'With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.'
'I cannot come to each of you but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand.'
Thus Washington addressed the assemblage at Fraunces Tavern on December 4, 1783. It is a well-documented fact that Washington wept upon the delivery of these words. We have relied principally on Benjamin Tallmadge’s account.
If his account makes it appear that Washington was flushed with sentimentality, do not be deceived. He was in fact in great distress over the failure of Congress to meet the fiscal obligation it owed to the troops. He had every reason to weep, having devoted his life to leading men in the endeavor to establish a country in which everyone could exercise his freedom.
Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief of the armies on December 23 and returned to his home in Mt. Vernon. This, some historians declare, was the greatest act of his life.
Read "Why Washington Wept" by Thomas Fleming.