Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Washington bids farewell to his officers

George Washington walked away on this day, 229 years ago. The last of the British had withdrawn only nine days before.

On December 4, 1783, Washington met his officers for a final time at Fraunces Tavern in New York City. (This was a far less dangerous gathering than one Washington had faced in March. On that earlier occasion, Washington had, in large part, defused a possible military coup -- the Newburgh Conspiracy -- by simply putting on his spectacles in order to read his prepared remarks.)

At Fraunces Tavern, Washington made no speech. He took a glass of wine with his officers and said only, "With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable."

After the toast, Washington said, "I cannot come to each of you but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand." After this, Washington went home to Mt. Vernon, pausing only long enough in Annapolis (where the Continental Congress was then meeting) to resign his commission. Like Cincinnatus, Washington returned to his plow.

Meanwhile, in Great Britain, another George, George III, asked the American painter Benjamin West what Washington would do now that the British had been defeated. West told the King that Washington would go into voluntary retirement on his farm. "If he does that," said an astounded George III, "he will be the greatest man in the world."

Today is also National Cookie Day and Santa's List Day. The seasonal tie-ins are obvious here. But no one seems to know why December 4 is also Wear Brown Shoes Day or National Dice Day. We sure don't.

Image obtained from this Fraunces Tavern Museum site.

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