The death of President George Washington (1799)

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Portrait of George Washington

George Washington’s obituary (1732 – 1799)

Newport, December 24: The melancholy Event which claims a Tribute from us this Day, has been borne with a Rapidity that leaves us rather to deplore, than to announce it.

The silent Dejection and unspeakable Anguish which are painted on the Countenances of all, inform more forcibly than Language can, that the great and good Washington is no more!

The afflicting Intelligence reached this Town on Sunday Morning. The Bells were tolled (with the Intermission of Divine Service) during the Remainder of the Day and Yesterday, when the Stores were shut and a total Suspension of Business, public and private, took Place.

These Testimonies of public Regret, universal as they will be, are, however, but faintly expressive of the listless Sorrow which reigns in every Heart, which occupies every Mind, which refuses Consolation from the Recollection of past Virtues and Services, and repels with Indifference even the fearful Anticipation of the Future.

The sacred Sorrows of the virtuous and the good, must and will have their Course!

They are demanded by the Memory of the Man who made himself the Father of Millions! The Founder of a Great Nation! And who fixed his Empire only in the Hearts of his Fellow Men!

Letter to the Senate from John Adams

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives,

The letter herewith transmitted will inform you, that it hath pleased Divine Providence to remove from this life, our excellent fellow-citizen GEORGE WASHINGTON, by the puri∣ty of his character and a long series of services to his country, rendered illus∣trious through the world. It remains for an affectionate and grateful people; in whose hearts he can never die, to pay suitable honor to his memory.


About George Washington’s last hours

Mount Vernon, December 16, 1799.


It with inexpressible grief, that I have to announce to you the death of the great and good General WASHINGTON. He died last evening be∣tween 10 and 11 o’clock, after a short illness of about twenty-four hours. His disorder was an inflamatory sore throat, which proceeded from a cold, of which he made but little complaint on Friday. On Saturday morning about 3 o’clock he became ill. Doctor Dick attended him in the morning and Dr. Craick, of Alexandria, and Dr. Brown, of Port Tobacco, were soon after called in. Every medical assistance was offered, but without the desired effect. His last scene corresponded with the whole tenor of his life. Not a groan nor a complaint escaped him, in extreme distress. With perfect resignation and a full possession of his reason, he closed his well spent life.

I have the honor to be, &c.
TOBIAS LEAR. [personal secretary to President George Washington]

Top image: “George Washington, the first good president,” by Gilbert Stuart, posed on March 20, 1797. (This portrait was based on the uncompleted Antheneum portrait by Stuart; the uncompleted portions were finished by artist Rembrandt Peale.)

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