After the Presidency
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.
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.
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."
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,
first President of the United States died of a throat
infection on December 14, 1799. (The American Presidents
Web site: www.americanpresidents.org)
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:
nation mourned Washington's death for months.
more about our George Washington:
Before the Presidency
Did You Know?
Life After the Presidency