HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
Sort By Author Sort By Title

Sort By Author
Sort By Title


Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc

All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics
George Washington
The First American President
by Thayer, William Roscoe

The inauguration of Washington on April 30, 1789, brought a new type of administration into the world. The democracy which it initiated was very different from that of antiquity, from the models of Greece and of Rome, and quite different from that of the Italian republics during the Middle Age. The head of the new State differed essentially from the monarchs across the sea. Although there were varieties of traditions and customs in what had been the Colonies, still their dominant characteristic was British. According to the social traditions of Virginia, George Washington was an aristocrat, but in contrast with the British, he was a democrat.

He believed, however, that the President must guard his office from the free-and-easy want of decorum which some of his countrymen regarded as the stamp of democracy. At his receptions he wore a black velvet suit with gold buckles at the knee and on his shoes, and yellow gloves, and profusely powdered hair carried in a silk bag behind. In one hand he held a cocked hat with an ostrich plume; on his left thigh he wore a sword in a white scabbard of polished leather. He shook hands with no one; but acknowledged the courtesy of his visitors by a very formal bow. When he drove, it was in a coach with four or six handsome horses and outriders and lackeys dressed in resplendent livery.

After his inauguration he spoke his address to the Congress, and several days later members of the House and of the Senate called on him at his residence and made formal replies to his Inaugural Address. After a few weeks, experience led him to modify somewhat his daily schedule. He found that unless it was checked, the insatiate public would consume all his time. Every Tuesday afternoon, between three and four o'clock, he had a public reception which any one might attend. Likewise, on Friday afternoons, Mrs. Washington had receptions of her own. The President accepted no invitations to dinner, but at his own table there was an unending succession of invited guests, except on Sunday, which he observed privately. Interviews with the President could be had at any time that suited his convenience. Thus did he arrange to transact his regular or his private business.

Inevitably, some of the public objected to his rules and pretended to see very strong monarchical leanings in them. But the country took them as he intended, and there can be no doubt that it felt the benefit of his promoting the dignity of his office. Equally beneficial was his rule of not appointing to any office any man merely because he was the President's friend. Washington knew that such a consideration would give the candidate an unfair advantage. He knew further that office-holders who could screen themselves behind the plea that they were the President's friends might be very embarrassing to him. As office-seekers became, with the development of the Republic, among the most pernicious of its evils and of its infamies, we can but feel grateful that so far as in him lay Washington tried to keep them within bounds.

In all his official acts he took great pains not to force his personal wishes. He knew that both in prestige and popularity he held a place apart among his countrymen, and for this reason he did not wish to have measures passed simply because they were his. Accordingly, in the matter of receiving the public and in granting interviews and of ceremonials at the Presidential Residence, he asked the advice of John Adams, John Jay, Hamilton, and Jefferson, and he listened to many of their suggestions. Colonel Humphreys, who had been one of his aides-de-camp and was staying in the Presidential Residence, acted as Chamberlain at the first reception. Humphreys took an almost childish delight in gold braid and flummery. At a given moment the door of the large hall in which the concourse of guests was assembled was opened and he, advancing, shouted, with a loud voice: "The President of the United States!" Washington followed him and went through the paces prescribed by the Colonel with punctilious exactness, but with evident lack of relish. When the levee broke up and the party had gone, Washington said to Colonel Humphreys: "Well, you have taken me in once, but, by God, you shall never take me in a second time."[Footnote: Irving, V, 14.] Irving, who borrows this story from Jefferson, warns us that perhaps Jefferson was not a credible witness.

Congress transacted much important business at this first session. It determined that the President should have a Cabinet of men whose business it was to administer the chief departments and to advise the President. Next in importance were the financial measures proposed by the Secretary of the Treasury. Washington chose for his first Cabinet Ministers: Thomas Jefferson, who had not returned from Paris, as Secretary of State, or Foreign Minister as he was first called; Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; General Henry Knox, Secretary of War; and Edmund Randolph, Attorney-General. Of these, Hamilton had to face the most bitter opposition. Throughout the Revolution the former Colonies had never been able to collect enough money to pay the expense of the war and the other charges of the Confederation. The Confederation handed over a considerable debt to the new Government. Besides this many of the States had paid each its own cost of equipping and maintaining its contingent. Hamilton now proposed that the United States Government should assume these various State debts, which would aggregate $21,000,000 and bring the National debt to a total of $75,000,000. Hamilton's suggestion that the State debts be assumed caused a vehement outcry. Its opponents protested that no fair adjustment could be reached. The Assumptionists retorted that this would be the only fair settlement, but the Anti-Assumptionists voted them down by a majority of two. In other respects, Hamilton's financial measures prospered, and before many months he seized the opportunity of making a bargain by which the next Congress reversed its vote on Assumption. In less than a year the members of Congress and many of the public had reached the conclusion that New York City was not the best place to be the capital of the Nation. The men from the South argued that it put the South to a disadvantage, as its ease of access to New York, New Jersey, and the Eastern States gave that section of the country a too favorable situation. There was a strong party in favor of Philadelphia, but it was remembered that in the days of the Confederation a gang of turbulent soldiers had dashed down from Lancaster and put to flight the Convention sitting at Philadelphia. Nevertheless, Philadelphia was chosen temporarily, the ultimate choice of a situation being farther south on the Potomac.

Jefferson returned from France in the early winter. The discussion over Assumption was going on very virulently. It happened that one day Jefferson met Hamilton, and this is his account of what followed:
As I was going to the President's one day, I met him [Hamilton] in the street. He walked me backwards and forwards before the President's door for half an hour. He painted pathetically the temper into which the legislature had been wrought; the disgust of those who were called the creditor States; the danger of the secession of their members, and the separation of the States. He observed that the members of the administration ought to act in concert; that though this question was not of my department, yet a common duty should make it a common concern; that the President was the centre on which all administrative questions ultimately rested, and that all of us should rally around him and support, with joint efforts, measures approved by him; and that the question having been lost by a small majority only, it was probable that an appeal from me to the judgment and discretion of some of my friends, might effect a change in the vote, and the machine of government now suspended, might be again set into motion. I told him that I was really a stranger to the whole subject, that not having yet informed myself of the system of finance adopted, I knew not how far this was a necessary sequence; that undoubtedly, if its rejection endangered a dissolution of our Union at this incipient stage, I should deem it most unfortunate of all consequences to avert which all partial and temporary evils should be yielded, I proposed to him, however, to dine with me the next day, and I would invite another friend or two, bring them into conference together, and I thought it impossible that reasonable men, consulting together coolly, could fail, by some mutual sacrifices of opinion, to form a compromise which was to save the Union. The discussion took place. I could take no part in it but an exhortatory one, because I was a stranger to the circumstances which should govern it. But it was finally agreed, that whatever importance had been attached to the rejection of this proposition, the preservation of the Union and of concord among the States was more important, and that, therefore, it would be better that the vote of rejection should be rescinded, to effect which some members should change their votes. But it was observed that this pill would be peculiarly bitter to the Southern States, and that some concomitant measure should be adopted to sweeten it a little to them. There had before been projects to fix the seat of government either at Philadelphia or at Georgetown on the Potomac; and it was thought that, by giving it to Philadelphia for ten years, and to Georgetown permanently afterwards, this might, as an anodyne, solve in some degree the ferment which might be excited by the other measure alone. So two of the Potomac members (White and Lee, but White with a revulsion of stomach almost convulsive) agreed to change their votes, and Hamilton undertook to carry the other point. In doing this, the influence he had established over the eastern members, with the agency of Robert Morris with those of the Middle States, effected his side of the engagement.[Footnote: Jefferson's Works, IX, 93.]
As a result of Hamilton's bargain, the bill for Assumption was passed, and it was agreed that Philadelphia should be the capital for ten years and that afterwards a new city should be built on the banks of the Potomac and made the capital permanently.

During the summer of 1789 Washington suffered the most serious sickness of his entire life. The cause was anthrax in his thigh, and at times it seemed that it would prove fatal. For many weeks he was forced to lie on one side, with frequent paroxysms of great pain. After a month and a half he began to mend, but very slowly, so that autumn came before he got up and could go about again. His medical adviser was Dr. Samuel Bard of New York, and Irving reports the following characteristic conversation between him and his patient: "Do not flatter me with vain hopes," said Washington, with placid firmness; "I am not afraid to die, and therefore can bear the worst." The doctor expressed hope, but owned that he had apprehensions. "Whether to-night or twenty hence, makes no difference," observed Washington. "I know that I am in the hands of a good Providence."[Footnote: Irving, V, 22.] His friends thought that he never really recovered his old-time vigor. That autumn, as soon as Congress had adjourned, he took a journey through New England, going as far as Portsmouth and returning in time for the opening of the Second Congress.

The Government was now settling down into what became its normal routine. The Cabinet was completed by the appointment of Jefferson as Secretary of State and Edmund Randolph as Attorney-General. Jefferson would have preferred to go back to France as American Minister, but in a fulsome letter he declared himself willing to accept any office which Washington wished him to fill. The Supreme Court was organized with John Jay as Chief Justice, and five Associate Justices. Washington could not fail to be aware that parties were beginning to shape themselves. At first the natural divisions consisted of the Federalists, who believed in adopting the Constitution, and those who did not. As soon as the thirteen States voted to accept the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists had no definite motive for existing. Their place was taken principally by the Republicans over against whom were the Democrats. A few years later these parties exchanged names. A fundamental difference in the ideas of the Americans sprang from their views in regard to National and State rights. Some of them regarded the State as the ultimate unit. Others insisted that the Nation was sovereign. These two conflicting views run through American history down to the Civil War, and even in Washington's time they existed in outline. Washington himself was a Federalist, believing that the Federation of the former Colonies should be made as compact and strongly knit as possible. He had had too much evidence during the Revolution of the weakness of uncentralized government, and yet his Virginia origin and training had planted in him a strong sympathy for State rights. In Washington's own Cabinet dwelt side by side the leaders of the two parties: Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, though born in Virginia of high aristocratic stock, was the most aggressive and infatuated of Democrats. Alexander Hamilton, born in the West Indies and owing nothing to family connections, was a natural aristocrat. He believed that the educated and competent few must inevitably govern the incompetent masses. His enemies suspected that he leaned strongly towards monarchy and would have been glad to see Washington crowned king.

President Washington, believing in Assumption, took satisfaction in Hamilton's bargain with Jefferson which made Assumption possible. For the President saw in the act a power making for union, and union was one of the chief objects of his concern. The foremost of Hamilton's measures, however, for good or for ill, was the protective tariff on foreign imports. Experience has shown that protection has been much more than a financial device. It has been deeply and inextricably moral. It has caused many American citizens to seek for tariff favors from the Government. Compared with later rates, those which Hamilton's tariff set were moderate indeed. The highest duties it exacted on foreign imports were fifteen per cent, while the average was only eight and a half per cent. And yet it had not been long in force when the Government was receiving $200,000 a month, which enabled it to defray all the necessary public charges. Hamilton, in the words of Daniel Webster, "smote the rock of National resources and copious streams of wealth poured forth. He touched the dead corpse of public credit and it stood forth erect with life." The United States of all modern countries have been the best fitted by their natural resources to do without artificial stimulation, in spite of which fact they still cling, after one hundred and thirty-five years, to the easy and plausible tariff makeshift. Washington himself believed that the tariff should so promote industries as to provide for whatever the country needed in time of war.

Two other financial measures are to be credited to Hamilton. The first was the excise, an internal revenue on distilled spirits. It met with opposition from the advocates of State rights, but was passed after heated debate. The last was the establishment of a United States Bank. All of Hamilton's measures tended directly to centralization, the object which he and Washington regarded as paramount.

In 1790 Washington made a second trip through the Eastern States, taking pains to visit Rhode Island, which was the last State to ratify the Constitution (May 29, 1790). These trips of his, for which the hostile might have found parallels in the royal progresses of the British sovereigns, really served a good purpose; for they enabled the people to see and hear their President; which had a good effect in a newly established nation. Washington lost no opportunity for teaching a moral. Thus, when he came to Boston, John Hancock, the Governor of Massachusetts, seemed to wish to indicate that the Governor was the highest personage in the State and not at all subservient even to the President of the United States. He wished to arrange it so that Washington should call on him first, but this Washington had no idea of doing. Hancock then wrote and apologized for not greeting the President owing to an unfortunate indisposition. Washington replied regretting the Governor's illness and announcing that the schedule on which he was travelling required him to quit Boston at a given time. Governor Hancock, whose spectacular signature had given him prominence everywhere, finding that he could not make the President budge, sent word that he was coming to pay his respects. Washington replied that he should be much pleased to welcome him, but expressed anxiety lest the Governor might increase his indisposition by coming out. This little comedy had a far-reaching effect. It settled the question as to whether the Governor of a State or the President of the United States should take precedence. From that day to this, no Governor, so far as I am aware, has set himself above the President in matters of ceremonial.

One of the earliest difficulties which Washington's administration had to overcome was the hostility of the Indians. Indian discontent and even lawlessness had been going on for years, with only a desultory and ineffectual show of vigor on the part of the whites. Washington, who detested whatever was ineffectual and lacking in purpose, determined to beat down the Indians into submission. He sent out a first army under General St. Clair, but it was taken in ambush by the Indians and nearly wiped out--a disaster which caused almost a panic throughout the Western country. Washington felt the losses deeply, but he had no intention of being beaten there. He organized a second army, gave it to General Wayne to command, who finally brought the Six Nations to terms. The Indians in the South still remained unpacified and lawless.

Washington made another prolonged trip, this time through the Southern States, which greatly improved his health and gave an opportunity of seeing many of the public men, and enabled the population to greet for the first time their President. Meanwhile the seeds of partisan feuds grew apace, as they could not fail to do where two of the ablest politicians ever known in the United States sat in the same Cabinet and pursued with unremitting energy ideas that were mutually uncompromising. Thomas Jefferson, although born of the old aristocratic stock of Virginia, had early announced himself a Democrat, and had led that faction throughout the Revolution. His facile and fiery mind gave to the Declaration of Independence an irresistible appeal, and it still remains after nearly one hundred and fifty years one of the most contagious documents ever drawn up. Going to France at the outbreak of the French Revolution, he found the French nation about to put into practice the principles on which he had long fed his imagination--principles which he accepted without qualification and without scruple. Returning to America after the organization of the Government, he accepted with evident reluctance the position of Secretary of State which Washington offered to him. In the Cabinet his chief adversary or competitor was Alexander Hamilton, his junior by fourteen years, a man equally versatile and equally facile--and still more enthralling as an orator. Hamilton harbored the anxiety that the United States under their new Constitution would be too loosely held together. He promoted, therefore, every measure that tended to strengthen the Central Government and to save it from dissolution either by the collapse of its unifying bonds or by anarchy. In the work of the first two years of Washington's administration, Hamilton was plainly victorious. The Tariff Law, the Excise, the National Bank, the National Funding Bill, all centralizing measures, were his. Washington approved them all, and we may believe that he talked them over with Hamilton and gave them his approval before they came under public discussion.

Thus, as Hamilton gained, Jefferson plainly lost. But Washington did not abandon his sound position as a neutral between the two. He requested Jefferson and Edmund Randolph to draw up objections to some of Hamilton's schemes, so that he had in writing the arguments of very strong opponents.

Meanwhile the French Revolution had broken all bounds, and Jefferson, as the sponsor of the French over here, was kept busy in explaining and defending the Gallic horrors. The Americans were in a large sense law-abiding, but in another sense they were lawless. Nevertheless, they heard with horror of the atrocities of the French Revolutionists--of the drownings, of the guillotining, of the imprisonment and execution of the King and Queen--and they had a healthy distrust of the Jacobin Party, which boasted that these things were natural accompaniments of Liberty with which they planned to conquer the world. Events in France inevitably drove that country into war with England. Washington and his chief advisers believed that the United States ought to remain neutral as between the two belligerents. But neutrality was difficult. In spite of their horror at the French Revolution, the memory of our debt to France during our own Revolution made a very strong bond of sympathy, whereas our long record of hostility to England during our Colony days, and since the Declaration of Independence, kept alive a traditional hatred for Great Britain. While it was easy, therefore, to preach neutrality, it was very difficult to enforce it. An occurrence which could not have been foreseen further added to the difficulty of neutrality.

In the spring of 1793 the French Republic appointed Edmond Charles Genęt, familiarly called "Citizen Genęt," Minister to the United States. He was a young man, not more than thirty, of very quick parts, who had been brought up in the Bureau of Foreign Affairs, had an exorbitant idea of his own importance, and might be described without malice as a master of effrontery. The ship which brought him to this country was driven by adverse winds to Charleston and landed him there on April 8th. He lost no time in fitting out a privateer against British mercantile vessels. The fact that by so doing he broke the American rule of neutrality did not seem to trouble him at all; on the contrary, he acted as if he were simply doing what the United States would do if they really did what they wished. As soon as he had made his arrangements, he proceeded by land up the coast to Philadelphia. Jefferson was exuberant, and he wrote in exultation to Madison on the fifth of May, concluding with the phrase, "I wish we may be able to repress the spirit of the people within the limits of a fair neutrality." If there be such things as crocodile tears, perhaps there may also be crocodile wishes, of which this would seem to be one. A friend of Hamilton's, writing about the same time, speaks in different terms, as follows:
He has a good person, a fine ruddy complexion, quite active, and seems always in a bustle, more like a busy man than a man of business. A Frenchman in his manners, he announces himself in all companies as the Minister of the Republic, etc., talks freely of his commission, and, like most Europeans, seems to have adopted mistaken notions of the penetration and knowledge of the people of the United States. His system, I think, is to laugh us into war if he can.[Footnote: Irving, V, 151.]
Citizen Genęt did not allow his progress up the coast to be so rapid that he was deprived of any ovation. The banquets, luncheons, speech-makings, by which he was welcomed everywhere, had had no parallel in the country up to that time. They seemed to be too carefully prepared to be unpremeditated, and probably many of those who took part in them did not understand that they were cheering for a cause which they had never espoused. One wonders why he was allowed to carry on this personal campaign and to show rude unconcern for good manners, or indeed for any manners except those of a wayward and headstrong boy. It might be thought that the Secretary of State abetted him and in his infatuation for France did not check him; but, so far as I have discovered, no evidence exists that Jefferson was in collusion with the truculent and impertinent "Citizen." No doubt, however, the shrewd American politician took satisfaction in observing the extravagances of his fellow countrymen in paying tribute to the representative of France. At Philadelphia, for instance, the city which already was beginning to have a reputation for spinster propriety which became its boast in the next century, we hear that "... before Genęt had presented his credentials and been acknowledged by the President, he was invited to a grand republican dinner, 'at which,' we are told, 'the company united in singing the Marseillaise Hymn. A deputation of French sailors presented themselves, and were received by the guests with the fraternal embrace.' The table was decorated with the 'tree of liberty,' and a red cap, called the cap of liberty, was placed on the head of the minister, and from his travelled in succession from head to head round the table."[Footnote: Jay's Life, I, 30.]

But not all the Americans were delirious enthusiasts. Hamilton kept his head amid the whirling words which, he said, might "do us much harm and could do France no good." In a letter, which deserves to be quoted in spite of its length, he states very clearly the opinions of one of the sanest of Americans. He writes to a friend:
It cannot be without danger and inconvenience to our interests, to impress on the nations of Europe an idea that we are actuated by the same spirit which has for some time past fatally misguided the measures of those who conduct the affairs of France, and sullied a cause once glorious, and that might have been triumphant. The cause of France is compared with that of America during its late revolution. Would to Heaven that the comparison were just! Would to Heaven we could discern, in the mirror of French affairs, the same decorum, the same gravity, the same order, the same dignity, the same solemnity, which distinguished the cause of the American Revolution! Clouds and darkness would not then rest upon the issue as they now do. I own I do not like the comparison. When I contemplate the horrid and systematic massacres of the 2nd and 3rd of September, when I observe that a Marat and a Robespierre, the notorious prompters of those bloody scenes, sit triumphantly in the convention, and take a conspicuous part in its measures--that an attempt to bring the assassins to justice has been obliged to be abandoned--when I see an unfortunate prince, whose reign was a continued demonstration of the goodness and benevolence of his heart, of his attachment to the people of whom he was the monarch, who, though educated in the lap of despotism, had given repeated proofs that he was not the enemy of liberty, brought precipitately and ignominiously to the block without any substantial proof of guilt, as yet disclosed--without even an authentic exhibition of motives, in decent regard to the opinions of mankind; when I find the doctrine of atheism openly advanced in the convention, and heard with loud applause; when I see the sword of fanaticism extended to force a political creed upon citizens who were invited to submit to the arms of France as the harbingers of liberty; when I behold the hand of rapacity outstretched to prostrate and ravish the monuments of religious worship, erected by those citizens and their ancestors; when I perceive passion, tumult, and violence usurping those seats, where reason and cool deliberation ought to preside, I acknowledge that I am glad to believe there is no real resemblance between what was the cause of America and what is the cause of France; that the difference is no less great than that between liberty and licentiousness. I regret whatever has a tendency to confound them, and I feel anxious, as an American, that the ebullitions of inconsiderate men among us may not tend to involve our reputation in the issue.[Footnote: Hamilton's Works, 566.]
Citizen Genęt continued his campaign unabashed. He attempted to force the United States to give arms and munitions to the French. Receiving cool answers to his demands, he lost patience, and intended to appeal to the American People, over the head of the Government. He sent his communication for the two Houses of Congress, in care of the Secretary of State, to be delivered. But Washington, whose patience had seemed inexhaustible, believed that the time had come to act boldly. By his instruction Jefferson returned the communication to Genęt with a note in which he curtly reminded the obstreperous Frenchman of a diplomat's proper behavior. As the American Government had already requested the French to recall Genęt, his amazing inflation collapsed like a pricked bladder. He was too wary, however, to return to France which he had served so devotedly. He preferred to remain in this country, to become an American citizen, and to marry the daughter of Governor Clinton of New York. Perhaps he had time for leisure, during the anticlimax of his career, to recognize that President Washington, whom he had looked down upon as a novice in diplomacy, knew how to accomplish his purpose, very quietly, but effectually. A century and a quarter later, another foreigner, the German Ambassador, Count Bernstorff, was allowed by the American Government to weave an even more menacing plot, but the sound sense of the country awoke in time to sweep him and his truculence and his conspiracies beyond the Atlantic.

The intrigues of Genęt emphasized the fact that a party had arisen and was not afraid to speak openly against President Washington. He held in theory a position above that of parties, but the theory did not go closely with fact, for he made no concealment of his fundamental Federalism, and every one saw that, in spite of his formal neutrality, in great matters he almost always sided with Hamilton instead of with Jefferson. When he himself recognized that the rift was spreading between his two chief Cabinet officers, he warned them both to avoid exaggerating their differences and pursuing any policy which must be harmful to the country. Patriotism was the chief aim of every one, and patriotism meant sinking one's private desires in order to achieve liberty through unity. Washington himself was a man of such strict virtue that he could work with men who in many matters disagreed with him, and as he left the points of disagreement on one side, he used the more effectively points of agreement. I do not think that Jefferson could do this, or Hamilton either, and I cannot rid myself of the suspicion that Jefferson furnished Philip Freneau, who came from New York to Philadelphia to edit the anti-Washington newspaper, with much of his inspiration if not actual articles. The objective of the "Gazette" was, of course, the destruction of Hamilton and his policy of finance. If Hamilton could be thus destroyed, it would be far easier to pull down Washington also. Lest the invectives in the "Gazette" should fail to shake Washington in his regard for Hamilton, Jefferson indited a serious criticism of the Treasury, and he took pains to have friends of his leave copies of the indictment so that Washington could not fail to see them. The latter, however, by a perfectly natural and characteristic stroke which Jefferson could not foresee, sent the indictment to Hamilton and asked him to explain. This Hamilton did straightforwardly and point-blank--and Jefferson had the mortification of perceiving that his ruse had failed. Hamilton, under a thin disguise, wrote a series of newspaper assaults on Jefferson, who could not parry them or answer them. He was no match for the most terrible controversialist in America; but he could wince. And presently B.F. Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, brought his unusual talents in vituperation, in calumny, and in nastiness to the "Aurora," a blackguard sheet of Philadelphia. Washington doubtless thought himself so hardened to abuse by the experience he had had of it during the Revolution that nothing which Freneau, Bache, and their kind could say or do, would affect him. But he was mistaken. And one cannot fail to see that they saddened and annoyed him. He felt so keenly the evil which must come from the deliberate sowing of dissensions. He cared little what they might say against himself, but he cared immensely for their sin against patriotism. Before his term as President drew to a close, he was already deciding not to be a candidate for a second term. He told his intention to a few intimates--from them it spread to many others. His best friends were amazed. They foresaw great trials for the Nation and a possible revolution. Hamilton tried to move him by every sort of appeal. Jefferson also was almost boisterous in denouncing the very idea. He impressed upon him the importance of his continuing at that crisis. He had not been President long enough to establish precedents for the new Nation. There were many volatile incidents which, if treated with less judgment than his, might do grievous harm. One wonders how sincere all the entreaties to Washington were, but one cannot doubt that the great majority of the country was perfectly sincere in wishing to have him continue; for it had sunk deep into the hearts of Americans that Washington was himself a party, a policy, an ideal above all the rest. And when the election was held in the autumn of 1792, he was reëlected by the equivalent of a unanimous vote.


Terms Defined

Referenced Works