Washington’s term as President ended at noon on March 4, 1797. He was present at the inauguration of President John Adams which immediately followed. On the 3d, besides attending to the final necessary routine, he wrote several letters of farewell to his immediate friends, including Henry Knox, Jonathan Trumbull, Timothy Pickering, and James McHenry. To all he expressed his grief at personal parting, but also immense relief and happiness in concluding his public career. He said, for instance, in his letter to Trumbull:
Although I shall resign the chair of government without a single regret, or any desire to intermeddle in politics again, yet there are many of my compatriots, among whom be assured I place you, from whom I shall part sorrowing; because, unless I meet with them at Mount Vernon, it is not likely that I shall ever see them more, as I do not expect that I shall ever be twenty miles from it, after I am tranquilly settled there. To tell you how glad I should be to see you at that place is unnecessary. To this I will add that it would not only give me pleasure, but pleasure also to Mrs. Washington, and others of the family with whom you are acquainted, and who all unite, in every good wish for you and yours.
[Footnote 1: Ford, XIII, 377.]
In a few days he returned to Mount Vernon and there indulged himself in a leisurely survey of the plantation. He rode from one farm to another and reacquainted himself with the localities where the various crops were either already springing or would soon be. Indoors there was an immense volume of correspondence to be attended to with the aid of Tobias Lear, the faithful secretary who had lived with the President during the New York and Philadelphia periods. When the letters were sorted, many answers had to be written, some of which Washington dictated and others he wrote with his own hand. He admits to Secretary McHenry that, when he goes to his writing table to acknowledge the letters he has received, when the lights are brought, he feels tired and disinclined to do this work, conceiving that the next night will do as well. “The next night comes,”