Today, the Washington Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers General Washington’s address to Congress 233 years ago.
From the Journals of the Continental Congress:
Tuesday, December 23, 1783.
Congress assembled. Present as before.
According to order, his Excellency the commander-in-chief was admitted to a public audience, and being seated, the President, after a pause, informed him, that the United States in Congress assembled were prepared to receive his communications.
Whereupon he arose, and addressed as follows:
Mr. President: 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appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task; which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.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 countrymen, increases 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 the 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 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.
He then advanced and delivered to the President his commission, with a copy of his address, and having resumed his place, the President (Thomas Mifflin) returned him the following answer:
Sir: The United States in Congress assembled receive, with emotions too affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities under which you have led their troops with success through a perilous and doubtful war.
Called upon by your country to defend its invaded rights, you accepted the sacred charge, before it had formed alliances, and whilst it was without funds or a government to support you.
You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power through all disasters and changes.
You have, by the love and confidence of your fellow-citizens, enabled them to display their martial genius, and transmit their fame to posterity.
You have persevered till these United States, aided by a magnanimous king and nation, have been enabled, under a just Providence, to close the war in freedom, safety, and independence; on which happy event we sincerely join you in congratulations.
Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world; having taught a lesson useful to those who inflict and to those who feel oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action, with the blessings of your fellow-citizens; but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command; it will continue to animate remotest ages.
We feel with you our obligations to the army in general, and will particularly charge ourselves with the interests of those confidential officers, who have attended your person to this affecting moment.
We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, beseeching Him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens to improve the opportunity afforded them of becoming a happy and respectable nation.
And for you we address to Him our earnest prayers, that a life so beloved may be fostered with all his care; that your days maybe happy as they have been illustrious; and that he will finally give you that reward which this world cannot give.
The Washington Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of artist John Trumbull’s painting of the resignation.