*ADDRESS TO CONGRESS ON RESIGNING HIS COMMISSION
[Annapolis, December 23, 1783.]
Mr. President: The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country.
Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the oppertunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence. A diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.
The Successful termination of the War has verified the most sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Countrymen, encreases with every review of the momentous Contest.
While I repeat my obligations to the Army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar Services and distinguished merits of the Gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the War. It was impossible the choice of confidential Officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me Sir, to recommend in particular those, who have continued in Service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.
I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.
Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire form the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.68
Taken from The Writings of George Washington John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1938), Volume 27, pp. 284-285.
68 From the draft in the McHenry Photostats in the Library of Congress. A fair copy, by Humphreys, signed and dated by Washington, is in the Washington Papers.
A committee, composed of Thomas Jefferson, Elbridge Gerry, and James McHenry, reported to Congress, December 22, that---
"1. The President and members are to be seated and covered, and the secretary to be standing by the side of the President.
"2. The arrival of the General is to be announced by the messenger to the secretary, who is thereupon to introduce the General attended by his aids to the Hall of Congress.
"3. The General being conducted to a chair by the secretary is to be seated with an aid on each side, standing, and the secretary is to resume his place.
"4. After a proper time for the arrangement of spectators, silence is to be ordered by the secretary, if necessary, and the President is to address the general in the following words:
"'Sir, The United States in Congress assembled are prepared to receive your communications.'
"Where upon the General is to arise and address Congress, after which he is to deliver his Commission and a copy of his address to the President.
"5. The General having resumed his place, the President is to deliver the answer of Congress, which the General is to receive standing.
"6. The President having finished, the secretary is to deliver the General a copy of the answer, and the General is then to take his leave.
"When the General rises to make his address, and also when he retires, he is to bow to Congress, which they are to return by uncovering without bowing."
For the answer of the President, see the Journals of the Continental Congress, Dec. 23, 1783. A copy, in the writing of Charles Thomson, and signed by him, is in the Washington Papers.
James Tilton wrote to Gunning Bedford, from Annapolis, on Christmas day:
"The General came to town last Friday, and announced his arrival, by a letter to congress, requesting to know, in what manner they chused he should resign his authority; whether by private letter or public audience? The latter was preferred without hesitation. Some etiquette being settled on Saturday, a public dinner was ordered on Monday and the audience to be on Tuesday. The feast on Monday was the most extraordinary I ever attended. Between 2 and 3 hundred Gentn: dined together in the ball-room. The number of cheerful voices, with the clangor of knives and forks made a din of a very extraordinary nature and most delightful influence. Every man seemed to be in heaven or so absored in the pleasures of imagination, as to neglect the more sordid appetites, for not a soul got drunk, though there was wine in plenty and the usual number of 13 toasts drank, besides one given afterwards by the General which you ought to be acquainted with: it is as follows. 'Competent powers to congress for general purposes.'
"In the evening of the same day, the Governor gave a ball at the State House. To light the rooms every window was illuminated. Here the company was equally numerous, and more brilliant, consisting of ladies and Gentn: Such was my villanous awkwardness, that I could not venture to dance on this occasion, you must therefore annex to it a cleverer Idea, than is to be expected from such a mortified whelp as I am. The General danced every set, that all the ladies might have the pleasure of dancing with him, or as it has since been handsomely expressed, get a touch of him.
"Tuesday morning, Congress met, and took their seats in order, all covered. At twelve o'clock the General was introduced by the Secretary, and seated opposite to the president, until the throng, that filled all the avenues, were so disposed of so as to behold the solemnity. The ladies occupied the gallery as full as it would hold, the Gentn: crouded below stairs. Silence ordered, by the Secretary, the Genl. rose and bowed to congress, who uncovered, but did not bow. He then delivered his speech, and at the close of it drew his commission from his bosem and handed it to the president. The president replied in a set speech, the General bowed again to Congress, they uncovered and the General retired. After a little pause until the company withdrew, Congress adjourned. The General then steped into the room again, bid every member farewell and rode off from the door, intent upon eating his christmas dinner at home. Many of the spectators, particularly the fair ones shed tears, on this solemn and affecting occasion. Sir Robert Eden and Mr. William Harford attended very respectfully. They were also at the public dinner and the dance."
From the text of the original kindly furnished by Guy Stonestreet, of New York City.
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