« ZurückWeiter »
inidablc a power, cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was. undertaken, can never be forgotten. The signal interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition, were such as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving: while the unparrallelcd perseverance of the armies of the United States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement, for the space of eight long veal's, was little short of a standing miracle.
It is not in the meaning, nor within the compass of this address, to detail the hardships peculiarly incident to our service, or to describe the distresses, which, in several instances, have resulted from the extremes of hunger and nakedness, combined with the rigours of an inclement season; nor is it necessary to dwell on the dark side of our past affairs.
Every American officer and soldier must now console himself for any unpleasant circumstance which may have occurred, by a recollection of the uncommon scenes in which he has been called to act no inglorious part, and the astonishing events of which he has been a witness—events which have seldom, if ever before* taken place on the stage of human action; nor can they pr"bab!y ever happen again. For who has before seen a disciplined army formed at once from such raw materials? Who that was not a witness, could imagine that the most violent local prejudices would cease so soon, and that men who came from the different parts of the continent, strongly disposed by the habits of education, to despise and quarrel with each other, would instantly become but one patriotic band of brothers? Or who that was not on the spot, can trace the steps by which such a wonderful revolution has been effected, and such a glorious period put to all our warlike toils? _
It is universally acknowledged that the enlarged prospects of happiness, opened by the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, almost exceeds the power of description: And shall not the brave men who have contributed so essentially to these inestimable acquisitions, retiring victorious from the field of war to the field of agriculture, participate in all the blessings which have been obtained? In such a republic, who will exclude them from the rights of citizens, and the fruits of their labours? In such a country, so happily circumstanced, the pursuits of commerce and the cul tivation of the soil, will unfold to industry the certain road to competence. To those hardy soldiers, who are actuated by the spirit of adventure, the fisheries wUl afford ample and profitable employment; and the extensive and fertile regions of the west will yield a most happy asylum to those, who. fond of domestic enjoyment, arc seeking for personal independence. Nor is it possible to conceive that any one of the United States will prefer a national bankruptcy, and the dissolution of the union, to a compliance with the requisitions of Congress, and the payment of its just debts, so that the officers and soldiers may expect considerable assistance, in recommencing their civil occupations, from thj sums due to them from the public, which must and will most inevitably be paid.
In order to effect this desirable purpose, and to remove the prejudices which may have taken possession of the minds of any of the good people of the states, it is earnestly recommended to all the troops, that, with strong attachments to the union, they should carry with them into civil society the most conciliating dispositions; and that they should prove themselves not less virtuous and useful citizens, than they have been persevering and victorious soldiers. What though there,should he some envious individuals, who are unwilling to pay the debt the public has contracted, Of to yield the tribute due to merit; yet let such unworthy treatment produce no invective, or any instance of intemperate conduct: let it be remembered, that the unbiassed voice of the free citizens of the United States has promised the just reward, and given the merited applause; let it be known and remembciv cd, that the reputation of the federal armies is established beyond the reach of malevolence, and let a consciousness of their achievements and fame still incite the men who composed them to honourable actions, under the persuasion, that the private virtues of economy, prudence, and industry, will not be less amiable in civil life, than the mora splendid qualities of valor, perseverance and enterprise, were in the field. Every one may rest assured that much, very much, of the future happiness of the officers and men, will depend upon the wise and manly conduct which shall be adopted by them, when they are mingled with the great body of the community. And although the general has so frequently given it as his opinion, in the most public and explicit manner, that unless the principles of the federal government were properly supported, and the powers of the union increased, the honourj dignity, and justice of the nation would be lost forever: yet he cannot help repeating, on this occasion, so interesting a sentiment, and leaving it, as his last injunction, to every officer and every soldier, who may view the subject in the same serious point of light, to add his best endeavours, to those of his worthy fellow-citizens towards effecting these great and valuable purposes, on which our very existence, as a nation, so materially depends.
The commander in chief conceives little is now wanting to enable the soldier to change his military character into that of the citizen, but that steady and decent tenor of behaviour, which has generalty distinguished, not only the army under his immediate command, but the different detachments and separate armies, through the course of the war; from their good sense and prudence, he anticipates the happiest consequences, and while he congratulates them on the glorious occasion which renders their sen ices in the field no longer necessary, he wishes to express the strong obligations he feels himself under, for the assistance he has received from every class, and in every instance. He presents his thanks, in the most serious and affectionate manner, to the general officers, as well for their council, on many interesting occasions, as for their ardour in promoting the success of the plans he had adopted; to the commandants of regiments and corps, and to the other officers, for their great zeal and attention in carrying his orders promptly into execution; to the staff, for their alacrity and exactness in performing the duties ol their several departments: and to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers, for their extraordinary patience in suffering, as well as their invincible fortitude in action; to the various branches of the army, the general takes this last and solemn opportunity of professing his inviolable attachment and friendship. He wishes more than bare professions were in his power, that he was really able to be useful to them all in future life. He flatters himself, however, they will do him the justice to believe, that whatever could, with propriety, be attempted by him, has been done. And being now to conclude these, his last public orders, to take his ultimate leave, in a short time, of the military character, and to bid a final adieu to the armies he has so long had the honour to command, he can only again offer, in their behalf, his recommendations to their grateful country, and his prayers to the God of armies. May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of Heaven's fa. vours, both here and hereafter, attend those, wh«£ under the Divine auspices, hate secured innumerable blessings for others. With these wishes, and this benediction, the commander in chief is about to retire from service. The curtain of separation will soon be drawn, and the military scene, to him, will be closed forever.
General Washington to the President of Congress on resigning his commission—December 23, 1783.
The great events on which my resignation ds^ pended, having at length taken place, I have now the honour of ottering my sincere congratulations to congress, and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to elaim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country;
Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity 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 superceded 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, lias verified the most sanguine expectations; and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, ami the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous contest.