War of Independence (detail of Boston massacre print)

George Washington’s Legacy

Washington Stands Down

A triumphant general in Washington’s position might have tried to seize power, but Washington, like other Americans, saw himself and his army as agents of the Continental Congress. During the war, he deferred to its directives even when he disagreed with them. At war’s end, he returned to private life.

On December 23, 1783, Washington appeared before the Congress meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, and surrendered his commission as general and commander in chief. Per order of Congress, he signaled his deference to the members by bowing; in return, they denoted their authority by only lifting their hats. Washington then bid them farewell and returned to his farm.


General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull, 1824
Washington’s resignation address. “Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great Theatre of Action; & bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August Body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, & take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

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