George Washington's resignation as commander-in-chief
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George Washington's resignation as commander-in-chief marked the end of Washington's military service in the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was a major war of the American Revolution. Widely considered as the war that secured the independence of t ...
and his return to civilian life at
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. His voluntary action has been described as "one of the nation's great acts of statesmanship" and helped establish the precedent of
civilian control of the military Civilian control of the military is a doctrine in military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a ...
. After the Treaty of Paris ending the war had been signed on September 3, 1783, and after the last British troops left New York City on November 25, Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the
Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the United Colonies (the Thirteen Colonies) in the American Revolution, Revolutionary-era United States. It was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary Wa ...
to the
Congress of the Confederation The Congress of the Confederation, or the Confederation Congress, formally referred to as the United States in Congress Assembled, was the governing body of the United States of America during the Confederation period, March 1, 1781 – Marc ...
, then meeting in the
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at
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, on December 23 of the same year. This followed his farewell to the Continental Army, November 2 at Rockingham near
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, and his farewell to his officers, December 4 at
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in
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. Washington's resignation was depicted by John Trumbull in 1824 with the life-size painting, '' General George Washington Resigning His Commission'', now on view in the
United States Capitol rotunda The United States Capitol rotunda is the tall central Rotunda (architecture), rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. It has been described as the Capitol's "symbolic and physical heart". Built between 1818 and 1824, the rotund ...
.


History

Washington arrived at Annapolis on December 19, 1783, and was greeted by General William Smallwood and General Horatio Gates at the Three Mile Oak. The next day, he wrote to Congress about the method to resign, whether in person or by writing. The
President of the Continental Congress The president of the United States in Congress Assembled, known unofficially as the president of the Continental Congress and later as the president of the Congress of the Confederation, was the presiding officer of the Continental Congress, the ...
,
Thomas Mifflin Thomas Mifflin (January 10, 1744January 20, 1800) was an American merchant, soldier, and politician from Pennsylvania, who is regarded as a Founding Father of the United States for his roles during and after the American Revolution. Mifflin was ...
, appointed a committee of
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 18 ...
, James McHenry, and
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to determine the details. On Monday, December 22, Congress honored Washington with a feast at Mann's Tavern, attended by between two and three hundred gentlemen. Later that night, a public ball was held in his honor by Maryland Governor
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at the State House. Nearly six hundred guests attended. Historian Willard Sterne Randall describes the evening: "George Washington, a famous dancer, astonished French officers with his skill and grace at the minuet." At noon, on Tuesday, December 23,
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, secretary of the Continental Congress, led Washington, accompanied by two of his aides-de-camp, Col. David Humphreys and Col. Benjamin Walker, into the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House. While depicted in some paintings of the event,
Martha Washington Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (June 21, 1731 — May 22, 1802) was the wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington served as the inaugural ...
was not actually in attendance. Then Washington delivered his remarks to the assembly: As the last act of his resignation, Washington handed his commission and his speech to President Mifflin. The next day, December 24, Washington left for his residence,
Mount Vernon Mount Vernon is an American landmark and former Plantation complexes in the Southern United States, plantation of Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father, commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War, Revo ...
.


Legacy

Historian Gordon S. Wood, the recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for '' The Radicalism of the American Revolution'' (1992), writes in his book: On May 3, 1797,
King George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and of Monarchy of Ireland, Ireland from 25 October 1760 until Acts of Union 1800, the union of the two kingdoms on 1 January 1801, after which he was ...
told the American painter
Benjamin West Benjamin West, (October 10, 1738 – March 11, 1820) was a British-American artist who painted famous historical scenes such as ''The Death of Nelson (West painting), The Death of Nelson'', ''The Death of General Wolfe'', the ''Treaty of Paris ...
his opinion of Washington (as reported by West to ambassador Rufus King): The American artist, John Trumbull, a former ''aide-de-camp'' to Washington, after receiving word of Washington's resignation, wrote to his brother Jonathan Trumbull Jr. that it: Later, in describing his painting, '' General George Washington Resigning His Commission'', Trumbull considered Washington's resignation "one of the highest moral lessons ever given to the world". The historian Thomas Fleming described the significance of the event:


Artistic depictions

Washington's resignation has been depicted by several artists in both paintings and sculptures. Raimondo Trentanove carved a
bas-relief Relief is a sculptural method in which the sculpted pieces are bonded to a solid background of the same material. The term ''wikt:relief, relief'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the impres ...
of this scene on the pedestal of
Antonio Canova Antonio Canova (; 1 November 1757 – 13 October 1822) was an Italian Neoclassical sculptor, famous for his marble sculptures. Often regarded as the greatest of the Neoclassical artists,. his sculpture was inspired by the Baroque and the cl ...
's ''
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Appointed by the ...
'' that was installed in the North Carolina State House in 1821. Both were destroyed by fire in 1831. Trumbull's 1824 life-size painting, '' General George Washington Resigning His Commission'', can be seen in the
United States Capitol rotunda The United States Capitol rotunda is the tall central Rotunda (architecture), rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. It has been described as the Capitol's "symbolic and physical heart". Built between 1818 and 1824, the rotund ...
. In 1829, the sculptor completed the statue of Washington resigning his commission that is atop the
Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk shaped building within the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate George Washington, once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army (1775–1784) in the American Revolutionary War and the ...
in
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. In 1840, Horatio Greenough completed his
sculpture Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. Sculpture is the three-dimensional art work which is physically presented in the dimensions of height, width and depth. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sc ...
of Washington returning power to the people. It is now at the
National Museum of American History The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves, and displays the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history. Among the items on display is t ...
. About 1841, Ferdinand Pettrich sculpted a painted plaster sculpture, ''Washington Resigning His Commission'', now at the
Smithsonian American Art Museum The Smithsonian American Art Museum (commonly known as SAAM, and formerly the National Museum of American Art) is a museum in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institution. Together with its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, SAAM holds o ...
. In 1858, Edwin White painted ''Washington Resigning His Commission'', on commission from the Maryland Legislature. It is on display in the Grand Staircase of the Maryland State House. In 1903, Edwin Blashfield created the mural, ''Washington Surrendering His Commission'', which depicts Washington laying his commission at the feet of Columbia. It is located in the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore.


Gallery

File:Old Senate Chamber, Maryland State House.jpg, Bronze statue of George Washington resigning his commission in the Old Senate Chamber of the
Maryland State House The Maryland State House is located in Annapolis, Maryland. It is the oldest U.S. state List of state capitols in the United States, capitol in continuous legislative use, dating to 1772 and houses the Maryland General Assembly, plus the offices ...
File:Canova-Washington.JPG, ''
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Appointed by the ...
''
by
Antonio Canova Antonio Canova (; 1 November 1757 – 13 October 1822) was an Italian Neoclassical sculptor, famous for his marble sculptures. Often regarded as the greatest of the Neoclassical artists,. his sculpture was inspired by the Baroque and the cl ...
, plaster replica File:Washington Monument Baltimore 06 2017.jpg, ''George Washington'' resigning his commission atop the
Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk shaped building within the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate George Washington, once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army (1775–1784) in the American Revolutionary War and the ...
in Baltimore
by Enrico Causici, 1829 File:George Washington Greenough statue.jpg, ''
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American military officer, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Appointed by the ...
''
by Horatio Greenough, 1840 File:Ferdinand Pettrich - Washington Resigning His Commission - Smithsonian.jpg, ''Washington Resigning His Commission''
by Ferdinand Pettrich, File:Washington Resigning His Commission 1859.jpg, ''Washington Resigning His Commission''
by Edwin White, 1858 File:Washington Surrendering His Commission - Edwin Howland Blashfield.jpg, ''Washington Surrendering His Commission''
by Edwin Blashfield, 1903


See also

* List of George Washington articles * Newburgh Conspiracy * Newburgh letter


References


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Washington's resignation as commander-in-chief, George 1783 in the United States American Revolutionary War George Washington Maryland in the American Revolution