Friday, September 22, 2017

The End of Washington's Story

       Washington declined a third election, delivered his famous farewell address and retired to Mount Vernon in 1797. Thereafter he devoted himself to agriculture, though in 1798, at the prospect of the war with France, he was chosen commander in chief of the United States army and accepted, though he was not called into the field. He died in December, 1799, from illness brought on by long exposure in the saddle. The news caused almost as widespread mourning in Europe as in America. The greatest statesmen and soldiers of every nation united in paying him tribute as a man, general, statesman and friend of humanity. The words of his old friend and companion, "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen," were without question literally true. He had avoided the snares of factional and partisan politics, had generously overlooked the harshest criticisms and had respected and used the abilities of his severest critics and opponents. Though a slave-holder at his death, he was in favor of the gradual abolition of slavery by legislation, and by his will he arranged that his one hundred twenty-five slaves should be emancipated at the death of his wife, so that the negroes of the two estates who had intermarried might not be separated." Washington's body and that of his wife, who survived him nearly three years, rest in the family vault at Mount Vernon. 

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