IV. Report of a Committee on the Response by the President of Congress
[22 December 1783]
The Committee to whom were referred &c. have agreed to the following report.1
The U.S. in congress assembled receive with emotions too affecting for utterance this solemn Resignation2 of the authorities3 under which you have led their4 troops with Success5 through a perilous and a doubtful war. Called by your country to defend its invaded rights you accepted the sacred charge before it6 had formed alliances, and whilst it7 was without funds or a government to support you. You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude invariably regarding the rights of the civil power8 through all disasters and changes. You have by the love and confidence of your fellow citizens enabled them to display their martial genius and transmit their fame to posterity. You have persevered till these united States, aided by a magnanimous king and nation have been enabled under a just providence to close the war in freedom safety and independence, on which happy event we sincerely join you in congratulations.9
Having defended10 the standard of liberty in this new world: having taught a lesson useful to those who inflict and to those who feel oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action11 with the blessings of your fellow citizens—but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military Command.12 It will continue to animate remotest ages.13
We feel with you our obligations to the army in general, and will particularly charge ourselves with the interests of those confidential officers who have attended your person to this affecting14 moment.
We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of almighty god, beseeching him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens to improve the opportunity afforded15 them of becoming a happy and respectable nation: And for you we address to him our warmest prayers, that a life so beloved may be fostered with all his care; that your days may be happy as they have been illustrious, and that he will finally give you that reward which this world cannot give.
MS (DLC: PCC, No. 19, vi, f. 461–4); in James McHenry’s hand with the exceptions noted below; endorsed: “Report of a Committee Decr. 23d. 1783. Answer of Congress to Genl. Washington.” A fair copy of the text of the response as finally approved is in DLC: Washington Papers; it is in Thomson’s hand. Only the more important of the alterations in the text are noted below. Those parts in italics are (as they were in TJ’s “fair copy”) “expressions taken from the General’s address.” But these borrowings were not exact. Where Washington spoke of “my obligations to the army in general,” the present text reads “our obligations”; also, Washington spoke of the “opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation” and the committee made it read “a happy and respectable nation” (Washington’s original draft, however, had added at this point, and then deleted, the following: “as well as in the contemplation of our national happiness”; Writings, ed. Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed.,The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,“Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends x, 339, note 2).
1. The caption is in TJ’s hand; for the significance of this, see editorial note at head of this series of documents. A vertical line was drawn through the two-line caption, probably by Thomson before making his fair copy for Washington.
2. The word “Resignation” is interlined in substitution for “deposit.”
3. This word is underlined as if an amendment had been moved but not adopted.
4. The report originally read “us”; this was changed by TJ who interlined the words “our troops”; the word “our” was then deleted and “their” substituted, apparently by Gerry.
5. This word was interlined in substitution for “safety and triumph.”
6. The MS originally read “we”; this was deleted and “they” interlined in Gerry’s hand; this, in turn, was deleted for “it,” a change probably made by Congress, since “it” is in Thomson’s hand.
7. The same change that took place as indicated in note 6 was made here, “were” being changed in consequence to “was.”
8. This word is interlined in substitution for “government.”
9. The preceding ten words are interlined in TJ’s hand.
10. This word is interlined in substitution for “planted,” an alteration probably made by Congress.
11. The word “loaded” is deleted at this point.
12. This passage was involved in many minor changes, most of them probably being made in committee; the words “military Command” are interlined in substitution for “official life,” which in turn was a substitution for “public life.”
13. This passage was altered from the following: “… remotest posterity and this last act will not be among the least conspicuous.”
14. This word is interlined in substitution for “interesting.”
15. This word is interlined by TJ in substitution for “offered.”