Annapolis Charter 300 1708-2008
—Commemorating the 1708 Royal Charter under Queen Anne to the City of Annapolis —
"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action."
After the 1781 victory at Yorktown, some Americans thought the triumphant General George Washington should be crowned the new nation's first king. But Washington didn't want a royal title and power, and his actions in Annapolis helped ensure that the United States would be a democratic republic instead of a monarchy.
Congress met in the Maryland State House from late 1783 to the summer of 1784, making Annapolis the national capital for a few months. On December 23, 1783, after attending several days of gala events held in his honor, General Washington addressed Congress. Impressive in his dress uniform and his hands shaking with emotion, Washington read a short retirement speech and handed his officer's commission to the president of Congress. He quickly left the State House and rode away from Annapolis, eager to return home in time for Christmas dinner.
By stepping down as commander in chief at the end of the Revolutionary War, Washington demonstrated that American military power answers to the authority of the civil government, not the other way around. It is a keystone of our government.
Glenn Campbell, Historic Annapolis Foundation
Rembrandt Peale, C. 1800.
Visitors can explore the Hammond Harwood House at 19 Maryland Avenue. This home was one of Washington's and Thomas Jefferson's favorite in Annapolis.
"Washington Resigning His Commission,"
1858, Edwin White, Collection of the Maryland State Archives, MSA.SC 1545-1112
Catering to the Commander in Chief
Tavern keeper George Mann handled the arrangements for a dinner, hosted by Governor William Paca, and "illuminated" ball held on the eve of the resignation ceremony. Mann's bill included charges for "musick," 12 packs of cards, 8 pounds of candles, 98 bottles of wine, and punch ingredients: 2-1/2 gallons of spirits, 9 pounds of sugar, and 25 limes. Food and drink alone billed at $664.75. One congressman wrote that "not a soul got drunk, though there was wine in plenty and the usual number of 13 toasts," and that Washington "danced every set, that all the ladies might have the pleasure of dancing with him." Many ladies wore 13 curls at the neck "à L'Independence."
Washington Reviewing His Troops at Valley Forge"
William T. Trego, 1859-1909
You can read George Washington's draft of his resignation speech, written here in Annapolis, at the Maryland State Archives at 350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis.
Collection of the Maryland State Archives, MSA SA 5666
Toasts Proposed to George Washington and the New Nation, December 23, 1783
1. The United States
2. The Army
3. His Most Christian Majesty
4. The United Netherlands
5. The King of Sweden
6. Our Commissioners abroad
7. The Minister of France
8. The Minister of the United Netherlands
9. Harmony and a flourishing commerce throughout the nation
10. May virtue and wisdom influence the councils of the United States, and may their conduct merit the blessings of Peace and Independence
11. The virtuous daughters of America
12. The Governor and State of Maryland
13. Long health and happiness of our illustrious General.
George Washington's Response:
"Competent Powers to Congress for general Purposes"
With appreciation for their assistance: Historic Annapolis Foundation, Maryland State Archives, and the Office of the Mayor.