George Washington’s adopted son recalls President-elect Washington’s visit with his mother.
“But go, George, fulfil the high destinies which Heaven appears to have intended you; go, my son, and may that Heaven’s and your mother’s blessing be with you always.”
Washington’s Farewell to His Mother.
IMMEDIATELY after the organization of the present government [spring of 1789], the Chief Magistrate repaired to Fredericksburg, to pay his humble duty to his mother, preparatory to his departure for New York. An affecting scene ensued. The son feelingly remarked the ravages which a torturing disease had made upon the aged frame of the mother, and addressed her thus:
“The people, madam, have been pleased, with the most flattering unanimity, to elect me to the chief magistracy of these United States, but before I can assume the functions of my office, I have come to bid you an affectionate farewell. So soon as the weight of public business, which must necessarily attend the outset of a new government, can be disposed of, I shall hasten to Virginia, and—”
Here the matron interrupted with—“and you will see me no more; my great age, and the disease which is fast approaching my vitals, warn me that I shall not be long in this world; I trust in God that I may be somewhat prepared for a better. But go, George, fulfil the high destinies which Heaven appears to have intended you; go, my son, and may that Heaven’s and your mother’s blessing be with you always.”
The president was deeply affected. His head rested upon the shoulder of his parent, whose aged arm feebly, yet fondly encircled his neck. That brow on which fame had wreathed the purest laurel virtue ever gave to created man, relaxed from its lofty bearing. That look which could have awed a Roman senate in its Fabrician day, was bent in filial tenderness upon the time-worn features of the venerable matron.
The great man wept. A thousand recollections crowded upon his mind, as memory retracing scenes long passed, carried him back to the maternal mansion and the days of juvenility, where he beheld that mother, whose care, education, and discipline, caused him to reach the topmost height of laudable ambition—yet, how were his glories forgotten, while he gazed upon her whom, wasted by time and malady, he should part with to meet no more.
Her predictions were but too true. The disease which so long had preyed upon her frame, completed its triumph, and she expired at the age of eighty-five, rejoicing in the consciousness of a life well spent, and confiding in the belief of a blessed immortality to the humble believer.
—George W. P. Custis, “The Mother of Washington,” Ladies’ Magazine