The Worlds Famous Orations. America: I. (17611837). 1906.
I. On His Appointment as Commander-in-Chief
George Washington (173299)
Born in 1732, died in 1799; Adjutant of Virginia troops in 1751; sent on a mission to the French beyond the Allegheny River in 1753; defended Fort Necessity in 1754; with Braddock at his defeat in 1755; led the advance guard to Fort Duquesne in 1758; Member of the Continental Congresses in 17741775; made Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775; resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief in 1783; President of the Constitutional Convention in 1787; elected President of the United States in 1789; reelected President in 1793; Commander-in-Chief of the Army in 1798.
THO1 I am truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service and for the support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.
But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare, with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
As to pay, sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire.2
Note 1. Washington had been chosen general and commander-in-chief by the Continental Congress sitting in Philadelphia on June 15, 1775that is, two days before the Battle of Bunker Hill. During the discussion in Congress as to the proper person to receive this appointment, John Adams, in favoring Washington, described him as a gentleman whose skill and experience as an officer, whose independent fortune, great talents, and excellent universal character, would command the approbation of all America, and unite the cordial exertions of all the Colonies better than any other person in the Union. On the following day the president of Congress officially notified Washington of his appointment, requesting his acceptance. In reply, Washington made the speech here given, as recorded in the journals of Congress. [back]
Note 2. Washington kept such an account, and at the end of the war presented it to Congress as drawn up by his own hand. A facsimile of it has been published by Franklin Knight. [back]