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Custis, were constantly with him. In engaging Mr. Lear as tutor to the little grandson and secretary to himself, Washington wrote, “Whoever comes into my family in the blended character of preceptor to the children and clerk or private secretary to me, will sit at my table, will live as I live, will mix with the company who resort to the house." And Mr. Lear, who joined the family group at this time, was the last man who held Washington's hand, and the friend to whom his last words were spoken.
A French guest who stayed at Mount Vernon, wrote of Mrs. Washington: “ Everything about the house has an air of simplicity; the table is good, but not cstentatious, and no deviation is seen from regularity and domestic economy. She superintends the whole, and joins to the qualities of an excellent housewife the simple dignity which ought to characterise a woman whose husband has acted the greatest part on the theatre of human affairs, while possessing that amiability, and manifesting that attention to strangers which makes hospitality so charming."
A gracious, kindly, little old lady, who was constantly knitting, is the picture that is left to us of Washington's wife; a woman who had known sorrow in the loss of her children, who had borne hardship at Valley Forge, who had been the brave and true wife of a patriot through all, and who had now settled down into a peaceful life, with her husband re-united to her, and the voices of little children sounding in her home, to comfort her for the other voices that were silent. It was no wonder that from this quiet happiness Washington should write to one of his French friends, “I never expect to draw my sword again ; I can scarcely conceive the cause that would induce me to do it. My time is now occupied by rural amusements, in which I have great satisfaction, and
my first wish is (though it is against the profession of arms, and would clip the wings of some of our young soldiers who are soaring after glory) to see the whole world in peace, and the inhabitants of it as one band of brothers, showing who should contribute most to the happiness of mankind.” Nelly Custis, his adopted child, said of him, “I have sometimes made him laugh. heartily from sympathy with my joyous spirits, but he was a silent, thoughtful man. He spoke little generally-never of himself. I never heard him relate a single act of his life during the war.” This last fact about him has been noticed by several writers. Bishop White said of him, “I know no man who so carefully guarded against the discoursing of himself or of his acts, or of anything that pertained to him." When Dr. Craik asked Washington to furnish some one who wanted to write his memoirs with a few materials, he refused, saying, “I had rather leave it to posterity to think and say what they please of me, than by any act of mine have vanity or ostentation imputed to me.”
Of very few great men is there such a scanty fund of anecdote remaining as of Washington, but this can be accounted for by the harmony and due proportions of his character. Anecdotes most frequently are furnished by some peculiarity or idiosyncrasy. One enthusiastic visitor to Mount Vernon relates that he was suffering from a severe cold, and that when a bad fit of coughing came on in the night, the curtains of his bed were gently drawn aside, and he saw Washington standing beside him with a bowl of hot tea in his hand. Another writer tells of Washington's entrance into a ball-room in the country. Every tongue became silent, and an awe fell upon the company. The great man looked round him sadly, wondering at his own power of checking the general mirth, and he went away to another room; but when the laughter and talk began again, he stole back on tiptoe to the dancing-room, and stood hidden behind the half-open door, enjoying it. These hardly amount to anecdotes, but they are at least human touches in the picture which remains to us of the great commander.
In 1785 he received the news of the death of General Greene, which seems to have been a real grief to him. “He was a great and good man !" was the way in which the general summed up the character of one who had been a brave soldier and a true friend to himself through all the Revolutionary War. “Thus," he says, "some of the pillars of the Revolution fall; others are mouldering by insensible degrees. May our country never want props to support the glorious fabric !"
Dut that glorious fabric of which Washington spoke was not in a safe condition. The same Government which had served to administrate the affairs of a nation at :. crisis of war, when there was one common interest for every State, failed to unite the various interests of a nation at peace, and after the exertions of the protracted years of the struggle for independence, there was a reaction of exhaustion, and almost of impotence. “ Local prejudices and policies” were rife, causing one State to quarrel with another, and Congress was as a house divided against itself.” absolutely necessary that power should be vested somewhere, and the difficulty was in deciding where it was to be. It was not unnatural that a body of men left to arrange the affairs of a republic, without any precedent by which to frame their Government, should find it difficult so to act as to satisfy a people impoverished by war, and the almost entire cessation of commerce which that war had entailed. As yet no permanent revenue had been formed, and the loans and dues of the years of warfare were unpaid. Each State, it is true, supported its own executive power, but this was done with difficulty; and there was great unwillingness, and even a want of means, to meet the demands of the national Confederation. The claims of the army were not satisfied, and foreign loans pressed heavily; the confidence of foreign countries was destroyed, and they would not enter into treaties of commerce which were not likely to be carried into effect. A general decay of trade, the rise of imported merchandise, the fall of produce, and an uncommon decrease of the value of lands ensued..
Dissatisfaction and panic reigned in the States. serious insurrection was threatened in Massachusetts. Representations from all classes of society of the inefficiency of the present executive powers poured in upon Congress. The merchants, especially, claimed to be heard, as they said the commerce of the country was being diverted into foreign channels, and nothing but ruin lay before them, unless some better scheme of government could be devised. “From the high ground on which we stood, we are descending into the vale of confusion and darkness," wrote Washington, as he watched this disastrous state of things from Mount Vernon. Two or three months later he writes, “I have ever been a friend to adequate powers in Congress, without which it is evident to me we never shall establish national character, or be considered as on a respectable footing by the powers of Europe. We are either a united people under one head for federal purposes, or we are thirteen independent sovereignties, eternally counteracting each other.” Again, “We have errors,” he said, "to correct. We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our Confederation.
I do not conceive that we can exist long as a nation without lodging somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a manner as the authority of the State Governments extends over the several States.
Things cannot go in the same strain for ever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, the better kind of people, being disgusted with their circumstances, will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever; we are apt to run from one extreme