Nine days after the British retreated from America in 1783, Gen. George Washington, commanding general of the Continental Army, gathered his officers at Fraunces Tavern — a New York City establishment. In his speech, he informed them that he would be resigning his commission and returning to civilian life in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
“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,” Washington said.
That speech was meant as his last. However, as we all know, Washington would instead be elected first president of the United States in 1789, and New York City would serve as the nation’s first capital.
To celebrate the anniversary of this historic day, Task & Purpose attended the first reenactment of these remarks on Dec. 3 at the still-standing Fraunces Tavern and Museum.
The event, which featured reenactors of Washington and Nathanael Greene, took place in the museum’s Long Room, where Washington originally addressed his officers.
Attendees — members of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York — were able to shake “George’s” hand and share a drink with him after the speech was given.
The museum and members who hosted this event hope that people will be encouraged to understand history within the city.
Liam Murphy, a Son of the Revolution and Vietnam veteran from Irvington, said, “Washington deserves a second look. He’s not just the guy on the dollar bill; he’s not just the guy on the quarter for those who can’t afford a dollar. He is … the indispensable man, without whom we wouldn’t be talking right now.”
The nine-exhibit museum, which opened in New York City in 1762, has been run by the Son’s of the Revolution since 1903. Meanwhile, the tavern still functions as a fully operational bar and restaurant, with as Murphy said, “excellent service.”
The tavern was first owned by Samuel “Black Sam” Fraunces. Seated at the corner of Pearl and Broad streets by the Whitehall wharf, it was originally named the Queen’s Head Inn in honor of King George III’s consort, Charlotte. However, it was changed when it was discovered that locals disliked the loyalist name and instead renamed after the owner.
After British troops evacuated the country Nov. 25, 1783, the first governor of New York, George Clinton, threw a celebration in honor of Washington at Fraunces Tavern. Each year, the tavern and museum host an additional anniversary event in honor of the success of the revolution.
While New York was serving as the nation’s capital, the Fraunces Tavern building hosted the offices of foreign affairs, finance, and war.
Watch highlights of the event below: