In the first year of George Washington’s presidency, his wife, Martha, shared this wisdom in a letter to a friend:

“I little thought when the war was finished that any circumstances could possibly happen that would call the general into public life again. I had anticipated that from that moment we should be suffered to grow old together in solitude and tranquility. That was the first and dearest wish of my heart.

I will not, however, contemplate with too much regret, disappointments that were inevitable, though his feelings and my own were in perfect unison with respect to our predilection for private life. Yet, I cannot blame him for having acted according to his ideas of duty in obeying the voice of his country.

With respect to myself, I sometimes think the arrangement is not quite as it ought to have been, that I who would much rather be at home, should occupy a place with which a great many younger and gayer woman would be extremely pleased.

I do not say this because I feel dissatisfied with my present station, for everybody and every thing conspires to make me as contented as possible in it; yet, I have learned too much of the vanity of human affairs, to expect felicity from the scenes of public life.

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience, that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in ours minds wherever we go.”

Quote: The Life of George Washington, 1842
Photo: Robert Ostheimer