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Washington’s Historical Speech to Return to State House

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on July 31, 2006:

Senator Dyson I am very pleased to be associated with two of Maryland’s State Capitals in my capacity as your State Senator representing all of St. Mary’s, half of Calvert and a slice of Charles counties.

St. Mary’s City was the colony of Maryland’s first state capital and on their grounds is a beautiful replica of the first State House. This is one of Maryland’s finest state landmarks.

During the General Assembly Session, I have the immense privilege of serving as your Senator in our current state capital in Annapolis. Our state capital is the oldest of its kind in the United States and for a year was the nation ’s capital.

One of my favorite places in our state capital is the original Old Senate Chamber. It is here where General George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783. He resigned after successfully leading our nation to victory in the Revolutionary War and wanted to go home to his beloved Mt. Vernon.

The Old Senate Chamber features a mannequin of General Washington standing on the very sight where he gave his resignation speech. In attendance that day were many important historical figures such as future presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

A very underrated day in America’s history is coming up on August 2. Two hundred and 30 years ago on this day, the Declaration of Independence was formally signed by 56 members of the Continental Congress. August 2 has always been eclipsed by July 4, which is the day the Declaration of Independence was formally approved yet signed by only a few members of the Congress.

While our country’s liberating document is safe and sound in the U.S. Archives in Washington, the Maryland Archives is now in receipt of another extremely significant artifact in our nation’s history - the actual hand-written copy of General Washington’s resignation speech to the Continental Congress.

The governor included $600,000 in the FY2007 budget, which the General Assembly approved this year to go towards the purchase of this extraordinary piece of history. The rest of the money to buy General Washington’s resignation letter is being matched by private funds. I am pleased that the governor and the legislature worked together to save this important document. A historical relic such as this letter needs to be preserved where it was presented - right in the Annapolis State House. And, if plans fall into place as they are expected that is where it is going to stay. “We’re very proud that the State of Maryland stepped up to make this possible,” said Elaine Rice Bachmann, curator at the Maryland State Archives. “This is a very tangible piece of history. It’s very exciting to know that it will be on public display in the State House where so many school children and other visitors, will be able to see it in person.”

General Washington’s letter as well as a first-hand account of the day’s proceedings by James McHenry to his wife will also be on display.

While the acquisition of General Washington and Mr. McHenry’s are still ongoing and not officially owned by the State, I have been told this is virtually a done deal.

After the State acquires the documents, the exhibition space in the State House will be changed. Plans are for the letters to be displayed either in the Old Senate Chamber or in the Committee Room situated next to the Old Senate Chamber in view of General Washington’s mannequin. A case will be built to protect the documents from light exposure and climate in the old State House, much like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are preserved in the U.S. Archives.

I have seen a copy of General Washington’s letter, and as an avid history buff, it is quite amazing to see the original handwriting of this great American. It will be a great asset to the State House.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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