Washington’s Resignation to Congress

First side of the final draft of
Washington’s Resignation Speech

OTHER IMAGES

QUICK FACTS
  • This is Washington’s final draft which he delivered to Congress on 23-Dec-1783.
  • The itinerant Congress of the Articles of Confederation was in session at Annapolis, Maryland, when Washington gave his speech in a highly choreographed ceremony in the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House.
  • As the retiring General Washington delivered his prepared speech, his voice quavered and faltered, and some of the attendees wept openly.
  • Note that in closing Washington struck out a final farewell and ultimate leave — he became the first U.S. president five and a half years later under a constitution over which he had presided during its making.
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 & of presenting myself before Congress them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring request permission to retire 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 as well as in the contemplation of our prospect of National happiness, 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I accepted with diffidence — a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.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, increases 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 & patronage of Congress. —
          I consider it an indispensable duty 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 superintendance direction of them, to his holy keeping. —
          Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action, — and bidding an affectionate a final farewell to this August body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer today deliver? my Commission, and take my ultimate leave of all the employments of public life.

Monticello was a working plantation, and Jefferson was eager to make it pay. His slaves may have been members of his family, but they were units of production as well. Everywhere on his plantation he sought to eliminate pockets of idleness. If a slave was too old or too sick to work in the fields, he or she was put to tending the vegetable gardens or to cooking in the quarters. When one of his former head men named Nace became ill, Jefferson ordered that he be entirely kept from labour until he recovers; nevertheless, Nace was to spend his days indoors shelling corn or making shoes or baskets. Jefferson was willing to prescribe lighter work for women who were pregnant or raising infant children because they were actually breeding more property; thus, said Jefferson, a child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man. This is one of the times, he said, when providence has made our interest and our duties coincide perfectly.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)