"Tis well."

Washington's last words, as recorded by Tobias Lear, in his journal | Saturday, December 14, 1799


Editorial Notes

Shortly after George Washington took his last breath, his long-time secretary, Tobias Lear (1762-1816), sat down to record the events of the last several days.  The best source on the events leading to Washingon’s death, Lear’s account details the actions of both Washington and the people around him—family members, employees, enslaved house servants, and physicians.  Lear noted the various medical treatments tried in an attempt to relieve the patient’s symptoms, as well as Washington’s calm throughout the ordeal:  as he refused to let his wife go for help in the middle of the night, because of fears that she would take cold; as he urged that more blood be drawn; as he noticed that a young slave had been standing all day and asked him to sit down; as he looked at two copies of his will and directed which one should be burned; as he asked that his body not be buried for at least three days after his death; as he thanked those around him for their assistance; and as he took his own pulse as his heart beat for the last few times.  Washington’s last words suggest that he was at peace with the life he had lived and the plans he had made for a future without him.

Washington’s Last Words, as recorded by Tobias Lear, in His Journal | Saturday, December 14, 1799


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