- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — George Washington’s handwritten resignation from the military will be acquired by the state of Maryland, where the Revolutionary War hero resigned his commission in 1783.

State archivists said yesterday that the state will pay $600,000 to an anonymous private donor for the two-page speech, in which the general resigned his military commission to the Continental Congress meeting in Annapolis.

The speech, in which Washington said he was “happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty,” is seen as a turning point in America’s formation because it established that the military should be subservient to civil authority.

Washington also said, “Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action.”

Edward Papenfuse, Maryland’s state archivist, said, “This speech is the fundamental basis of civilian government.”

Washington’s resignation from the army is perhaps the most important event to occur in Maryland’s State House, where the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War was ratified. A re-creation of the original Senate chamber is kept for visitors.

A mural depicting Washington’s resignation hangs above a marble staircase in the State House, but the state does not own any original documents from the event.

Mimi Calver, director of exhibits and artistic property for the Maryland State Archives, said that Washington handed a copy of his speech to a committee and that the document has been in private hands since then. She said the owners live in Maryland and did not wish to be identified.

Two Baltimore philanthropists — Willard Hackerman and Henry A. Rosenberg — will donate $200,000 each to help acquire the document, which has been valued at $1.2 million. As part of the purchase, the state also will receive a handwritten letter sent by eyewitness James McHenry to his wife, in which he described Washington’s resignation.

“It’s probably one of the most important documents in American history that’s still in private hands,” Miss Calver said of Washington’s speech.

Copies of the address are held by the Library of Congress and other collections, but there’s only one copy in Washington’s handwriting.

The acquisition, which will be complete within a year, was to be announced last night at a Presidents Day ceremony held by the Maryland Senate each year in the old chamber.

The chamber is kept as it looked in the 1780s, and a mannequin dressed as Washington stands before wooden desks that would’ve held the members of the Continental Congress, which met in Annapolis from November 1783 to August 1784.

Miss Calver said she hasn’t seen the document, but it has been appraised and found to be in good condition. She said it eventually will be displayed in the State House.

“It’s an amazing acquisition for the state,” she said.


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