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quate, all will be convinced that the superstructure is bad, or wants support. To be more exposed in the eyes of the world, and more contemptible than we al. ready are, is hardly possible. To delay one or the other of these expedients is to exasperate on the one hand, or to give confidence ta the other, and will add to their numbers; for, like rnow-balls, such bodies increase by every movement, unless there is something in the way to obstruct and crumble them, before their weight is too great and irresistible.
“ These are my sentiments. Precedents are dan. gerous things. Let the reins of government then be braced, and held with a steady hand; and every violation of the Constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon while it has an existence."
A friend having intimated by letter his apprehension, that civil discord was near, in which event he would be obliged to act a publick part, or to leave the conti.
“ It is,” said the General in reply,“ with the deepest and most heart-felt concern, I perceive, by some late paragraphs extracted from the Boston papers, that the insurgents of Massachusetts, far from being satisfied with the redress offered by their General Court, are still acting in open violation of law and govern. ment, and have obliged the Chief Magistrate, in a de. cided lone, to call upon the militia of the state to support the constitution.
" What, gracious God, is man! That there should be such inconsistency and perfidiousness in his conduct. It is but the other day, that we were shedding our blood to obtain the constitutions under which wo live ; constitutions of our own choice and making; and now we are unsheathing the sword to overturn them. The thing is so unaccountable that I hardly know how to realize it ; or to persuade myself that I am not under the ilusion of a dream. My mind, previous to the receipt of your letter of the first ultima
had often been agitated by a thought similar to the one you expressed respecting a friend of yours; but heaven forbid that a crisis should come when he shall be driven to the necessity of making a choice of either of the alternatives there mentioned."
Having learned that the states had generally elected their representatives to the Convention, and Congress having given its sanction to it, he on the 28th of March communicated to the Governour of Virginia, his consent to act as one of the delegates of his state on this important occasion.
On the second Monday in May 1787, the delegates of twelve states met in Convention at Philadelphia, and unanimously elected General George WashingTON their President. The present Constitution of Government of the United States was the result of the deliberations and concessions of this venerable body.
Although the friends of General Washington had fully acquiesced in the propriety of his retiring from publick life at the close of the revolutionary war, yet froni the nioment of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, all eyes were directed to him as the first President of the United States. His correspondents early endeavoured to prepare his mind to gratify the expectations of his country. Mr. Johnson, a distinguished patriot of Maryland, wrote him, “ We cannot do without you, and I and thousands more can explain to any body but yourself why we cannot do without you.”
The struggle between inclination and duty was long and severe. His feelings on this occasion fully appeared in the letters which he wrote to his friends on the subject Colonel Lee, then a member of Congress, communicating to General WASHINGTON the measures which that body werė adopting to introduce the new government, thus alludes to the presidency.
“ The solemnity of the moment, and its application to yourself, have fixed my mind in contemplations of
a publick and a personal nature, and I feel an involuntary impulse which I cannot resist, to communicate, without reserve to you some of the reflections which the hour has produced. Solicitous for our common happiness as a people, and convinced, as I continue to be, that our peace and prosperity depend on the proper improvement of the present period, my anxiety is extreme that the new government may have an auspicious beginning. To effect this, and to perpetuate a nation formed under your auspices, it is certain you will again be called forth. The same principles of devotion to the good of mankind, which have invariably governed your conduct, will no doubt continue to rul your mind, however opposite their consequences may be to your repose and happiness. It may be wrong, but I cannot suppress in my wishes for national felicity a due regard for your personal fame and content.
“ If the same success should attend your efforts on this important occasion which has distinguished you hitherto, then, to be sure, you will have spent a life which Providence rarely, if ever, before gave to the lot of man. It is my anxious hope, it is my belief that this will be the case, but all things are uncertain, and perhaps nothing inore so than political events.
“Without you, the government can have but little chance of success; and the people, of that happiness which its prosperity must yield.”
To these communications, the General thus replied
“ Your observations' on the solemnity of the crisis, and its application to myself, bring before me subjects of the most momentous and interesting nature. In our endeavours to establish a new general government, the contest, nationally considered, seems not to have been so inuch for glory, as existence. It was for a long time doubtful whether we were to survive as an independent republick, or decline from our federal dig. nity into insi mnificant and wretched fragments of empire. The adoption of the constitution so extensively,
and with so liberal an acquiescence on the part of the minorities in general, promised the former ; but lately, the circular letter of New-York has manifested in any apprehension an unfavourable, if not an insidious tendency to a contrary policy. I still hope for the best; but before you mentioned it, I could not help fearing it would serve as a standard to which the disaffected could resort. It is now evidently the part of all honest men, who are friends to the new constitution, to endeavour to give it a chance to disclose its inerits and defects by carrying it fairly into effect, in the first instance
“The principal topick of your letter is, to me, a point of great delicacy indeed, insomuch that I can scarcely, without some impropriety, tonch upon it. In the first place, the event to which you allude may never happen, among other reasons because, if the partiality of my fellow-citizens conceive it to be a mean by which the sinews of the new government would be strengthened, it will of consequence be ob noxious to those who are in opposition to it; many of whom, unquestionably, will be placed among the electors. This consideration alone would supersede the expediency of announcing any definitive and irrevocable resolution. You are among the small number of those who know my invincible attachment to domestick life, and that my sincerest wish is to continue in the enjoyment of it solely, until my final hour. But the world would be neither so well instructed, nor so candidly disposed, as to believe me to be uninfluenced by sinister motives in case any circunstance should render a deviation from the line of conduct I had prescribed for myself indispensable. Should the contingency you suggest, take place, and (for argument's sake alone let me say) should my unfeigned reluctance to accept the office be overcome by a deference for the reasons and opinions of my friends; might I not, after the declarations I have made, (and heavoy knows they were made
the sincerity of my heart) in the judg
men'. of the impartial world, and of posterity, be chargeable with levity and inconsistency, if not with rash ness and ambition ? Nay, farther, would there not even be some apparent foundation for the two former charges ? Now, justice to myself, and tranquillity of conscience require that I should act a part, if not above imputation, at least capable of vindication. Nor will you conceive me to be too solicitous for reputa tion. Though I prize as I ought the good opinion of my fellow-citizens, yet if I know myself, I would not seek popularity at the expense of one social duty, or moral virtue.
" While doing what my conscience informed me was right, as it respected my God, my country, and myself, I could despise all the party clamour and unjust censure which must be expected from some, whose personal enmity might be occasioned by their hostility to the government. I am conscious that I fear alone to give any real occasion for obloquy, and that I do not dread to meet with unmerited reproach. And ( ertain I am, whensoever I shall be convinced the good of my country requires my reputation to be put in risk, regard for my own fame will not come in competition with an object of so much magnitude.
“ If I declined the task, it would be upon quite another principle. Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my increasing fondness for agricultural amusements, and my growing love of retirement, aug. ment and confirm my decided predeliction for the cha racter of a private citizen, yet it will be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to which my former reputation iniglit be exposed, or the terrour of encoun. tering new fatigues and troubles, that would deter me from an acceptance; but a belief that some other person, who had less pretence and less inclination to be excused, could execute all the duties full as satisfactorily as myself. To say more would be indiscreet; as the disclosure of a refusal beforehand might incur the