THE LAST YEARS
Washington had entered upon the presidency with the utmost reluctance, and at the sacrifice of all he considered pleasantest and best in life. He took it and held it for eight years from a sense of duty, and with no desire to retain it beyond that which every man feels who wishes to finish a great work that he has undertaken. He looked forward to the approaching end of his second term with a feeling of intense relief, and compared himself to the wearied traveler who sees the resting-place where he is at length to have repose. On March 3 he gave a farewell dinner to the President and Vice-President elect, the foreign ministers and their wives, and other distinguished persons, from one of whom we learn that it was a very pleasant and lively gathering. When the cloth was removed Washington filled his glass and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the last time I shall drink your health as a public man. I do it with sincerity, wishing you all possible happiness.” The company did not take the same cheerful view as their host of this leave-taking. There was a pause in the gayety, some of the ladies shed tears, and the little incident only served to show the warm affection felt for Washington by every one who came in close contact with him.
The next day the last official ceremonies were performed. After Jefferson had taken the oath as Vice-President and had proceeded with the Senate to the House of Representatives, which was densely crowded, Washington entered and was received with cheers and shouts, the waving of handkerchiefs, and an enthusiasm which seemed to know no bounds. Mr. Adams followed him almost immediately and delivered his inaugural address, in which he paid a stately compliment to the great virtues of his predecessor. It was the setting and not the rising sun, however, that drew the attention of the multitude, and as Washington left the hall there was a wild rush from the galleries to the corridors and then into the streets to see him pass. He took off his hat and bowed to the people, but they followed him even to his own door, where he turned once more and, unable to speak, waved to them a silent farewell.
In the evening of the same day a great banquet was given to him by the merchants of Philadelphia, and when he entered the band played “Washington’s March,” and a series of emblematic paintings were disclosed, the chief of which represented the ex-President at Mount Vernon surrounded by the allegorical figures then so fashionable. After the festivities Washington lingered for a few days in Philadelphia to settle various private matters and then started for home. Whether he was going or coming, whether he was about to take the great office of President or retire to the privacy of Mount Vernon, the same popular enthusiasm greeted him. When he was really brought in contact with the people, the clamors of the opposition press and the attacks of the Jeffersonian editors all faded away and were forgotten. On March 12 he reached Baltimore, and the local newspaper of the next day said:—