George Washington's presidency ended on 04 March, 1797. He returned to Mount Vernon, as he had in 1783 at the conclusion of the War, with hopes of settling down to the life of the gentleman farmer, It was a life that would entail managing the affairs of the farm and overseeing some thirty black labourers. The Mount Vernon Estate contained four farms which adjoined the "Mansion House Farm". In all, the Estate encompassed "1,207 acres of ploughable land; 879 of which, are in seven fields, nearly of a size, and under good fences; 212 acres (in one enclosure) are, generally in a common grass pasture; and 116 acres more, are in five grass lots, and an orchard (of the best grafted fruit) all of them contiguous to the dwelling house and barn. On the premises, are a comfortable dwelling house (in which the Overlooker resides) having three rooms below, and one or two above..."
On 12 December, 1799 Mr. Washington made his usual rounds on horseback to inspect the estate. He wrote in his diary that snow began to fall at about ten o'clock in the morning; that it soon turned to hail; and then it settled into a cold rain. When he arrived at the house, roughly five hours after he had gone out, his hair and neck were wet from his exposure to the snow, hail and rain. By the next morning, there was about three inches of snow on the ground. Because of the depth of the snow and the fact that he had started to experience a bit of sore throat, he decided to remain in doors. The sore throat seemed to be a minor irritant; he read aloud from the newspapers during the evening of the 13th.
Shortly after midnight on the morning of 14 December, 1799 he awoke Martha and told her that his throat had become so sore that he could hardly speak. His breathing was difficult. He would not let his dear wife get up in the cold room to summon help, though. He waited until sunrise and then summoned his secretary, Tobias Lear and an overseer, whom he asked to be bled by. It was the prevailing belief at that time, that illnesses were the result of "bad humours" in the blood. The act of "bleeding" someone afflicted by illness was believed to allow those "bad humours" to flow out of the body.
A half a pint of blood was taken from a vein in Mr. Washington's arm by the overseer. At about nine o'clock James Craik, the family's doctor, arrived. He diagnosed the illness as inflammatory quinsy and bled him once more. Two more doctors, who had been called for consultation arrived, and Mr. Washington was bled a third, and then a fourth time. By the afternoon, Mr. Washington thanked the doctors for their attention, but asked that they leave him. He told them "...let me go off quietly; I cannot last long".
According to an account left by Mr. Lear, the ex-general and president remained clear of mind throughout the remainder of the day. At about ten o'clock that evening he motioned to Lear that he wished to speak to him, but was too weak to speak above a whisper. He told Lear "I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than two days after I am dead." He asked Mr. Lear if he understood him, and Lear answered "Yes". He said "Tis well" and in a moment withdrew his hand from Lear's and drew breath no more.