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I accepted with diffidence — a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.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.

More than any other figure who strode across the revolutionary stage, [Joseph] Warren gave his devotion to the American cause simply because he believed in it. Others believed as passionately, of course; but for Samuel Adams political agitation was a profession which had rescued him from a debtors’ prison; James Otis had deep grievances against the royal government because of their mistreatment of his father; John Hancock was a millionaire merchant who made much of his money from smuggling and owed the British Revenue Service over £100,000 in fines; as a lawyer, John Adams was naturally drawn into the political arena. Warren, as a doctor could have remained aloof, as many of his fellow physicians in Boston did. They were the only class in Massachusetts who were not pressured to join the cause.

Thomas Fleming
Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill (1960; reissued 2010)