There has undoubtedly never been a President who received the veneration that was bestowed on George Washington, both in life and in death. On October 30, 1789 during his Inaugural Tour of New England, he passed through Ipswich and recorded the following in his journal:
“A little after 8 o’clock I set out for Newburyport; and crossed the bridge between Salem and Beverly. From this place, with escorts of horse, I passed on to Ipswich, about 10 miles; at the entrance of which I was met and welcomed by the Select men, received by a Regiment of Militia, and partook of a cold collation.”
The President’s meal had grown cold as he waded through the worshiping throng of adorers. Standing on the steps of Swasey’s Tavern facing the South Green, Washington surely presented the case for success of the new government. In our age of political Tweets, his words move us with their thoughtful elegance:
“It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will affect himself, his country, and the world for ages yet unborn.”
To the residents of Boston he wrote,
“Your love of liberty – your respect for the laws – your habits of industry – and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness.”
In September, 1796, President Washington retired after a lifetime of service, and expressed a dire concern in his Farewell Address to the People of the United States:
“The unity of government which constitutes you as one people is now dear to you, but it is easy to foresee that many artifices will be employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.
The alternating domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, will gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual who turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge; cultivate peace and harmony, and give to mankind the novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations.”
Rev. Frisbie’s Eulogy for George Washington
Washington’s death on December 14, 1799 commenced an extraordinary 69-day period of mourning. On January 7, the Rev. Levi Frisbie of First Church, standing at the pulpit made by Abraham Knowlton delivered “An Eulogy on the illustrious Character of the late General George Washington“:
“What words have an emphasis sufficient to express the gratitude we owe to God for the gift of a Washington, and the anguish and lamentation of our country that its illustrious Friend and Father is no more?
And yet he is not lost, he greatly lives in the benefit and glory of his actions, in the veneration and affection of his grateful countrymen, and will live in the records of the same as long as liberty and virtue shall be respected and admired.
His memory shall flow down the current of future generations, till they are lost in the ocean of eternity.“