General Washington Resigns

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.

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, Edited by John C. Fitzpatrick (1931-44) Vol. 27

Comments are closed.