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Chapter Thirty. George Washington in Retirement

Alexia Jones Helsley


Subject History » Political History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics federalism, French Revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00032.x


Extract

On 9 March 1797 George Washington left Philadelphia for Mount Vernon. His years of public service at an end, he looked forward to retirement. He wanted to supervise his farms, recover financially, and give Martha the peaceful life she had always desired. Homecoming was not without its joys, but the years of public service weighed heavily on Washington. His retirement months were also critical for the new nation. On his successor's inaugural day, the imposing figures of Washington and fellow Virginian and now vice-president Thomas Jefferson flanked the diminutive John Adams. This image was a harbinger, perhaps, for Adams' administration: a small man dwarfed by giants - the departing giant Washington and the politically rising giant Jefferson. Although Washington and Adams shared similar political views, relations between them had never been close. When Adams won a narrow victory in the Electoral College, Washington's congratulations were “restrained and official” ( Ellis (2004) 239). He did not mention the inauguration in his diary. The entry for inaugural day, 4 March 1797 reads: “Much such a day as yesterday in all respects” (PGW, Diaries , 6:236). To complicate matters, gallantry and rancor were both part of the presidential transition. Following the 4 March inauguration of Adams and Jefferson, the outgoing president pointedly and graciously exited the chamber after the new ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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