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Historical Highlights

President George Washington’s Memorial Service

December 26, 1799
President George Washington’s Memorial Service Courtesy of Stratford Hall Henry Lee of Virginia, known as Light Horse Harry, served in the 6th Congress (1799–1801). Lee, who served under then General George Washington as a famed cavalryman in the Continental Army, delivered Washington's eulogy before a Joint Session of Congress.
On this date, the House convened in its chamber in Congress Hall in Philadelphia, before somberly proceeding to the city’s German Lutheran Church to attend a memorial Joint Session for former President George Washington who had died of a throat infection on December 14 at his Mount Vernon home in Virginia. Major General Henry Lee—Washington’s military protégé and a Member of the House from Virginia in the 6th Congress (1799–1801)—delivered a spirited oration to an audience of 4,000 mourners, which included President John Adams and his wife, Abigail. “Where shall I begin in opening to your view a character throughout sublime?” Lee said. “Shall I speak of his warlike achievements, all springing in obedience to his country’s will—all directed to his country’s good?” He then traced Washington’s military accomplishments in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, and his service to his nation out of military uniform—culminating in eight years as the first U.S. President. Washington, Lee intoned, had been “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” At the conclusion of the service, Members of the House returned to their chamber where they adjourned for the remainder of the day.

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