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at the same time, perform the duties of instructor of his adopted children. He addressed General Lincoln on the subject, who warmly recommended Tobias Lear, a young gentleman of Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, who had recently graduated at Harvard University. In reply, Washington said:
"Mr. Lear, or any other who may come into my family in the blended character of preceptor to the children and clerk or private secretary to me, will sit at my table, will live as I live, will mix with the company who resort to the house, and will be treated in every respect with civility and proper attention." A satisfactory arrangement was made, which proved a happy one. Mr. Lear went to Mount Vernon, and resided there much of the time afterward, until death removed the master. Washington became very fond of him. He married, and lost his wife there; and in his will, Washington wrote: "To Tobias Lear I give the use of the farm which he now holds, in virtue of a lease from me to him and his deceased wife (for and during their natural lives), free from rent during his life." We shall meet Mr. Lear again under solemn circumstances beneath the roof of Mount Vernon mansion.
In his letter to General Lincoln respecting Mr. Lear, Washington expressed his expectation that his correspondence would decline, for he had resolved to remain strictly a private citizen. On the contrary, circumstances which speedily arose, caused his correspondence to greatly increase, and the retired soldier soon found himself borne out upon the turbulent waves of political life. He was too patriotic to shrink from duty when his country demanded his services, and therefore events soon drew him from the coveted pleasures of his quiet home.
Washington, with other sagacious men, had watched the
course of public affairs since the close of the war with the deepest solicitude, for he perceived imminent dangers on every side. The country had become impoverished by the struggle, and was burdened with an enormous debt, domestic and foreign; and the Congress possessed no executive powers adequate to a provision of means for the liquidation of those debts by direct taxation.
For a long time it had been clearly perceived that, while the Articles of Confederation entered into by the respective states, formed a sufficient constitution of government during the progress of the war, they were not adapted to the public wants in the new condition of an independent sovereignty in which the people found themselves. There appeared abundant necessity for a greater centralization of power, by which the general government could act more efficiently for the public good.
As early as the summer of 1782, the legislature of New York, on the suggestion of Alexander Hamilton, had recommended to each state "to adopt the measure of assembling a GENERAL CONVENTION OF THE STATES, specially authorized to revise and amend the Confederation;" and in the spring of 1786 a strong desire was felt in many parts of the country to have such convention.
To a great extent the people had lost all regard for the authority of Congress, and the commercial affairs of the country had become wretchedly deranged. Every thing seemed to be tending toward utter chaos; and many were the anxious councils held by Washington and others under the roof of Mount Vernon, when the buds and the birds first appeared in Virginia in the spring of 1786. His correspond
ence with his compatriots in other states on the subject became quite extended; and his letters at this time, full of the important topic, are remarkable for their words of wisdom and tone of caution.
"I often think of our situation, and view it with concern," he wrote to John Jay in May. "From the high ground we stood upon, from the plain path which invited our footsteps, to be so fallen, so lost, is really mortifying." He saw the tendency toward ruin of the fair fabric which his wisdom and prowess had helped to raise, and his faith in public men had become weakened. "My fear is," he said, "that the people are not sufficiently misled to retract from error. To be plainer, I think there is more wickedness than ignorance mixed in our councils. Under this impression I scarcely know what opinion to entertain of a general convention."
Time and circumstances work out many changes in human opinions. Washington's were modified by the logic of events, and he soon favored a convention of the states. He received letters from all parts of the country upon the subject of public affairs, and his answers, widely circulated, had a commanding influence. In his quiet home at Mount Vernon he was silently wielding the powers of a statesman, and his opinions were eagerly sought.
In 1785, commissioners appointed by Virginia and Maryland, to form a compact relative to the navigation of the waters belonging to them in comm.on, had visited Mount Vernon to consult with the retired soldier; and suggestions were then made and discussed concerning a stronger federal government, which led to important results. It led, primarily, to a general discussion by the people of the subject of the inef
ficiency of the federal government; then to a convention of delegates from a few states at Annapolis, in Maryland, in September, 1786; and, finally, to a more important convention the following year, on the recommendation of the Congress. The latter convention, composed of delegates from every state in the union except New Hampshire and Rhode Island, commenced its session in Philadelphia toward the close of May, 1787.
Washington was put at the head of the Virginia delegation, but for some time he refused to accept the position, having solemnly declared that he would never appear in public life again. But on all occasions that great man yielded private considerations to the public good. After consultations with friends he consented to serve, and on the 9th of May he set out in his carriage from Mount Vernon on a journey to Philadelphia. He was chosen president of the convention by unanimous vote, and for nearly four months he presided over the deliberations of that august assembly with great dignity. The convention adjourned on the 12th of September. On that day the present CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES was adopted, as a substitute for the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION. That constitution was submitted to the people for ratification. Toward the close of 1788 the majority of the states having signified their approval of it, the people proceeded to choose a chief magistrate of the republic.
For more than two years Washington kept a vigilant and anxious eye upon the movements of the public mind in relation to the national constitution. Day by day his correspondence increased, and he found himself again upon the sea of political life. Meanwhile the hospitable mansion at Mount
Vernon was frequently filled with visitors; and one whom Washington loved, as a soldier and as a friend, was invited there as a guest, with a request that he should remain as long
COLONEL DAVID HUMPHREYS.
as the house should be agreeable to him. That guest was David Humphreys, a native of Derby, Connecticut, and then about thirty-five years of age. He had received the diploma of Bachelor of Arts at Yale College in 1771, when the eminent Doctor Daggett was president. His cotemporaries there were Dwight, Trumbull, and Barlow, a triad of poets, with whom he was associated in paying court to the muse of song. Humphreys was a tutor in the family of the lord of Phillipse's manor, on the Hudson, for awhile, and then entered the continental army as a captain. He rose to the rank of lieutenantcolonel during the war, and toward the close became one of Washington's favorite aides. He went abroad in 1784, as