Sunday, February 25, 2007

Washingtonton's Greatest speech...

Many feel Washington's greatest speech, was George Washington's resignation as commander in chief, delivered in 1783 at the State House in Annapolis, which established civilian control of military power. If you are a history buff like I am, the article will be of great interest to you, as well as viewing an image of the actual speech.

My favorite part of the Washington Post article, in which I try to imagine what it would be like to have been there and to have lived in our country during that time period:

Then, at noon Dec. 23, 1783, the doors of Congress were thrown open, and in walked Washington. A throng had crowded the avenues. The Senate chamber was packed with delegates and spectators. Ladies filled the gallery.

Washington had carefully prepared his speech that day, according to the revisions in the newly acquired manuscript. It appears that he wanted to stress the importance of Congress and his subservience to it. He crossed out, for example, the word "deliver" and said instead, "I here offer my commission," leaving his resignation up to the will of Congress.

When he read it aloud, "the spectators all wept, and there was hardly a member of Congress who did not drop tears," McHenry writes in his account. "His voice faultered and sunk, and the whole house felt his agitations."

Washington paused to recover from the emotion.

From there, the draft originally ended: "bidding an affectionate, a final farewell to this August body . . . I here today deliver my Commission, and take my ultimate leave of all the employments of public life."

What is notable in the manuscript, however, is that Washington crossed out the words "final" and "ultimate," as though saying to Congress after years of wearying war and service he would be willing to serve again, if needed.

Five years later, he would indeed be called back into service -- this time, as the first president of the United States of America.

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