This is the second volume of a four-volume Retirement Series, covering the interval between Washington's retirement from the presidency on 4 March 1797 and his death on 13 December 1799. Except for a trip to Philadelphia in 1798, Washington stuck close to home, only occasionally going from Mount Vernon into Alexandria or across the river to Georgetown and the new Federal City. The management and improvement of his farms at Mount Vernon was his major concern, and the pressing need for money forced him to give particular attention to the disposition of his large landholdings in the West. As Father of His Country he found himself not only entertaining a constant stream of visitors but also responding to a steady flow of letters from friends and strangers, foreign and domestic. From the start, senators, congressmen. Adams's cabinet members, and diplomats kept him informed of political developments. Washington's absence from the public stage, never much more than a fiction. came to an end in July 1798 when his growing alarm over French policy and the bitter divisions in the body politic arising out of it led him to accept command of the army, with the promise to take the field in case of a French invasion. And in 1799 Washington for the first time became deeply involved in partisan electoral politics.
In the early months of 1798, with which this volume begins. Washington's correspondence relates mostly to such private concerns as the management of his Mount Vernon estate, his tenants in Virginia, his lands in the West and in Pennsylvania, and the education of Washington Parke Custis and the marriage of Nelly Custis, but he continues to correspond with friends and strangers, the low and themighty, throughout America and abroad. By late spring James Monroe's attacks and the furor over the XYZ affair are drawing Washington back into the political arena. The letters in the latter part of this volume are in large part written to and from Washington as the commander in chief of an army being raised to repulse a feared French invasion.