Volume 10: Mar. – Aug. 1792

In the period covered by volume 10, the spring and summer of 1792, Washington was busy dealing with a host of foreign and domestic issues. In response to Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s disastrous defeat on 4 November 1791, Washington ordered both the preparation of a renewed offensive against the hostile Indian tribes in the Northwest Territory and an attempt to secure peace without further recourse to arms. The first initiative necessitated the selection of a new commanding general and the appointment or promotion of a large number of junior officers. The second induced Washington to invite delegations from several non-hostile Indian nations to Philadelphia in the hopes that they either would support the American military effort or convince their brethren to make peace with the United States. In addition, both the promulgation of a new French constitution and the recent arrival of the British plenipotentiary George Hammond who had instructions to settle the outstanding difficulties arising from the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and lay the groundwork for improved Anglo-American commercial relations, required careful handling. Domestically, Washington’s veto of the congressional Apportionment Act in April 1792 on the grounds that it was unconstitutional marked the first use of the presidential veto in American history. In the wake of Pierre L’Enfant’s dismissal as superintendent of the Federal City, Washington attempted to keep on schedule the construction of the new capital on the Potomac River. Throughout this period, Washington wistfully longed to retire to Mount Vernon at the close of his term in office. Although informed by all of his closest advisors that his retirement would have calamitous consequences, Washington instructed James Madison to draft a farewell address for his use if he decided not to stand for reelection.

Robert F. Haggard and Mark A. Mastromarino, eds., The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series volume 10, March – August 1792. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 2002.

Purchase from the University of Virginia Press.