AFTER the many eloquent orations, the many splendid eulogiums, which have so late­ly attracted your attention, it is not without ex­treme diffidence I now venture to appear before you; but I trust your candor and generosity will receive, with indulgence, the feeble efforts of one who never had before the honor to address a pub­lic and mixed assembly.

SCARCELY two months have elapsed since we received the melancholy and distressing tidings that our Washington was no more! that quitting its earthly mansion, his sublime soul had fled to mingle with the spirits of Columbus and of Frank­lin.

[Page 6]GENIUS has already exerted her powers, and fancy has displayed her brightest colourings, in attempting to portray the character of him whose loss we are now assembled to deplore. The venerable sage and the youthful orator, have vied in extolling the virtues of this extraordinary man. But still with tender anxiety, with filial solicitude, we listen to and enquire after fresh testimonies of veneration and respect. Not content with the private effusions of gratitude and affection, the su­preme authority of our country, in honor to the memory of her dearest son, has appointed this day, the anniversary of his birth, to be observed as a day of mourning from one end of our empire to the other. Twice, my respected auditors, have you attended to hear from this place, ex­pressed in the language of piety and religion, the just praises of Washington; but if I may be allow­ed to judge of the feelings which now possess you, you will think it no trespass on your time if I should recapitulate some of the most striking and prominent periods in the history of this great man's life.

THOSE who are conversant in the annals of our country will readily recollect the first glorious [Page 7] instance that, in the dawn of manhood, marked our Washington as the first of men.—When scarce­ly known to the military world, he rescued from entire ruin the remnant of Braddock's defeated host; 'twas then the Genius of America first dis­played her guardian care in protecting her future saviour from the secret ambuscade and poisoned arrow of Indian warfare. From this time, while he was maturing in years and acquiring that know­ledge and experience which expanded his opening mind, a revolution was preparing in the world that was to call forth all his powers. In the first list of American worthies we find enrolled the name of George Washington, from Virginia. 'Twas then, in the meridian of life, that his noble person, his ingenuous mind, his open and manly countenance, his firm and intrepid temper, pointed him to the discriminating wisdom of his illustrious compeers; and with the universal consent of the patriots of the day, they appointed him to com­mand the armies of his country.

From hence to trace him would indeed require
"An Angel's pencil, and a Seraph's fire!"

With a modest distrust of his talents, but with the firmest reliance on the justice of his cause, he [Page 8] entered foremost on the theatre of our revolution; not like some modern heroes confiding solely in human aid, but with an ardent and fervid zeal he implored the approbation and assistance of his GOD.

AT Cambridge, in this Commonwealth, he commenced his conspicuous career. Here he was called upon to pass through the most difficult and trying scenes,—an army without discipline, offi­cers without military skill, and no supplies but such as were afforded by the precarious hand of uncertain fortune; but surrendering to no difficul­ties, dismayed by no appearances, he assumed the difficult duty, he reconciled the discordant minds of rival chiefs, he regulated the strange fancies of unruly freemen, he brought them to act as one body, to unite in the capital blockade of Boston; and thus drove the enemy from our state.

LET us now follow him to the next most in­teresting and most distressing scene of all his life, to December 1776, when the gallant Howe, com­manding the veteran armies of Britain, arrayed in the splendor of military uniformity, flushed with the sense of their superior discipline, presented the dreadful phalanx, while the poor followers of Washington trod with naked feet the frozen [Page 9] grounds of Newj [...]y—'twas then, my friends, our liberties lay gasping—feeble minds were driven to despair—this was indeed "the time that tried men's souls;" every false and hollow friend then retreated from the scene—the sunshine patriot hid his head, while the portentous heavens shrouded their armory in black. Amidst the jarring ele­ments, amidst the wreck of matter, in the crush of contending armies, Washington stood unmoved; his great soul felt no alarm—the eyes of the world were on him; in that perilous moment his mighty genius suggested, and he executed the masterly feat that has forever eclipsed the victories of Han­nibal and Caesar. Moving in the rear of his ene­my, while they were pleasing themselves with the thought of soon swallowing up his little band, he captured 900 Hessians, and filled with terror and dismay his valiant and astonished foe. Fain would I pursue this brave and illustrious man through the after vicissitudes of an eight years war, recount all his glorious exploits, all his magnanimous strug­gles.—Fain would I drop a tear on the ashes of the departed heroes who fell, while contending with him for the glorious prize.—Gladly would I condole with those who will now renew the me­mory of a father, a husband, a son, a brother, who, [Page 10] fighting for their country, under the command of Washington, died nobly in the bed of honor; but I forbear. I will now come to that pleasing and brilliant epoch when, at the head of triumphant armies, Victory placed his wide spreading standard on the battlements of York town, when, with joy­ful acclamations, we hailed him the conqueror of the great Cornwallis. Here the same magnanimi­ty of mind is still distinguished—he is equally great in the hour of prosperity, as in that of adversity—Not depressed with the difficulties of misfortune, not dazzled with the brightness of success, the western gales wafted the intelligence abroad, and Great-Britain now learned that all attempts to sub­due America were idle and absurd; that in Wash­ington was a successful Sir William Wallace; and that the spirit of her immortal ancestors animated her sons. Peace ensued, and the eagle of Ameri­ca, on the wings of independence, soared unmo­lested to the skies; but the love of our country cooled. There was on foot a numerous army, whose long and severe services called aloud for restitution; whose officers felt and expressed the feelings natural to men. They had toiled—they had wasted the prime of life—they had given eve­ry thing to others, and they were without reward; [Page 11] combining in a moment of unreflecting disappoint­ment they determined never to lay down their arms till their claims were satisfied; but that could not be—Washington appeared among them—that rhetoric which had so often been employed to raise their drooping hopes—that countenance that had so often animated them in the day of bat­tle, again prevailed, and they solemnly pledged themselves rather to relinquish their pay, than tar­nish their dear earned honors.

TAKING now an affectionate and long fare­well of his brave companions in arms, he moved on to the place where Congress were then holding their session, not clad in the helmet of suspicion, no impenetrable lining to his waistcoat, but cloth­ed with the majesty of conscious virtue, and erect with patriotic pride, he entered the august assem­bly: no sullen grenadier trod in his footsteps; no russian with a dagger leaped forward to cut short his thread of life; no cries of outlawry assailed his ears; but while silence reigned through the hall—while every heart beat high with hope—while every bosom swelled with gratitude and love, and the rolling tear betrayed the amiable weakness of humanity, Washington reposed on the [Page 12] altars of his country that commission which had enabled him to give liberty and empire to Ameri­ca! What a spectacle for the admiring world! What a lesson for conquerors! What an example for future heroes! That tongue which, on the pardon of Marcellus, shook the Roman senate with the praises of Caesar, must here have been si­lent; the feelings of that moment were too big for utterance, tears only could speak the gratitude and admiration of his country. Well might the orator exclaim, ‘No flow of genius, no force of eloquence, no power of description is sufficient, I will not say, O Washington, to embellish, but even to recount your deeds; yet this I affirm, and this with deference insist upon, that from none of them will you reap greater glory than from that of this day.’

FROM this momentous crisis the philosopher and the historian will go with him to the shades of private life, to his beloved retreat, the elegant abode of Mount Vernon; there contemplate him engaged in the most benevolent purposes, encour­ing the arts and sciences, promoting every useful improvement, and sanctioning by his name and signature, every exertion to advance the honor [Page 13] and reputation of his country. He was truly the patron of American merit. But what was now the situation of America?—a government without energy, reduced to the humble state of seeking support by the futile means of requisition; a de­cline of public virtue, disorder and confusion in many of the states, and a rebellion in Massachu­setts, spoke an empire falling to decay. All consid­erate men saw and lamented the existence of so feeble an edifice. But thanks be to GOD, there was virtue yet enough: a strong confederation under a general government was proposed, was planned and adopted, and the constitution of the United States, that stupendous fabric, whose adamantine pillars will, I hope, resist the mouldering hand of time, published to America, subscribed by Wash­ington, proclaimed us saved.

AND now once more, the voice of his country, ever heard with veneration and love, called Washington from retirement, a retirement which he had chosen with the fondest predilection as the asylum of his declining years. The united and unanimous suffrages of his fellow-citizens, pro­nounced him President of the United States. How he conducted in this high and arduous station is [Page 14] well known to you all; domestic faction and in­ternal discord were hushed by his healing coun­sels. The supple politicians, the artful and in­triguing minister of a foreign nation, stood abash­ed before his penetrating eye. All their schemes to introduce among us the disorganizing princi­ples of France were baffled—all their plans were mildewed by his vigilance and virtue. As he had shone first in the ranks of war, he now shone first in the mild reign of peace. Having complet­ed nearly eight years of virtuous administration, seeing his beloved country greatly advanced in happiness and prosperity, and feeling the hand of time, he summoned us to attend his solemn decli­nation. What we felt at that moment may possi­bly be conceived, but can never be described. To attempt to abridge that excellent performance would be indeed presumptuous. To select a plant, to cull a flower, would destroy the symmetry of so beautifully decorated a parterre; but let it be read and repeated by the old and young, and let the lisping infant learn it with his prayers. Again Washington withdrew with the pleasing expecta­tion that he should now realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of his fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good [Page 15] laws under a free government; but this pleasing hope soon vanished—the storm gathered thick, and clouds and darkness once more hung around us. Our commerce, the life, the soul, the vital spring of greatness, could not be pursued with its neces­sary freedom. French cruisers covered the ocean; and the acquiescence of the French government, in their hostile attacks, was a silent acknowledg­ment that it countenanced their unjust proceed­ings. Our indignation at these unmerited insults was not so great or so prompt, as they provoked; but it at length burst forth, and a determined re­sistance to any further hostilities was the order of the day. Our ships of war appeared as it were by enchantment on the ocean; and our gallant sea­men soon told the enemies of their trade that they feared them not. It was also thought necessary that an army should be organized and prepared to meet occurrences as they rose. Every eye was turned to the man now to be appointed to com­mand that army. We heard the Genius of Ame­rica whispering the name of Washington—that his sword, tho' sheathed, rusted not—that his spirit, indignant at the insults offered to his country, glowed with its ancient ardor. The wisdom of our President selected him, and the approving voice of the Senate confirmed the choice; and soon the important communication was made to the Senate, to America, and to the World, that Wash­ington, after reviewing the conduct of France and the insidious plans of her government, and reflect­ing that every thing we held dear and sacred was seriously threatened, had finally determined to ac­cept the commission of Commander in Chief of the [Page 16] Armies of the United States. Every fear then vanished, every arm was nerved, and we justly counted on success. But whither, my friends, does this bring us? alas! approaching to that so­lemn scene—to that awful period—to that never to be forgotten day, the 14th December, 1799, when the Sun of America, that had arisen fair and clear, that advanced to and long shone in meridian splendor, that sinking had illumined the western world, set in glory—when Washington, parting forever from his country, ascended to his GOD. While the deepest mourning covered the face of the earth there was joy in heaven, and angels, trumpet-tongued, sounded their loudest hallelu­jahs. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.

THUS, my friends, I have made a weak at­tempt to touch some of the outlines in the history and character of a man who, while living, was the greatest ornament to the world, and who will ever be the theme of the virtuous and the good to the latest generations. To strive to imitate his bright example, and even to bear in mind his consider­ate precepts, is the first duty of an American.

I CANNOT take leave without congratulating you on the prospect you have from the abilities of his great successor—the pure integrity, the exalt­ed worth, the incorruptible patriotism of JOHN ADAMS—Oh! happy America! may thy guard­ian Angel hover round him, preserve his invalua­ble life, and long, long continue him—PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.


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