the business of them all.

The one thing which Washington regarded as likely and against which he wished to have every precaution taken, was a possible attempt of the English to pick a quarrel over some small matter and bring on a renewal of the war. Fortunately for the Americans, this did not happen. Washington knew our weakness so well that he could see how easy it would be for a bold and determined enemy to do us great if not fatal harm. But he did not know that the English themselves were in an almost desperate plight. By Rodney's decisive victory at sea they began to recover their ascendancy against the Coalition, but it was then too late to disavow the treaty. In Parliament George III had been defeated; the defeat meaning a very serious check to the policy which he had pursued for more than twenty years to fix royal tyranny on the British people. King George's system of personal government, himself being the person, had broken down and he could not revive it. Nearly seventy years were to elapse before Queen Victoria, who was as putty in the hands of her German husband, Prince Albert, rejoiced that she had restored the personal power of the British sovereign to a pitch it had not known since her grandfather George III.

The American Revolution had illustrated the fatal weakness of the Congress as an organ of government, and the Articles merely embodied the vagueness of the American people in regard to any real régime. The Congress has been much derided for its shortcomings and its blunders, although in truth not so much the Congress, as those who made it, was to blame. They had refused, in their timidity, to give it power to exercise control. It might not compel or enforce obedience. It did require General Washington during the war to furnish a regular report of his military actions and it put his suggestions on file where many of them grew yellow and dusty; but he might not strike, do that decisive act by which history is born. Their timidity made them see what he had accomplished not nearly so plainly as the dictator on horseback whom their fears conjured up.

During the war the sense of a common danger had lent the Congress a not easily defined but quite real coherence, which vanished when peace came, and the local ideals of the States took precedence. Take taxation. Congress could compute the quota of taxes which each State ought to pay, but it had no way of collecting or of enforcing payment. It took eighteen months to collect five per cent of the taxes laid in 1783. Of course a nation could not go on with such methods. No law binding all the States could be adopted unless every one of the thirteen States assented. Unanimity was almost unattainable; as when Governor Clinton of New York withheld his approval of a measure to improve a system of taxation to which the other twelve States had assented; so Rhode Island, the smallest of all, blocked another reform which twelve States had approved. Our foreign relations must be described as ignominious. Jefferson had taken Franklin's place as Minister to France, but we had no credit and he could not secure the loan he was seeking. John Adams in London, and John Jay in Madrid, were likewise balked. Jay had to submit to the closing of the lower Mississippi to American shipping. He did this in the hope of thereby conciliating Spain to make a commercial treaty which he thought was far more important than shipping. Our people in the Southwest, however, regarded the closing of the river as portending their ruin, and they threatened to secede if it were persisted in. Pennsylvania and New Jersey threw their weight with the Southerners and Congress voted against the Jay treaty. That was the time when the corsairs of the Barbary States preyed upon American shipping in the Mediterranean and seized crews of our vessels and sold them into slavery in Northern Africa. That there was not in the thirteen States sufficient feeling of dignity to resent and punish these outrages marks both their dispersed power and lack of regard for National honor.

After 1783 the States, virtually bankrupt at home, discordant, fickle, and aimless, and without credit or prestige abroad, were filled with many citizens who recognized that the system was bad and must be amended. The wise among them wrote treatises on the remedies they proposed. The wisest went to school of experience and sought in history how confederations and other political unions had fared. Washington wrote for his own use an account of the classical constitutions of Greece and Rome and of the more modern states; of the Amphictyonic Council among the ancient, and the Helvetic, Belgic, and Germanic among the more recent. John Adams devoted two massive volumes to an account of the medieval Italian republics. James Madison studied the Achaian League and other ancient combinations. There were many other men less eminent than these--there was a Peletiah Webster, for instance.

Washington viewed the situation as a pessimist. Was it because the high hopes that he had held during the war, that America should be the noblest among the nations, had been disappointed, or was it because he saw farther into the future than his colleagues saw? On May 18, 1786, he writes intimately to John Jay:
... We are certainly in a delicate situation; but my fear is that the people are not yet sufficiently misled to retract from error. To be plainer, I think there is more wickedness than ignorance mixed in our councils. Under this impression I scarcely know what opinion to entertain of a general convention. That it is necessary to revise and amend the Articles of Confederation, I entertain no doubt; but what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. Yet something must be done, or the fabric must fall, for it certainly is tottering.

Ignorance and design are difficult to combat. Out of these proceed illiberal sentiments, improper jealousies, and a train of evils which oftentimes in republican governments must be sorely felt before they can be removed. The former, that is ignorance, being a fit soil for the latter to work in, tools are employed by them which a generous mind would disdain to use; and which nothing but time, and their own puerile or wicked productions, can show the inefficacy and dangerous tendency of. I think often of our situation, and view it with concern. From the high ground we stood upon, from the plain path which invited our footsteps, to be so fallen! so lost! it is really mortifying.[Footnote: Ford, xi, 31.]
One of the chief causes of the discontents which troubled the public was the increasing number of persons who had been made debtors after the war by the more and more pressing demands of their creditors. These debtors knew nothing about economics; they only knew that they were being crushed by persons more lucky than themselves. In Massachusetts they broke out in actual rebellion named after the man who led it, Daniel Shays. They were put down by the more or less doubtful appeal to veterans of the National Army, but their ebullition was not forgotten as a symptom of a very dangerous condition. In 1786 representatives from five States met in a convention at Annapolis to consider the hard times and the troubles in trade. Washington, Hamilton, and Madison were thought to be behind the convention, which accomplished little, but made it clear that a large general convention ought to meet and to discuss the way of securing a strong central government. This convention was discussed during that summer and autumn, and a call was issued for a meeting in the following spring at Philadelphia. Virginia turned first to Washington to be one of its delegates, but he had sincere scruples against entering public life again. He wrote to James Madison on November 18th:
Although I had bid adieu to the public walks of life in a public manner, and had resolved never more to tread upon public ground, yet if, upon an occasion so interesting to the well-being of the confederacy, it should have appeared to have been the wish of the Assembly to have employed me with other associates in the business of revising the federal system, I should, from a sense of obligation I am under for repeated proof of confidence in me, more than from any opinion I should have entertained of my usefulness, have obeyed its call; but it is now out of my power to do so with any degree of consistency.[Footnote: Ford, XI, 87.]
Washington's disinclination to abandon the quiet of Mount Vernon and the congenial work he found there, and to be plunged again into political labors, was perhaps his strongest reason for making this decision. But a temporary aggravation ruled him. The Society of the Cincinnati, of which he was president, had aroused much odium in the country among those who were jealous or envious that such a special privileged class should exist, and among those who really believed that it had the secret design of establishing an aristocracy if not actually a monarchy. Washington held that its original avowed purpose, to keep the officers who had served in the Revolution together, would perpetuate the patriotic spirit which enabled them to win, and might be a source of strength in case of further ordeals. But when he found that public sentiment ran so strongly against the Cincinnati, he withdrew as its president and he told Madison that he would vote to have the Society disbanded if it were not that it counted a minority of foreign members. Stronger than a desire for a private life and for the ease of Mount Vernon was his sense of duty as a patriot; so that when this was strongly urged upon him he gave way and consented.

Spring came, the snows melted in the Northern States, and through the month of April the delegates to this Convention started from their homes in the North and in the South for Philadelphia. The first regular session was held on May 25th, although some of the delegates did not arrive until several weeks later. They sat in Independence Hall in the same room where, eleven years before, the Declaration of Independence had been adopted and signed. Of the members in the new Convention, George Washington was easily the first. His commanding figure, tall and straight and in no wise impaired by eight years' campaigns and hardships, was almost the first to attract the attention of any one who looked upon that assembly. He was fifty-five years old. Next in reputation was the patriarch, Benjamin Franklin, twenty-seven years his senior, shrewd, wise, poised, tart, good-natured; whose prestige was thought to be sufficient to make him a worthy presiding officer when Washington was not present. James Madison of Virginia was among the young men of the Convention, being only thirty-six years old, and yet almost at the top of them all in constitutional learning. More precocious still was Alexander Hamilton of New York, who was only thirty, one of the most remarkable examples of a statesman who developed very early and whom Death cut off before he showed any signs of a decline. One figure we miss--that of Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, tall and wiry and red-curled, who was absent in Paris as Minister to France.

Massachusetts sent four representatives, important but not preëminent--Elbridge Gerry, Nathaniel Gorham, Rufus King, and Caleb Strong. New York had only two besides Hamilton; Robert Yates and John Lansing. Pennsylvania trusted most to Benjamin Franklin, but she sent the financier of the Revolution, Robert Morris, and Gouverneur Morris; and with them went Thomas Mifflin, George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimmons, Jared Ingersoll, James Wilson--all conspicuous public men at the time, although their fame is bedraggled or quite faded now. Wilson ranked as the first lawyer of the group. Of the five from little Delaware sturdy John Dickinson, a man who thought, was no negligible quantity.

Connecticut also had as spokesmen two strong individualities--Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth. Maryland spoke through James McHenry and Daniel Carroll and three others of greater obscurity. Virginia had George Washington, President of the Convention, and James Madison, active, resourceful, and really accomplishing; and in addition to these two: Edmund Randolph, the Governor; George Mason, Washington's hard-headed and discreet lawyer friend; John Blair, George Wythe, and James McClurg. From South Carolina went three unusual orators, John Rutledge, C.C. Pinckney and Charles Pinckney, and Pierce Butler. Georgia named four mediocre but useful men.

In this gathering of fifty-five persons, the proportion between those who were preëminent for common sense and those who were remarkable for special knowledge and talents was very fairly kept. Most of them had had experience in dealing with men either in local government offices or in the army. Socially, they came almost without exception from respectable if not aristocratic families. Of the fifty-five, twenty-nine were university or college bred, their universities comprising Oxford, Glasgow, and Edinburgh besides the American Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. The two foremost members, Washington and Franklin, were not college bred. Among the fifty-five we do not find John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who, as I have said, were in Europe on official business. John Jay also was lacking, because, as it appears, the Anti-Federalists did not wish him to represent them in the Convention; but his influence permeated it and the wider public, who later read his unsigned articles in "The Federalist." Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee stayed at home. General Nathanael Greene, the favorite son of Rhode Island, would have been at the Convention but for his untimely death a few weeks before the preceding Christmas.

Owing to delays the active business of the Convention halted, although for at least a fortnight the members who had come promptly carried on unofficial discussions. Washington, being chosen President without a competitor, presided, with perhaps more than his habitual gravity and punctilio. The members took their work very seriously. The debates lasted five or six hours a day, and, as they were continued consecutively until the autumn, there was ample time to discuss many subjects. The Convention adopted strict secrecy as its rule, so that its proceedings were not known by the public nor was any satisfactory report of them kept and published. At the time there was objection to this provision, and now, after more than a century and a third, we must regret that we can never know many points in regard to the actual give and take of discussion in this the most fateful of all assemblies. But from Madison's memoranda and reminiscences we can infer a good deal as to what went on.

The wisdom of keeping the proceedings secret was fully justified. The framers of the Constitution knew that it was to a large degree a new experiment, that it would be subjected to all kinds of criticism, but that it must be judged by its entirety and not by its parts; and that therefore it must be presented entire. At the outset some of the members, foreseeing opposition, were for suggesting palliatives and for sugar-coating. Some of the measures they feared might excite hostility. To these suggestions Washington made a brief but very noble remonstrance which seemed deeply to impress his hearers. And no one could question that it gave the keynote on which he hoped to maintain the business of the Convention. "It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted," Washington said very gravely. "Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God."[Footnote: Fiske, Critical Period, 250.] Among the obstacles which seemed very serious--and many believed they would wreck the Convention--was the question of slavery. By this time all the northern part of the country favored its abolition. Even Virginia was on that side. For practical planters like George Washington knew that it was the most costly and least productive form of labor. They opposed it on economic rather than moral grounds. Farther South, however, especially in South Carolina where the negroes seemed to be the only kind of laborers for the rice-fields, and in those regions where they harvested the cotton, the whites insisted that slavery should be maintained. The contest seemed likely to be very fierce between the disputants, and then, with true Anglo-Saxon instinct, they sought for a compromise. The South had regarded slaves as chattels. The compromise brought forward by Madison consisted in agreeing that five slaves should count in population as three. By this curious device a negro was equivalent to three fifths of a white man. Such a compromise was, of course, illogical, leaving the question whether negroes were chattels or human beings with even a theoretical civil character undecided. But many of the members, who saw the illogic quite plainly, voted for it, being dazzled if not seduced by the thought that it was a compromise which would stave off an irreconcilable conflict at least for the present; so Washington, who wished the abolition of slavery, voted for the compromise along with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the South Carolinian who regarded slavery as higher than any of the Ten Commandments.

The second compromise referred to the slave trade, which was particularly defended by South Carolina and Georgia. The raising of rice and indigo in those States caused an increasing death-rate among the slaves. The slave trade, which brought many kidnapped slaves from Africa to those States was needed to replenish the number of slaves who died. Virginia had not yet become an important breeding-place of slaves who were sold to planters farther south. The members of the Convention who wished to put an end to this hideous traffic proposed that it should be prohibited, and that the enforcement of the prohibition should be assigned to the General Government. Pinckney, however, keen to defend his privileged institution and the special interests of his State, bluntly informed the Convention that if they voted to abolish the slave trade, South Carolina would regard it as a polite way of telling her that she was not wanted in the new Union. To think of attempting to form a Union without South Carolina amazed them all and made them pliable. Although there was considerable opposition to giving the General Government control over shipping, this provision was passed. The Northerners saw in it the germs of a tariff act which would benefit their manufacturers, and they agreed that the slave trade should not be interfered with before 1808 and that no export tax should be authorized.

The third compromise affected representation. The Convention had already voted that the Congress should consist of two parts, a Senate and a House of Representatives. By a really clever device each State sent two members to the Senate, thus equalizing the small and large States in that branch of the Government. The House, on the other hand, represented the People, and the number of members elected from each State corresponded, therefore, to the population.

As I do not attempt to make even a summary of the details of the Convention, I should pass over many of the other topics which it considered, often with very heated discussion. The fundamental problem was how to preserve the rights of the States and at the same time give the Central Government sufficient power. By devices which actually worked, and for many years continued to work, this conflict was smoothed over, although sixty years later the question of State rights, intertwined with that of slavery, nearly split the Nation in the War of Secession. There was much question as to the term for which the President should be elected and whether by the People or by Congress. Some were for one, two, three, four, ten, and even fifteen years. Rufus King, grown sarcastic, said: "Better call it twenty--it's the average reign of princes." Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris stood for a life service with provision for the President's removal in case of malfeasance. These gentlemen, in spite of their influence in the Convention, stirred up a deep-seated enmity to their plan. Few instincts were more general than that which drew back from any arrangement which might embolden the monarchists to make a man President for a ten or fifteen years' term or for life. This could not fail to encourage those who wished for the equivalent of an hereditary prince. The Convention soon made it evident that they would have none but a short term, and they chose, finally, four years. There was a debate over the question of his election; should he be chosen directly by the legislature, or by electors? The strong men--Mason, Rutledge, Roger Sherman, and Strong--favored the former; stronger men--Washington, Madison, Gerry, and Gouverneur Morris--favored the latter, and it prevailed. Nevertheless, the Electoral College thus created soon became, and has remained, as useless as a vermiform appendix.

Towards the end of the summer the Convention had completed its first draft of the Constitution; then they handed their work over to a Committee for Style and Arrangement, composed of W.S. Johnson of North Carolina, Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, Madison, and King. Then, on September 17th, the Constitution of the United States was formally published. This document, done "by the Unanimous Consent of the States present," was sent to the Governor or Legislature of each State with the understanding that its ratification by nine States would be required before it was proclaimed the law of the land.

In his diary for Monday, the seventeenth of September, 1787, Washington makes this entry:
Met in Convention, when the Constitution received the unanimous consent of 11 States and Colo. Hamilton's from New York [the only delegate from thence in Convention], and was subscribed to by every member present, except Governor Randolph and Colo. Mason from Virginia, & Mr. Gerry from Massachusetts.

The business being thus closed, the members adjourned to the City Tavern, dined together, and took a cordial leave of each other. After which I returned to my lodgings, did some business with, and received the papers from the Secretary of the Convention, and retired to meditate on the momentous wk. which had been executed, after not less than five, for a large part of the time six and sometimes 7 hours sitting every day, [except] Sundays & the ten days adjournment to give a Comee. [Committee] opportunity & time to arrange the business for more than four months.[Footnote: Ford, XI, 155.]
One likes to think of Washington presiding over that Convention for more than four months, seeing one suggestion after another brought forward and debated until finally disposed of, he saying little except to enforce the rules of parliamentary debate. No doubt his asides (and part of his conversation) frankly gave his opinion as to each measure, because he never disguised his thoughts and he seems to have voted when the ballots were taken--a practice unusual to modern presiding officers except in case of a tie. His summing-up of the Constitution, which he wrote on the day after the adjournment in a hurried letter to Lafayette, is given briefly in these lines:
It is the result of four months' deliberation. It is now a child of fortune, to be fostered by some and buffeted by others. What will be the general opinion, or the reception of it, is not for me to decide; nor shall I say anything for or against it. If it be good, I suppose it will work its way; if bad, it will recoil on the framers.
A month later, in the seclusion of Mount Vernon, he spread the same news before his friend General Knox:
... The Constitution is now before the judgment-seat. It has, as was expected, its adversaries and supporters. Which will preponderate is yet to be decided. The former more than probably will be most active, as the major part of them will, it is to be feared, be governed by sinister and self-important motives, to which everything in their breasts must yield....
The other class, he said, would probably ask itself whether the Constitution now submitted was not better than the inadequate and precarious government under which they had been living. If there were defects, as doubtless there were, did it not provide means for amending them? Then he concludes with a gleam of optimism:
... Is it not likely that real defects will be as readily discovered after as before trial? and will not our successors be as ready to apply the remedy as ourselves, if occasion should require it? To think otherwise will, in my judgment, be ascribing more of the amor patriae, more wisdom and more virtue to ourselves, than I think we deserve.[Footnote: Ford, XI, 173.]
Nearly five months later, February 7, 1788, he wrote Lafayette what we may consider a more deliberate opinion:
As to my sentiments with respect to the merits of the new constitution, I will disclose them without reserve, (although by passing through the post-office they should become known to all the world,) for in truth I have nothing to conceal on that subject. It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the delegates from so many different States (which States you know are also different from each other), in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices, should unite in forming a system of national government, so little liable to well-founded objections. Nor am I yet such an enthusiastic, partial, or indiscriminating admirer of it, as not to perceive it is tinctured with some real (though not radical) defects. The limits of a letter would not suffer me to go fully into an examination of them; nor would the discussion be entertaining or profitable. I therefore forbear to touch upon it. With regard to the two great points (the pivots upon which the whole machine must move), my creed is simply,

1st. That the general government is not invested with more powers, than are indispensably necessary to perform the functions of a good government; and consequently, that no objection ought to be made against the quantity of power delegated to it.

2nd. That these powers (as the appointment of all rulers will for ever arise from, and at short, stated intervals recur to, the free suffrage of the people), are so distributed among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, into which the general government is arranged, that it can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any other despotic or oppressive form, so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the people.

I would not be understood, my dear Marquis, to speak of consequences, which may be produced in the revolution of ages, by corruption of morals, profligacy of manners and listlessness for the preservation of the natural and unalienable rights of mankind, nor of the successful usurpations, that may be established at such an unpropitious juncture upon the ruins of liberty, however providently guarded and secured; as these are contingencies against which no human prudence can effectually provide. It will at least be a recommendation to the proposed constitution, that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny, and those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any government hitherto instituted among mortals hath possessed. We are not to expect perfection in this world; but mankind, in modern times, have apparently made some progress in the science of government. Should that which is now offered to the people of America, be found on experiment less perfect than it can be made, a constitutional door is left open for its amelioration.[Footnote: Ford, XI, 218-21.]
Thus was accomplished the American Constitution. Gladstone has said of it in well-known words that, just "as the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from the womb and the long gestation of progressive history, so the American Constitution is so far as I can see the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."[Footnote: W.E. Gladstone, North American Review, September, 1878.] Note that Gladstone does not name a single or an individual man, which would have been wholly untrue, for the American Constitution was struck off by the wisdom and foresight of fifty-five men collectively. There were among them two or three who might be called transcendent men. It gained its peculiar value from the fact that it represents the composite of many divergent opinions and different characters.

Just before the members broke up at their final meeting in Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin amused them with a characteristic bit of raillery. On the back of the President's black chair, a half sun was carved and emblazoned. "During all these weeks," said Franklin, "I have often wondered whether that sun was rising or setting. I know now that it is a rising sun."

The first State to ratify the Constitution was Delaware, on December 6, 1787. Pennsylvania followed on December 12th, and New Jersey on December 18th. Ratifications continued without haste until New Hampshire, the ninth State, signed on June 21, 1788. Four days later, Virginia, a very important State, ratified. New York, which had been Anti-Federalist throughout, joined the majority on July 26th. North Carolina waited until November 21st, and little Rhode Island, the last State of all, did not come in until May 29, 1790. But, as the adherence of nine States sufficed, the affirmative action of New Hampshire on June 21, 1788, constituted the legal beginning of the United States of America.

No test could be more winnowing than that to which the Constitution was subjected during more than eighteen months before its adoption. In each State, in each section, its friends and enemies discussed it at meetings and in private gatherings. In New York, for instance, it was only the persistence of Alexander Hamilton and his unfailing oratory, unmatched until then in this country, that routed the Anti-Federalists at Poughkeepsie and caused the victory of the Federalists in the State. In Virginia, Patrick Henry, who had said on the eve of the Revolution, "I am not a Virginian, but an American," still held out. Nevertheless, the more the people of the country discussed the matter, the surer was their conviction that Washington was right when he intimated that they must prefer the new Constitution unless they could show reason for supposing that the anarchy towards which the old order was swiftly driving them was preferable.

During the autumn of 1788 peaceful electioneering went on throughout the country. Among the last acts of that thin wraith, the Continental Congress, was a decree that Presidential Electors should be chosen on the first Wednesday of January, 1789; that they should vote for President on the first Wednesday in February, and that the new Congress should meet on the first Wednesday in March. The State of New York, where Anti-Federalists swarmed, did not follow the decree--with the result that that State, which had been behindhand in signing the Declaration of Independence, failed through the intrigues of the Anti-Federalists to choose electors, and so had no part in the choice of Washington as President of the United States. The other ten States performed their duty on time. They elected Washington President by a unanimous vote of sixty-nine out of sixty-nine votes cast.

The Vice-Presidential contest was perplexing, there being many candidates who received only a few votes each. Many persons thought that it would be fitting that Samuel Adams, the father of the Revolution, should be chosen to serve with Washington, the father of his country; but too many remembered that he had been hostile to the Federalists until almost the end of the preliminary canvass and so they did not think that he ought to be chosen. The successful man was John Adams, who had been a robust Patriot from the beginning and had served honorably and devotedly in every position which he had held since 1775.

On April 14th Washington's election was notified to him, and on the 16th he bade farewell to Mount Vernon, where he had hoped to pass the rest of his days in peace and home duties and agriculture, and he rode in what proved to be a triumphal march to New York. That city was chosen the capital of the new Nation. Streams of enthusiastic and joyous citizens met and acclaimed him at every town through which he passed. At Trenton a party of thirteen young girls decked out in muslin and wreaths represented the thirteen States, and perhaps brought to his mind the contrast between that day and thirteen years before when he crossed the Delaware on boats amid floating cakes of ice and the pelting of sleet and rain. On April 23d he entered New York City. A week later at noon a military escort attended him from his lodging to Federal Hall at the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets, where a vast crowd awaited him. Washington stood on a balcony. All could witness the ceremony. The Secretary of the Senate bore a Bible upon a velvet cushion, and Chancellor Livingston administered the oath of office. Washington's head was still bowed when Livingston shouted: "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!" The crowds took up the cheer, which spread to many parts of the city and was repeated in all parts of the United States.


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