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Encounters 17, A Second Term

March 9, 2017

“Enough! Enough, already,” Martha must have said to George when he was asked to serve a second term. But despite her entreaties, her husband never could resist a duty call

The government bent in two political branches, Federalists and Republicans.The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 and the Citizen Genet Affair were two of the controversies in which a firm hand was required, but the decisions were bound to alienate some people.

Could government allow whiskey makers to refuse to pay taxes? Could the government wage war on American citizens who defied the authority of government? Washington raised a large army – large enough to frighten the opposition with its numbers. No blood was shed as the opposition retreated n haste. No, Washington did not know he was talking softly, but carrying a big stick. That was another president.

Could the government permit a Frenchman to recruit Americans for the French army? Jefferson argued Americans had made a treaty with France, our ally in the revolution. Hamilton countered that we had the treaty with the king of France, who had been guillotined by radicals, and we could not afford a war. Washington was skeptical about the endurance of the French Republic, but he had no desire to support the British either. Genet’s recall was demanded, but Citizen Genet had no desire to return to France. He stayed in New York and married one of former Governor Clinton’s daughters. Both the French and the British continued to seize American sailors and kidnap able bodied men.

Meanwhile a deadly yellow fever epidemic struck Philadelphia. The death toll mounted, and people who could get away left the city. Congress moved to Germantown, a village nearby. An icy winter froze the Delaware River (“noe vessel could pass,” wrote Mrs. W.) and the freezing temperatures stopped the epidemic.

When George took a quick trip home, his horse stumbled, and he wrenched his back. Back in Germantown, Martha believed it was the presidency that was killing her husband, for he was a capable horseman. The first term had aged them both, and the second nearly finished the job.

Newspapers cropped up to support Jefferson and Madison, anti-federalist and pro-Republican. Innuendo, accusation, and the publication of forged letters sullied the hands of Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, publisher of the Aurora. The Washingtons could not have imagined the lengths that a free press could go. Martha’s anger and pain on her husband’s behalf could not be contained. He was her hero as well as the nation’s.

The weather in Philadelphia the winter of their second term’s last year was ferocious. It was possible to walk across the Delaware River on the ice. They remained in Philadelphia for the inauguration of John Adams on March 4, 1797, and then departed for Mount Vernon as if it were the promised land.

There would be no third term. Period.                                                       to be contd.







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