Washington retired to Mount Vernon in March 1797 and devoted time to his plantations and other business interests, including his distillery.
On Thursday, December 12, 1799,
He had a sore throat the following day
On Saturday, he awoke to an inflamed throat and difficulty breathing,
His family summoned Doctors James Craik, Gustavus Richard Brown, and Elisha C. Dick. (Dr. William Thornton arrived some hours after Washington died.)
Dr. Brown thought that Washington had quinsy; Elisha thought that the condition was a more serious "violent inflammation of the throat". They continued the process of bloodletting to approximately five pints, but it was futile and his condition deteriorated.
Elisha Dick proposed a tracheotomy, but the other two doctors were not familiar with that procedure and therefore disapproved.
Washington instructed Brown and Dick to leave the room, while he assured Craik, "Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go."
Washington's death came more swiftly than expected. At his deathbed, he instructed his private secretary Tobias Lear to wait three days before his burial, out of fear of being entombed alive. According to Lear, he died peacefully between 10 and 11 p.m. on Saturday, December 14, 1799 with Martha seated at the foot of his bed, and his last words were "'Tis well", from his conversation with Lear about his burial. He was 67.
The diagnosis of Washington's illness and the immediate cause of his death have been subjects of debate since the day that he died. The published account of Drs. Craik and Brown stated that his symptoms had been consistent with cynanche trachealis (
Accusations have persisted since Washington's death concerning medical malpractice, with some believing that he had been bled to death. Various modern medical authors have speculated that he died from a case of