|General George Washington says farewell to his officers.|
Washington was described as so overcome with emotion that he was barely able to speak. The context was that the British soldiers left New York City two weeks before. This was the final victory, more than two years after they surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia. In the meantime the under-supplied and overworked Continental Army had narrowly survived several mutinies and, the autumn before, a near-coup. The Treaty of Paris was not signed until September 3, 1783, 20 years after the Treaty of Paris that ended the French and Indian Wars and made the independence of the colonies possible.
Following the signing of the Treaty, General Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Continental Army and retired to his home -- Mount Vernon, Virginia. He said goodbye to Congress as follows:
Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task; which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.Washington begged Congress to treat the veterans of the Revolutionary War with appreciation:
While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge, in this place, the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me, sir, to recommend in particular, those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.Washington's return to civilian life transformed a war into a revolution. He had been given dictatorial powers during the war. Some wanted Washington to become king. But he did not want this. Instead, he asked for land to be given to his veteran officers. The western lands offered this possibility. Washington's farewell to the nation and to his officers was short-lived. Five years later he was elected to the first of his two terms as president of the United States.