17 February 1797
When we contemplate the near approach of your retirement from public to private Life, as announced to your Fellow Citizens, in your Address of the 17th of September last; we should be wanting in duty to our own feelings, and those of our Constituents, if we did not cordially embrace this last occasion, to join the grateful Voice of the American Nation, in the Acknowledgment of your long Services and patriotic Labors, in the Atchievement of our Independence, and the Establishment and Maintenance of our peace, Liberty and Safety.
In the House where we now deliberate, could we be silent, its walls, if they had utterance, would testify for us that they beheld you seated in our first Congress, and, at their Call, rising undaunted to lead our infant Armies to Victory or Death, in the cause of Liberty and our Country. They beheld you again, after the issue of that perilous, but auspicious Combat, seated in the same House, and presiding, eminently illustrious, among the illustrious Band of Statesmen and Patriots, who framed the present happy Constitution of the Union.
We forbear, Sir, a detail of your Services, as well before, as since, the Commencement of the Revolution. Were we adequate to the task, it would fall more properly within the Province of some future Historian, who cannot be suspected of personal Affection, or public prejudice.
It is our present duty only to express our grateful sense of your General Services. Prudent, firm and magnanimous in war; never despairing of the public Safety in the worst of times, nor elated by Success, in the best; confiding in, and confided by, your Country, to its greatest advantage; gloriously relinquishing your military Character, when the great national purposes for which it was assumed left you at liberty to seek your beloved retirement; and with equal glory, quitting that retirement, at the Call of your Country to execute its Councils and Commands in time of peace—the faithful Guardian and intelligent Organ of its Laws; maintaining its Freedom, asserting its Honor and Independence; and at last, when in your best Judgment, without an abatement of Love for your Country; you conceived that the time was come, when you might be safely indulged in a final return to that retirement which your years and Services merited—then bequeathing the fruits of your Wisdom and Experience in a Farewell Address, the Maxims and Precepts of which, we trust, will ever be regarded, as the richest Legacy of a Father to his Children and latest Posterity.
The same ardent affection which leads us, reluctantly, to acquiesce in your approaching retirement, commands our fervent wishes—that you may enjoy in this World the utmost Felicity of your Heart, in beholding the perpetual Prosperity of our Country, under a Succession of wise and virtuous Statesmen and Rulers, animated by your Example; and that when you are called from this World, you may be rewarded by the unbounded Felicity of the World to come.
DLC: Papers of George Washington.