announced by the PRESIDENT, in his
Proclamation of the 6th of January last:
at whose request it was delivered.
PRINTED by JOHN ORMROD, No. 41 CHESNUT-STREET
IT has been usual with all nations, from the earliest periods of society, to pay funeral honours to the memories of departed heroes, statesmen, and other persons of distinguished characters; especially of such as have been raised up by divine providence to be the benefactors of mankind.
Among the Jews, whose historical records reach higher than those of any other nation, we find that this practice early prevailed. Thus, we read, that the patriarch Jacob was embalmed [3/4] by order of his son Joseph, and that the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days: that afterwards Joseph, with the attendants of Pharaoh's court, the principal Egyptians, and all the house of Israel, accompanied his remains to the place of interment; and that when they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which was beyond Jordan, they mourned for him with a great and sore lamentation during seven days. [Genesis 50. 2-11.] Thus we also read, that the children of Israel testified their respect for Moses, and grief for his death, by a public mourning of thirty days in the plains of Moab.
In conformity with this very ancient, general and laudable custom, and deeply penetrated with the magnitude of the loss this country has sustained in the death of its beloved and illustrious WASHINGTON, Congress resolved, among other testimonies of grief and respect, "to recommend to the citizens of the United States to assemble" on this day, "in such numbers, [4/5] and manner as might be convenient," to manifest their sorrow for that mournful event "by suitable eulogies, orations and discourses, or by public prayer." And surely, if it were ever right, publicly to mourn on account of the death of a great and good man, if funeral honours may at any time properly be paid, this is the occasion which most forcibly demands a nation's tears. WASHINGTON the good, the wise and the brave, is eminently entitled to such tributes of respect.
This being the object for which we have assembled, it will comport well with the occasion to attempt a brief detail of the virtues which most conspicuously shone in the life of that beloved and celebrated chief: and to make some observations on the loss we have sustained, and on the sources of consolation we possess.
It cannot be expected that I should do justice to the merits, or accurately and fully delineate [5/6] the character of a hero and statesman, who appeared with so much lustre on the theatre of the world, who excited the admiration, engaged the esteem, and commanded the applause of the most virtuous and enlightened of every nation. Neither the limits of this discourse, nor the abilities of the speaker are adequate to a theme so copious, so noble, and so worthy of an eulogist of the most distinguished reputation and capacity.
In very early life this illustrious personage discovered those military talents and virtues, which were afterwards to make so conspicuous a figure in this western world; which, under GOD, brought into existence, and permanently established the first civilized empire on these extensive shores. When about nineteen years of age (such were his promising abilities) he received an appointment in the department of adjutant-general of the then colony of Virginia, with the rank of Major. Shortly after he had [6/7] attained to the age of twenty-one, he was sent by Governor Dinwiddie, with full powers, to execute the unpleasant and perilous office of warning a French commander, who had marched from Canada with a body of troops, and was erecting a fortress within the British territory to the west, to desist from his hostile purpose. This important business he performed with a prudence, skill and address far above his years. In doing which, he had to travel many hundred miles, on foot, through a gloomy wilderness, and over tremendous mountains; and was continually exposed to the most imminent dangers. It would lead me into too long a detail, to notice his exploits, his trials and his sufferings, in the war that succeeded. Suffice it, that I just mention his skill and courage, in extricating the remains of the ill-fated Braddock's army from inevitable destruction, when totally defeated by the French and Indians, and in bringing them off from the field of battle.
 When the sun of American prosperity was gradually diminishing in lustre, by the intervention of the dark clouds of oppression; when the people were roused to resistance by a sense of their wrongs, and the prospect of their continuance and increase; with what diffidence of his abilities, but at the same time with what alacrity and disinterestedness, did he obey the call of his country to organize, and command her armies, in a contest so doubtful, and so perilous. Disdaining the meaner considerations of personal safety, and security of property, he embarked on the sea of the revolution, and, with the purest patriotism, determined to deliver his country from meditated slavery, or perish in the attempt.
What difficulties he had to surmount in reducing an undisciplined mass of men, taken from the work-shop and the plough, to that order and subordination, necessary in a regular army; and this in the presence of a numerous [8/9] veteran enemy, commanded by officers of high reputation in Europe, and furnished with the whole apparatus of war, must be evident to all, who have had the slightest experience in military affairs:--Yet did he not shrink from the arduous undertaking, but with that magnanimity, patience and unwearied exertion, which are the attributes of a great commander, he overcame all obstacles, and finally made himself and his troops, not only respected, but feared by his haughty and contemptuous foe.
With what equanimity and fortitude he bore the reverses of fortune, his conduct in the disastrous campaign of '76, affords the most ample testimony; and with what military skill, address, and valour he retrieved the losses he had sustained at that momentous period, raised the dejected spirits of his country-men, and turned the tide of success in their favour, the enterprizing, and well directed [9/10] attack of Trenton, and the memorable fields of Princeton, will ever be conspicuous monuments.
His suavity of manners, strict integrity, uniform moderation, refined humanity and dignity of deportment, both commanded the veneration, and engaged the affections of the officers and soldiers of his army. Never was there a commander, perhaps, so universally and affectionately beloved, so nearly idolized by all ranks of his troops. Envy, except in a solitary and contemptible instance, kept at a respectful distance, and durst not approach such pre-eminent, such resplendent virtues. Within the sphere of their blaze it immediately sickened and died. Nor was he the delight and the admiration of the army alone: his fellow citizens of all ranks, who had embarked in the same cause, looked up to him, under God, as their political saviour. At the very mention of his name, gratitude swelled every bosom, pleasure and hope brightened every countenance. [10/11] Even those who differed from him in opinion, and considered the revolution as an unwarrantable insurrection against lawful authority, were constrained to acknowledge the greatness of his virtues, and to give to his character the praises it merited. He was indeed a singular instance of possessing, in a high degree, the esteem, both of his political friends and foes. It was a general remark, during the revolutionary war that no man spoke disrespectfully of GENERAL WASHINGTON. How honourable to our country would it have been, had there not since been found men, in its bosom, so destitute of truth, justice and gratitude, as to calumniate a character so pure, so excellent, and so peculiarly undeserving of censure.
But, my hearers, the most distinguished of the virtues for which he is celebrated, were the astonishing integrity, self-denial and patriotism, which he exhibited at the close of the revolution. When the important objects for which [11/12] he had drawn the sword were accomplished; when Great Britain had acknowledged the independence of the United States, and regular troops were no longer necessary; with a magnanimity, and rectitude of heart, rarely found in the history of man, he disbanded an army, with which, in all probability, he might have put himself at the head of affairs; voluntarily gave in his resignation, and, without accepting any compensation for his long meritorious services, or desiring any pre-eminence above a people whom he had so highly obliged; retired, like Cincinnatus and Doria, from the splendid and captivating scenes of victory, power and renown, to the plain and humble walks of private life. Such disinterestedness, such a sacred regard to the rights and happiness of mankind, was a brilliant instance of the due restraint of those strong passions, ambition and avarice, so powerful, and so prevalent in the human breast. The glory of the [12/13] hero was thus exceeded in splendor by the virtues of the man. His name and character, which the trumpet of fame had already borne on the western gales to the remotest borders of the old world, by these acts of moderation and generosity, became precious to the friends of virtue and liberty, wherever situated, and were the favourite and standing subjects of their most exalted encomiums. WASHINGTON and virtue, WASHINGTON and sage, WASHINGTON and hero, and WASHINGTON and patriot, were in their ideas and language, synonymous terms.
Had his patriotism, his services, and his magnanimity been circumscribed by the revolution, they would even then have rendered his fame immortal. His name would have been transmitted to the latest posterity, with deserved admiration and applause; and myriads yet unborn would have revered his memory, and have given to him the appellations of father of his country, and friend of the human race. But, [13/14] my hearers, it was not sufficient that he bore so conspicuous a part in the establishment of his country's independence. An important work remained to perform, in which his wisdom, firmness and amor patria were to blaze with increased splendour. He had not yet accomplished all the great purposes, for which, that wise and good BEING, "who ruleth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth," had graciously given him to this western world.
The articles of confederation, by which the several States had associated to make the contest with Great Britain a common cause, were found, on experiment, to be inadequate to the preservation of the union, and the government of so extensive an empire, after the revolution was completed. Hence it was proposed to call a convention of delegates from all the States to adopt some plan to remedy these defects. The proposal was agreed to. In this convention [14/15] GENERAL WASHINGTON appeared as a representative from Virginia. All eyes, at once, fixed on him as President of this august body, who had so justly and clearly pointed out the defects of the confederation, in his circular letter to the several Governors, at the period of his resignation. He accepted the office. This venerable band of sages and patriots, with the first of sages and patriots at its head, after a long and laborious session, produced that admirable constitution, under which, with the divine blessing, we have so rapidly progressed in prosperity at home, and in respectability abroad. When a sufficient number of States had ratified this constitution, and the time had arrived when it should go into operation, upon what illustrious personage did the judgment, and the affections of the American people centre, as their first leader in an experiment so novel, and so grand? Was not WASHINGTON, the hero and the sage, the object of their decided [15/16] and unanimous choice? With what reluctance he left the peaceful shades of private life, with what diffidence of his abilities he consented to undertake the arduous office of Chief Magistrate, are fresh in the memory of his grateful countrymen. Who has forgotten the bursts of joy, which issued from all ranks, when it was publicly announced that he had consented to gratify the wishes of his admiring fellow-citizens? Who can ever forget the enthusiastic, the unfeigned expressions of gladness, and tributes of respect and affection, which were manifested in every populous town and village, on his rout from Mount-Vernon to the seat of government.
The wise and upright system of policy which he adopted as the basis of his administration, his determination to accept of no compensation for the services he should render, and his public and pious dedication of himself to the disposal and guidance of Almighty God, while performing the important duties of President, cannot have escaped our memories; and must, whenever recollected, excite in our bosoms the highest admiration and respect for his wisdom and piety, and the profoundest gratitude for his benevolence and generosity.
Altho' he ardently desired to retire from the toil, the distraction, and the responsibility of so exalted a station, when his presidential term had expired; and frequently sighed for the tranquility, ease and felicity of private life, which his advanced age was every day rendering more necessary; and altho' he had actually prepared his farewell-address to his beloved countrymen; yet when he discovered the ardent desire, which universally prevailed, that he should continue in office at that momentous period of human affairs, when the political edifices of Europe were tottering to their basis, and anarchy, with her devastating hand, had [17/18] already begun to make rapid strides among some of the most distinguished of the nations of the earth; how nobly, how generously did he again sacrifice his personal happiness to the wishes of his fellow-citizens, and to the welfare of the nation.
Elected the second time to the presidential chair, by the unanimous voice of the people, he pursued invariably the same honest and enlightened plan of policy, which had distinguished his administration during the former period. Studying the true interest, and happiness of the United States; and shuddering at the horrors, and calamities of war; he resolutely determined to pursue a system of perfect neutrality towards the belligerent powers, and to take the necessary steps to check that violent and active partiality for the French revolutionists; which, fostered by the base and insidious artifices of their official and private agents, had already advanced to an alarming height. Hence his proclamation for [18/19] that purpose, which, whilst it happily defeated the designs of those, who would have involved us in a perilous and ruinous contest, displayed that unshaken firmness of mind, which, disregarding the popular discontents of the moment, inflexibly and intrepidly pursues the dictates of wisdom and rectitude. Altho' this firm and decided conduct drew upon him the enmity of the friends of disorder, and of the admirers of French principles, and exposed him to the bitterest and most rancourous shafts of calumny; yet it will stand upon the historic page among the most brilliant acts of his political life, and a grateful and impartial posterity will justly appreciate the wisdom, the courage, and the humanity which prompted it.
When the term of his office had a second time nearly expired, constant in his purposes of retiring from the cares and tumults of public life, to the calm sweets of domestic tranquility, he acquainted his fellow-citizens with his intention of declining to stand a candidate at [19/20] a future election. And when the moment arrived, which terminated his presidential course, he voluntarily closed his political career, bid a final adieu, as he hoped, to public employment, and with the fairest and purest reputation, repeatedly tried in the furnace of perils and temptations; covered with glory, exalted in the esteem and admiration of his worthy cotemporaries, and followed with the blessings of a grateful people, he again retired to his private estate, to enjoy the quiet and repose for which he had never ceased to sigh.
With this close of his administration, like a tender and experienced parent consulting the welfare and felicity of his children, he gave us the wisest counsel for our future conduct; which if diligently and faithfully observed, cannot fail, under God, to make us a great, respectable and happy nation. His farewell-address, in which this advice was presented to us, is a noble monument of the strength and penetration [20/21] of his mind, the correctness of his judgment, the dignity of his thoughts and language, the rectitude of his heart, and his firm belief that religion is indispensable to the existence of society, and to the happiness of man. While rational liberty, and national dignity; while just notions of government, and a proper sense of the inestimable value of religion, continue to exist in the United States; this address will be read with the highest pleasure, approbation, and gratitude, and be considered as a standard production in the science of politics.
Hardly had he rested from the toils of his eight years administration, and begun to taste the sweets of retirement and ease, when his country again called loudly for her WASHINGTON. The pacific measures adopted to adjust our differences with the French government having failed of success, our ambassadors having been treated by it with disrespect, and even insult, and its depredations on our commerce [21/22] having increased to an alarming degree; it became necessary to have recourse to arms in defence of our property and rights. A navy was ordered. An army was decreed. What gallant Chief shall again lead our troops to victory and glory, became at once an anxious enquiry in each patriotic breast; and the almost hopeless wish that the Hero of independence, tho' grey, and wearied with public employment, would condescend to accept of the arduous office, agitated every bosom. No sooner was it announced, by the publication of his letter of acceptance, that the veteran chief, indignant at the injurious treatment his country had received from the perfidious and unjust rulers of France, had consented once more to leave the abodes of peace, and unsheath the sword in her defence, than joy smoothed every countenance, confidence, and courage succeeded doubt and alarm; and the whole country took the attitude of resistance, believing that, under such a commander, [22/23] with the blessing of GOD, they had nothing to fear from the menaces of their haughty and insolent foe.
With this act he gloriously terminated his public services. Neither opportunity, nor years were afforded him to prove how much more he would have sacrificed for his country's good.
Thus eminently brave, patriotic and wise, thus singularly modest, unassuming and just, and thus incomparably beloved, esteemed and revered by his grateful countrymen, our WASHINGTON stands unrivalled on the vast roll of fame.
It is with inexpressible pleasure I now observe, that the most brilliant trait in his character is yet to be mentioned. This celebrated chieftain, patriot and sage was also a christian. What lustre does this add to his gigantic reputation? How vastly inferior to him, in intrinsic excellence, are those chiefs and legislators, however learned and ingenious, who, vain of [23/24] their understandings, have adopted the fashionable, though erroneous and pernicious philosophy of the times! Rejecting that wisdom which is foolishness, he suffered himself to be guided by the dictates of revelation, in conjunction with his unbiassed and uncorrupted reason; and depended, no doubt, on the goodness of GOD to preserve him from error. Thus he was not only a respectful friend to religion, and a constant frequenter of divine service; but he was a worthy member of the christian Church. He availed himself of the benefits of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and lived, apparently, in the uniform practice of the duties he inculcated. The eminent virtues of his life, his patriotism, modesty and humanity; his disinterestedness, justice and purity; his declarations of humble dependence on the aid and protection of Almighty GOD; his devout aspirations for the happiness and welfare [24/25] of his country, and his uniform piety, [Shortly after the revolution, I was told by a gentleman, who had been one of his aids, that he never retired to his couch, even in times of tumult and confusion, till he had bent the knee in humble thanksgiving, and fervent supplication to the Great Eternal.] were strong proofs of the influence of religion on his heart. His faith and devotion, though sincere and ardent, were rational and consistent. They were neither tinctured with the gloom of superstition, nor with the extravagance of enthusiasm. His religion was
"Not that which broods upon the surly brow,
"Or walks on frozen joints demure and slow,
"At truth and virtue, points the fatal wound
"Swells on the tongue and vanishes in sound:
"But that whose influence fires the angelic band,
"Smooths the rough bosom; opes the narrow hand;
"Serenely brightens in the cheerful face;
"Casts round each act unutterable grace,
"With rising morning bows the secret knee,
"And wafts, great GOD, the humble soul to Thee."
[Dr. Dwight's Conquest of Canaan.]
 But, my respected hearers, however much we may have been diverted from the melancholy reflections, which this occasion is so well calculated to awaken, by having thus retraced, with the sweetest satisfaction, the wisdom, the virtues, the achievements, and especially the piety of our beloved and pre-eminent Chief; yet the delusion cannot last. We must return to the gloom, and the sadness of grief. That great and good man, that first of citizens, and first of heroes, "O! how my heart trembles to relate it!" is gone, irrevocably gone, to the mansions of the dead! His fine majestic form, so expressive of native dignity; his mild but animated countenance, so true an index of the excellencies of his mind; that corporeal mansion, in which he ran his glorious earthly race, has ceased to be the habitation of his immortal part, and, like all terrestrial things, is now rapidly decaying, and mouldering to its native dust. Alas [26/27] no more shall we see that interesting figure, that placid but manly face; to behold which was the luxury of curiosity, and the pride and delight of the heart. No more shall the music of his voice charm our admiring ears. Ah! no more shall our gallant soldiers follow their WASHINGTON to victory and fame. No more shall the influence of his name be the palladium of our republic, and the terror of faction. The loss we have sustained, according to our finite calculations, is truly immense and irreparable. No mortal's death, since the existence of man, has been more sincerely and universally deplored. But while we grieve for the excessive calamity we have experienced, let us remember, that death is inseparable from our nature; that nothing within the limits of human excellence and attainments, can rescue any one from that inevitable fate which awaits us all: that if the summit of human glory, if the [27/28] brightest virtues of man, if the tears and supplications of a nation, if the respect and applauses of a world; in fine, if the whole assemblage of mortal honours and perfections could have revoked that destiny of our nature, WASHINGTON, our glory and our delight, would not have died. Under the impression of this self-evident truth, however excessive our loss, we should not repine; but, with entire resignation, consider that the ways of Heaven, though inextricable by our limited capacities, are not-withstanding fraught with infinite wisdom, and consummate goodness. Let us therefore dry up our tears, and while we cordially and cheerfully submit to a dispensation of Providence so peculiarly afflictive, let us make our grateful acknowledgements to the Source of all good for his distinguishing favour, in sparing, so long, a life so precious, and so useful.
 Shall we stop here, my respected audiences, and seek no further for an alleviation of our sorrow? Are there not consolations more ample and joyful yet remaining? Yes, infinitely more. Our WASHINGTON is not dead!
"Dignum laude virum musa vetat mori. Coelo musa beat" [Horace.]
He has only exchanged a world of temptation and woe, for a world of bliss and glory eternal. "I am the resurrection and the life;" saith the Lord, "He that believeth in me, tho' he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die." [Luke II. 25, 26.] Having devoted a life, full of years, to the most honourable and beneficial offices; having been the bulwark of his country in war, and her Mentor in peace, and having [29/30] set the purest and brightest examples of virtue, and piety, before his successors, before his countrymen and the world, his course being finished, he left all that was mortal behind him, and soared like a Cherub to the realms of perpetual day; and is now resting, we trust, in the bosom of his Saviour and GOD, and enjoying the sweet rewards of his well-spent life.
O divine revelation! who openest to us such enchanting hopes, who affordest us such sources of real consolation in the calamity we deplore, and in others of a similar nature; may we, like that incomparable man, never forsake thy luminous, thy heart-cheering paths, for the dark, gloomy and uncomfortable mazes of infidelity and doubt.
Having, therefore, such ample reasons to be satisfied with this dispensation of heaven, [30/31] and to be resigned to HIS will, "whose wisdom is unerring, and whose goodness is unchangeable and everlasting," will it be considered an improper conclusion to direct our attention, for a moment, to the solemn event of our own deaths? We have seen that no virtues, however excellent; no services, however beneficial and extensive; no honours, however numerous and grand; can deliver us from the power of the king of terrors. Die we must. It becomes then a subject of serious concern to us, whether or not we are prepared to follow our beloved and admired brother into the world of happy spirits. That we may draw a just conclusion, let us remember, that it is by the arduous path of faith, piety and benevolence, we must climb the heavenly mount. The beaten road of unbelief, ungodliness and immorality leads directly down to the shades of eternal death.
If heaven be our object, we must follow the path that conducts to it. If we hope again to [31/32] behold our beloved and much lamented WASHINGTON, we must live as WASHINGTON lived. "We must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world." [Titus 2. 12.] Thrice happy they, who undeviatingly pursue this sublime course! At that awful hour, so tremendous to the wicked, they may say, with composure, as our WASHINGTON said in his last moments; "I have no fear to die" O blessed exit! how devoutly to be desired! May Infinite Goodness make ours as happy!