213 years ago today, citizens of Providence, Rhode Island, learned that George Washington had died. The newspaper United States Chronicle published a black-bordered mourning edition with President John Adams’s announcement:
“It has pleased Divine Providence to remove from this life, our excellent Fellow Citizen, George Washington, by the purity of his character, and a long series of services to his country, rendered illustrious through the world. It remains for an affectionate and grateful people, in whose hearts he can never die, to pay suitable honor to his memory.”
Resolutions of Congress printed in the same issue discuss how to honor the man who was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow-citizens” That famous phrase was apparently coined by the author of the resolutions, Colonel Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, although it is often mistakenly attributed to John Marshall who was assigned to present them to the House in place of the absent Lee.
The end of Lee’s immortal phrase appears to be misquoted here (“his fellow-citizens” instead of “his countrymen”) but even contemporary sources do not agree on the exact wording; some end the quotation with “his country.” Whatever the case, Lee delivered his famous Eulogy on Washington, which reiterated the lines, in Philadelphia on the same day that this newspaper was published.
The slowness of communication at the end of the 18th century is evidenced by the fact that Washington died on December 14, but news didn’t reach readers of this newspaper for nearly two weeks.
See this rare newspaper, published 213 years ago today . . .