General George Washington Resigning His Commission to Congress As Commander in Chief of the Army at Annapolis, Maryland, December 23d, 1783, John Trumbull, oil on canvas, Commissioned 1817, purchased 1824, Image courtesy of Architect of the Capitol
In one of the nation’s great acts of statesmanship, General George Washington voluntarily resigned his military commission to the Continental Congress at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland.
On this date, in one of the nation’s great acts of statesmanship, General George Washington
voluntarily resigned his military commission to the Continental Congress at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland, returning to private life at his Mount Vernon plantation. During his resignation address to Congress, Washington acknowledged, “the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the war,” especially, “those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.” Thomas Mifflin
of Pennsylvania, the President of the Continental Congress, lauded how Washington “conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude . . . regarding the rights of the civil power [of Congress] through all disasters and changes.” Delegate David Howell
of Rhode Island recalled the occasion as “a most solemn Scene. . . . The State House was crowded with people of the first fashion who all partook in the occasion. And many testified their affectionate attachment to our illustrious Hero & their gratitude for his Services to his Country by a most copious shedding of tears.” Washington’s resignation in the temporary national capital city culminated what was expected to be his farewell tour to public service. Washington had arrived in the city on December 19, 1783. Howell recalled that an “elegant public dinner was ordered on the 22d by Congress” to celebrate Washington’s service. “The Governor, Senate & House of Delegates [of Maryland] with a sundry of citizens . . . including Congress, about 200 attended & partook of the feast—after which 13 toasts were drank under a discharge of 13 Cannon.” Modern scholars James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn described Washington’s resignation in a turn of phrase that echoed the classical republican ideals that animated the founding generation: “The Virginian, like the victorious Roman soldier Cincinnatus, went home to plow.”