Autograph from Winsor’s “America.”
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WORKING FOR UNION
Having resigned his commission, Washington stood not upon the order of his going, but went at once to Virginia, and reached Mount Vernon the next day, in season to enjoy the Christmas-tide at home. It was with a deep sigh of relief that he sat himself down again by his own fireside, for all through the war the one longing that never left his mind was for the banks of the Potomac. He loved home after the fashion of his race, but with more than common intensity, and the country life was dear to him in all its phases. He liked its quiet occupations and wholesome sports, and, like most strong and simple natures, he loved above all an open-air existence. He felt that he had earned his rest, with all the temperate pleasures and employments which came with it, and he fondly believed that he was about to renew the habits which he had abandoned for eight weary years. Four days after his return he wrote to Governor Clinton: “The scene is at last closed. I feel myself eased of a load of public care. I hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good men and in the practice of the domestic virtues.” That the hope was sincere we may well suppose, but that it was more than a hope may be doubted. It was a wish, not a belief, for Washington must have felt that there was still work which he would surely be called to do. Still for the present the old life was there, and he threw himself into it with eager zest, though age and care put some of the former habits aside. He resumed his hunting, and Lafayette sent him a pack of splendid French wolf-hounds. But they proved somewhat fierce and unmanageable, and were given up, and after that the following of the hounds was never resumed. In other respects there was little change. The work of the plantation and the affairs of the estate, much disordered by his absence, once more took shape and moved on successfully under the owner’s eye. There were, as of old, the long days in the saddle, the open house and generous hospitality, the quiet evenings, and the thousand and one simple labors and enjoyments of rural life. But with all this were the newer and deeper cares, born of the change which had been wrought in the destiny of the country. The past broke in and could not be pushed aside, the future knocked at the door and demanded an answer to its questionings.