George Washington
Life After the Presidency

Feeling old and weary of politics, Washington decided to return to Mount Vernon when his second term as President ended in 1797. In his Farewell Address, he urged his countrymen to "foreswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions." In foreign affairs, he warned against long-term alliances.

Washington looked forward to his return to Mount Vernon. There he could enjoy his favorite occupation — agriculture. He could also spend time helping his wife Martha raise their two grandchildren. Although he and Martha never had children of their own, he had always thought of Martha's children, by her first husband, as his own.

Washington enjoyed less than three years of retirement at Mount Vernon. In December 1799, after spending a day riding on his farms in foul weather, Washington's throat became inflamed. At 2 a.m. on December 14, he woke his wife and told her he was having trouble breathing. At sunrise, Martha Washington sent for Dr. James Craig, who arrived at nine that morning. The doctor diagnosed Washington's illness as "inflammatory quinsy."

At midnight, Washington said to his secretary, Tobias Lear: "I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than three days after I am dead. Do you understand me?" "Yes," Lear replied. Washington's last words were, "Tis well."

The first President of the United States died of a throat infection on December 14, 1799. (The American Presidents Web site: www.americanpresidents.org)

When news of Washington's death reached Congress, the session immediately adjourned until the next day. John Marshall, a member of the House of Representatives who had served under Washington, addressed the speaker of the House:

"The melancholy event which was yesterday announced with doubt, has been rendered but too certain. Our Washington is no more. The hero, the patriot, and the sage of America; the man on whom in times of danger every eye was turned, and all hopes were placed, lives now only in his own great actions, and in the hearts of an affectionate and afflicted people." (The American Presidents Web site: www.americanpresidents.org)

The nation mourned Washington's death for months.

Learn more about our George Washington:

Life Before the Presidency
Commander-in-Chief
Presidential Accomplishments
Did You Know?
Life After the Presidency
Washington's Legacy