Editor’s Note: As he prepared to resign his command in 1783, the greatest of U.S. veterans warned that the United States could “never hope be a happy Nation” unless its citizens imitated Christ.
Gen. George Washington sent a "Circular Letter of Farewell to the Army" to several state governors, including Governor Harrison of his native Virginia. He requested that “these sentiments [be] communicated to [the] Legislature at their next meeting, and that they may be considered as the Legacy of One, who has ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his Country, and who, even in the shade of Retirement, will not fail to implore the divine benediction upon it.”
The entirety of George Washington’s manuscript can be found at the Library of Congress.
I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field.
And finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation."
George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, presided over the convention that drafted the Constitution, and served as the nation's first president under that Constitution.