III. Washington’s Address to Congress Resigning his Commission
[23 Dec. 1783]
The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country.
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 A diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the Supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.
The Successful termination of the War has verified the most sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Country-men, encreases with every review of the momentous Contest.
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 Service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.
I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
Text from Washington’s Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxvii, 284–5, from a photostat of the original draft in his hand that Washington presented to McHenry (DLC: McHenry Photostats). Steiner, writing in 1907, said that this “original draft … was given to McHenry and has been preserved by his descendants to this day” (Steiner, McHenry, p. 68). A facsimile was published in the Magazine of American History, vii (1881), p. 106. This was doubtless the copy made available to the committee engaged in framing a response; it may not have been actually presented to McHenry by Washington, but may have been retained by him as a member of the committee, its presence among his papers leading Steiner and others to assume that it was a more formal gift. A fair copy (and doubtless the copy that Washington employed in his appearance before Congress), in David Humphreys’ hand and signed by Washington, is in DLC: Washington Papers; it was the text employed in Washington’s Writings, ed. Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed.,The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,“Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends x (1891), p. 338.