Just before he took the oath of office as president of the United States, John Adams glanced at the “serene and unclouded” expression on the face of his predecessor, George Washington, and imagined him thinking: “Ay! I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest.”
Washington was indeed happy to escape Philadelphia, then the capital of the United States, and return to Mount Vernon, his large but long-neglected estate on the banks of the Potomac. There, in Adams’s words, he hoped to “plunge into agriculture and ride away his reflections.”
Washington wasted no time in repairing …
This article appears as “The First Ex-President” in the April 6, 2020, print edition of National Review.
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