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1789. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO WILLIAM PIERCE.
Mount Vernon, 1 January, 1789.
As it would be altogether improper for me to anticipate any thing on the event which you suppose may happen; I only write to let you know that I have duly received your letter of Novr. 1st. I most sincerely and fervently hope it will be found, that I shall not be in a situation to have any agency in the disposal of federal appointments. For you will permit me to say, that the choice is as yet very far from being certain; and that should it (contrary to all my wishes) fall upon me, I shall certainly be disposed to decline the acceptance, if it may by any means be done consistently with the dictates of duty.
In this to me unpleasant state of affairs when I cannot but feel myself disagreeably affected by having the subject even obliquely forced upon my mind,—You will be pleased to consider my studied reserve as not in the least intended to militate against your pretensions, and as not having any reference, in the remotest degree, to an office, for which I perceive there will be several competitors.
Although I have thought it would ill become me at present to be more explicit with any person on public matters; yet in all personal considerations I take a pleasure in subscribing myself with sentiments of great respect and esteem, &c.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Mount Vernon, 29 January, 1789.
My dear Marquis,
By the last post I was favored with the receipt of your letter dated the 5th of September last. Notwithstanding the distance of its date, it was peculiarly welcome to me; for I had not in the mean time received any satisfactory advices respecting yourself or your country. By that letter my mind was placed much more at its ease, on both those subjects, than it had been for many months.
The last letter, which I had the pleasure of writing to you, was forwarded by Mr. Gouverneur Morris. Since his departure from America, nothing very material has occurred. The minds of men, however, have not been in a stagnant state. But patriotism, instead of faction, has generally agitated them. It is not a matter of wonder, that, in proportion as we approach to the time fixed for the organization and operation of the new government, their anxiety should have been increased, rather than diminished.
The choice of senators, representatives, and electors, which (excepting in that of the last description) took place at different times in the different States, has afforded abundant topics for domestic news since the beginning of autumn. I need not enumerate the several particulars, as I imagine you see most of them detailed in the American gazettes. I will content myself with only saying, that the elections have been hitherto vastly more favorable than we could have expected, that federal sentiments seem to be growing with uncommon rapidity, and that this increasing unanimity is not less indicative of the good disposition than the good sense of the Americans. Did it not savor so much of partiality for my countrymen, I might add, that I cannot help flattering myself, that the new Congress, on account of the self-created respectability and various talents of its members, will not be inferior to any Assembly in the world. From these and some other circumstances I really entertain greater hopes, that America will not finally disappoint the expectations of her friends, than I have at almost any former period. Still, however, in such a fickle state of existence I would not be too sanguine in indulging myself with the contemplation of scenes of uninterrupted prosperity, lest some unforeseen mischance or perverseness should occasion the greater mortification, by blasting the enjoyment in the very bud.
I can say little or nothing new, in consequence of the repetition of your opinion, on the expediency there will be for my accepting the office to which you refer. Your sentiments, indeed, coincide much more nearly with those of my other friends, than with my own feelings. In truth my difficulties increase and magnify as I draw towards the period, when, according to the common belief, it will be necessary for me to give a definitive answer, in one way or another. Should circumstances render it in a manner inevitably necessary to be in the affirmative, be assured, my dear Sir, I shall assume the task with the most unfeigned reluctance, and with a real diffidence, for which I shall probably receive no credit from the world. If I know my own heart, nothing short of a conviction of duty will induce me again to take an active part in public affairs; and, in that case, if I can form a plan for my own conduct, my endeavors shall be unremittingly exerted, (even at the hazard of former fame or present popularity,) to extricate my country from the embarrassments in which it is entangled through want of credit; and to establish a general system of policy, which if pursued will ensure permanent felicity to the commonwealth. I think I see a path as clear and as direct as a ray of light, which leads to the attainment of that object. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry, and frugality are necessary to make us a great and happy people. Happily the present posture of affairs, and the prevailing disposition of my countrymen, promise to coöperate in establishing those four great and essential pillars of public felicity.
What has been considered at the moment as a disadvantage, will probably turn out for our good. While our commerce has been considerably curtailed, for want of that extensive credit formerly given in Europe, and for default of remittance, the useful arts have been almost imperceptibly pushed to a considerable degree of perfection.
Though I would not force the introduction of manufactures, by extravagant encouragements, and to the prejudice of agriculture, yet I conceive much might be done in that way by women, children, and others, without taking one really necessary hand from tilling the earth. Certain it is, great savings are already made in many articles of apparel, furniture, and consumption. Equally certain it is, that no diminution in agriculture has taken place, at the time when greater and more substantial improvements in manufactures were making, than were ever before known in America. In Pennsylvania they have attended particularly to the fabrication of cotton cloths, hats, and all articles in leather. In Massachusetts, they are establishing factories of duck, cordage, glass, and several other extensive and useful branches. The number of shoes made in one town, and nails in another, is incredible. In that State and Connecticut are also factories of superfine and other broadcloths. I have been writing to our friend General Knox this day to procure me homespun broadcloth of the Hartford fabric, to make a suit of clothes for myself. I hope it will not be a great while before it will be unfashionable for a gentleman to appear in any other dress. Indeed, we have already been too long subject to British prejudices. I use no porter or cheese in my family but such as is made in America. Both those articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality.
While you are quarrelling among yourselves in Europe, while one king is running mad, and others acting as if they were already so, by cutting the throats of the subjects of their neighbors, I think you need not doubt, my dear Marquis, we shall continue in tranquillity here, and that population will be progressive so long as there shall continue to be so many easy means for obtaining a subsistence, and so ample a field for the exertion of talents and industry. All my family join in compliments to Madame de Lafayette and yourself. Adieu.
TO BENJAMIN LINCOLN.
Mount Vernon, 31 January, 1789.
My dear Sir,
Your two letters of December 20th and January 4th are before me.1 I am much obliged to you for the intelligence contained in them, because it enabled me to contradict a report in circulation among the antifederalists, that your State had made choice of only one representative to Congress, that no more would probably be appointed, and that every thing was in very great confusion. Though facts will ultimately become known, yet much mischief to the federal cause may be done by suffering misrepresentation to pass unnoticed or unrefuted. Last winter the antifederalists in Philadelphia published, “that Connecticut had been surprised into an adoption of the constitution, while a great majority of the freemen were opposed to it.” Now it is certain, nothing can fix the stigma of falsehood upon that assertion better than the late respectable appointments in that State. Much the same thing has happened in Maryland. The federal ticket has been carried by a majority of thousands. In the county that bears my name there was not a dissenting vote.
By the best information I can obtain, federal sentiments are spreading perhaps faster than ever in this commonwealth. It is generally supposed that six if not seven of the representatives from it to Congress will be decided friends to the constitution. Monday next will, however, confirm or contradict this opinion, it being the day of election throughout the State. I will only add, that, in Maryland and this State, it is probable Mr. John Adams will have a considerable number of the votes of the electors. Some of those gentlemen will have been advised, that this measure would be entirely agreeable to me, and that I considered it to be the only certain way to prevent the election of an antifederalist. With sentiments of the greatest esteem and regard, I am, &c.
TO SAMUEL POWEL.
Mount Vernon, 5 February, 1789.
The letters which you did me the honor of writing to me on the 6th and 26th last month, came duly at hand; and their enclosures were safely delivered to my nephew, Bushrod Washington, who has lately become a resident of Alexandria, where and at the courts in its vicinity he means to establish himself in the practise of the law. No apology, my dear Sir, on this or any other occasion, was or will be necessary for putting any letter you may wish to have safely conveyed to a friend in these parts, under cover to me.
All the political manœuvres which were calculated to impede, if not to prevent the operation of the Government, are now brought to a close until the meeting of the new Congress, and although the issue of all the elections is not yet known, they are sufficiently displayed to authorize a belief that the opposers of the government have been defeated in almost every instance. Although the elections in this State are over, it will be some time from the extent of it before the representatives to Congress can be finally announced. From conjecture, however, it is supposed the majority will be federalists. Some are so sanguine as to believe that seven out of the ten will be so; but this, as I have already said, is altogether conjecture, and vague conjecture; for much pains has been taken, and no art left unessayed, to poison the mind and alarm the fears of the people into opposition. On the list of the Electors which has been published by the Executive authority of the State, there appear (as far as I am acquainted with the character of the gentlemen) eight decided friends to the new constitution. Be the cause of the British King’s insanity what it may, his situation (if alive) merits commiseration. Better perhaps would it have been for his nation, though not for ours (under present prospects), if this event had happened at the time Dr. Franklin, you say, supposes his Majesty’s constitution was first tinged with the malady under which he is now laboring.
Mrs. Washington, the Major and Fanny, and others under this roof, unite in best wishes and affectionate regards for Mrs. Powel.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Mount Vernon, 13 February, 1789.
Having found that there is a vessel on the point of sailing from Alexandria for Havre de Grace, I would not forego so good an opportunity of addressing a letter to you, although nothing very material has occurred since the date of my last, which was transmitted by Mr. Gouverneur Morris. As you will doubtless have seen in the gazettes the measures taken by the different States for carrying the new government into execution, I will not therefore enter upon any report of news, or discussion of political topics.
Exclusive of these things, the greatest and most important objects of internal concern, which at present occupy the attention of the public mind, are manufactures and inland navigation. Many successful efforts in fabrics of different kinds are every day made. Those composed of cotton, I think will be of the most immediate and extensive utility. Mr. Milne, an English gentleman, who has been many years introducing those manufactures into France, and whose father is now carrying them on, (under the protection of government,) at the royal château of Muette in Passy, has been at my house this week, and is of opinion that they may be prosecuted in America to greater advantage than in France or England. He has been almost two years in Georgia, stimulating and instructing the planters to the production of cotton. In that State and South Carolina it is said that cotton may be made of a most excellent quality, and in such abundant quantities as to prove a more profitable species of agriculture than any other crop. The increase of that raw material, and the introduction of the late improved machines to abridge labor, must be of almost infinite consequence to the prosperity of United America.
A desire of encouraging whatever is useful and economical seems now generally to prevail. Several capital artists in different branches have lately arrived in this country. A factory of glass is established upon a large scale on Monocacy River near Fredericktown in Maryland. I am informed it will this year produce glass of various kinds nearly to the amount of ten thousand pounds’ value. This factory will be essentially benefited by having the navigation of the Potomac completely opened. But the total benefits of that navigation will not be confined to narrower limits than the extent of the whole western territory of the United States.
You have been made acquainted, my dear Sir, with my ideas of the practicability, importance, and extent of that navigation, as they have been occasionally, though fully expressed, in my several letters to you. * * * Notwithstanding my constant and utmost endeavors to obtain precise information respecting the nearest and best communication between the Ohio and Lake Erie, I am not yet able to add any thing more satisfactory to the observations, which I had the honor to make on that subject in my letter of the 1st of January, 1788; but I have lately received a correct draft, executed principally from actual surveys, of the country between the sources of the Potomac and those navigable waters that fall into the Ohio. Of this I enclose you such a rough sketch as my avocations would permit me to make; my principal object therein being to show, that the distance between the two waters is shorter, and that the means of communication are easier, than I had hitherto represented or imagined. I need not describe what and how extensive the rivers are, which will be thus in a wonderful manner connected, as soon as the Potomac shall be rendered entirely passable. The passage would have been opened from Fort Cumberland to the Great Falls (nine miles from tide-water) before this time, as I mentioned in my letter of the 31st of August last, had it not been for the unfavorableness of the season. In spite of that untoward circumstance, I have the pleasure to inform you that two or three boats have actually arrived at the last-mentioned place.
I am going on Monday next to visit the works, as far as the Seneca Falls. Could I have delayed writing this letter until my return from thence, and afterwards availed myself of the same conveyance, I might have been more particular in my account of the state of the several works, and especially of the situation of the land adjoining to the Canal at the Great Falls. Whensoever the produce of those parts of the country bordering on the sources of the Potomac, and contiguous to the long rivers (particularly the Shenandoah and South Branch) that run into it, shall be water-borne, down to tide-water for exportation, I conceive this place must become very valuable. From the conveniency of the basin a little above the spot where the locks are to be placed, and from the inducements which will be superadded by several fine mill-seats, I cannot entertain a doubt of the establishment of a town in that place. Indeed mercantile people are desirous that the event should take place as soon as possible. Manufactures of various commodities, and in iron particularly, will doubtless be carried on to advantage there. The mill-seats I well know have long been considered as very valuable ones. How far buildings erected upon them may be exposed to injuries from freshets or the breaking up of the ice, I am not competent to determine from my own knowledge; but the opinion of persons better acquainted with these matters than I am, is, that they may be rendered secure. On the commodiousness of Alexandria for carrying on the fur trade throughout the whole western country, I treated in a very minute, and I may say almost voluminous manner, in my communication to you on the 30th of May, 1787. Probably Georgetown, and the place which I have just mentioned, will participate largely and happily in the great emoluments to be derived from that and other valuable articles, through the inland navigation of the upper and western country. I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
TO HARRY INNES.
Mount Vernon, 2 March, 1789.
I have been favored by the receipt of your obliging letter, dated the 18th of December last, just in time to send my acknowledgment by a person who is immediately returning to Kentucky.1 This circumstance prevents me from expressing so fully as I might otherwise have done, the sense I have of the very patriotic sentiments you entertain respecting the important matter, which is the subject of your letter. As a friend to United America, I embrace with extreme satisfaction the proposals you are pleased to offer of transmitting farther intelligence. For which purpose I will endeavor to arrange and send you a cypher by the earliest safe conveyance. In the mean time, I rely implicitly upon that honor which you have pledged, and those professions which you have made; and sincerely hope, that your activity and discretion will be successful in developing the machinations of all those, who, by sowing the seeds of disaffection, may attempt to separate any portion of the United States from the Union. I will only add, for myself I have little doubt but that a perseverance in temperate measures and good dispositions will produce such a system of national policy as shall be mutually advantageous to all parts of the American republic. I am, Sir, with much esteem, yours, &c.
TO CAPTAIN RICHARD CONWAY.
Mount Vernon, 4 March, 1789.
Never till within these two years have I ever experienced the want of money. Short crops, and other causes not entirely within my controul, make me feel it now very sensibly. To collect money without the intervention of Suits, (and these are tedious,) seems impracticable—and Land, which I have offered for sale, will not command Cash at an undervalue, if at all. Under this statement, I am inclined to do what I never expected to be driven to, that is, to borrow money on Interest. Five hundred pounds would enable me to discharge what I owe in Alexandria, &c., and to leave the State (if it shall not be in my power to remain at home in retirement) without doing this, would be exceedingly disagreeable to me. Having thus fully and candidly explained myself, permit me to ask if it is in your power to supply me with the above or a smaller Sum. Any security you may best like I can give, and you may be assured, that it is no more my inclination than it can be yours, to let it remain long unpaid. Could I get in one fourth part of what is due to me on Bonds, or sell any of the Landed property which I am inclined to dispose of, I could do it with ease; but independently of these, my rents and Crops would soon enable me to do it, provided I am tolerably successful in the latter, and have common justice done me in the former. Your answer will much oblige yours, &c.1
TO BENJAMIN HARRISON.
Mount Vernon, 9 March, 1789.
My dear Sir,
My friendship is not in the least lessened by the difference, which has taken place in our political sentiments, nor is my regard for you diminished by the part you have acted. Men’s minds are as variant as their faces, and, where the motives to their actions are pure, the operation of the former is no more to be imputed to them as a crime, than the appearance of the latter; for both, being the work of nature, are equally unavoidable. Liberality and charity, instead of clamor and misrepresentation (which latter only serve to foment the passions without enlightening the understanding), ought to govern in all disputes about matters of importance. Whether the former have appeared in some of the leaders of opposition, the impartial world will decide.
According to report, your individual endeavors to prevent inflammatory measures from being adopted, redound greatly to your credit. The reasons, my dear Sir, why I have not written to you for a long time are two; first, because I found it an insupportable task to answer the letters, which were written to me, and, at the same time, to pay that attention to my private concerns which they required, and there being lately little besides politics worthy of notice; secondly, because I did not incline to appear as a partisan in the interesting subject, that has agitated the public mind since the date of my last letter to you. For it was my sincere wish, that the constitution, which had been submitted to the people, might, after a fair and dispassionate investigation, stand or fall according to its merits or demerits. Besides, I found from disagreeable experience, that almost all the sentiments extracted from me in answer to private letters, or communicated orally, by some means or another found their way into the public gazettes, as well as some other sentiments ascribed to me, which never had an existence in my imagination.
In touching upon the more delicate part of your letter, (the communication of which fills me with real concern,) I will deal by you with all that frankness, which is due to friendship, and which I wish should be a characteristic feature in my conduct through life. I will therefore declare to you, that, if it should be my inevitable fate to administer the government, (for Heaven knows, that no event can be less desired by me, and that no earthly consideration short of so general a call, together with a desire to reconcile contending parties as far as in me lies, could again bring me into public life,) I will go to the chair under no pre-engagement of any kind or nature whatsoever. But, when in it, I will, to the best of my judgment, discharge the duties of the office with that impartiality and zeal for the public good, which ought never to suffer connections of blood or friendship to intermingle so as to have the least sway on decisions of a public nature. I may err, notwithstanding my most strenuous efforts to execute the difficult trust with fidelity and unexceptionably; but my errors shall be of the head, not of the heart. For all recommendations for appointments, so far as they may depend upon or come from me, a due regard shall be had to the fitness of characters, the pretensions of different candidates, and, so far as is proper, to political considerations. These shall be invariably my governing motives.1
You will perceive, then, my dear Sir, that I cannot with propriety say any thing more on the subject, than that several applications have been made to me for the office immediately in question without having received any answer. I wish you had pursued the policy, which the gentleman who now occupies it has done, of obtaining the appointment from the executive of this State. Although that gentleman was an officer, yet he is quite unknown to me, and therefore I cannot speak at all upon the ground of comparative claims of personal merits. I conceive, however, it will be found no pleasant thing, possibly very much the reverse, to displace one man under these circumstances of actual occupancy, merely to make room for another, however considerable his abilities, or unimpeached his integrity may appear to the public eye.1
Mrs. Washington joins me in every good wish for Mrs. Harrison and your family.
I am, Sir, &c.
TO GEORGE STEPTOE WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 23 March, 1789.
As it is probable I shall soon be under the necessity of quitting this place, and entering once more into the bustle of publick life, in conformity to the voice of my Country and the earnest entreaties of my friends, however contrary it is to my own desires or inclinations; I think it incumbent on me as your Uncle and friend, to give you some advisory hints, which if properly attended to, will, I conceive, be found very useful to you in regulating your conduct and giving you respectability not only at present but through every period of life. You have now arrived to that age when you must quit the trifling amusements of a boy, and assume the more dignified manners of a man.
At this crisis your conduct will attract the notice of those who are about you; and as the first impressions are generally the most lasting; your doings now may mark the leading traits of your character through life. It is therefore, absolutely necessary, if you mean to make any figure upon the stage, that you should take the first steps right. What these steps are and what general line is to be pursued to lay the foundation of an honorable and happy progress, is the part of age and experience to point out. This I shall do, as far as in my power with the utmost chearfulness; and, I trust, that your own good sense will shew you the necessity of following it. The first and great object with you at present is to acquire, by industry and application, such knowledge as your situation enables you to obtain, as will be useful to you in life. In doing this two other important objects will be gained besides the acquisition of knowledge—namely a habit of industry, and a disrelish of that profusion of money and dissipation of time which are ever attendant upon idleness. I do not mean by a close application to your studies that you should never enter into those amusements which are suited to your age and station. They may be made to go hand in hand with each other, and used in their proper seasons, will ever be found to be a mutual assistance to each other. But what amusements are to be taken, and when, is the great matter to be attended to—your own judgement, with the advice of your real friends who may have an opportunity of a personal intercourse with you can point out the particular manner in which you may best spend your moments of relaxation, much better than I can at a distance.—One thing, however, I would strongly impress upon you, viz: that when you have leisure, to go into company; that it should always be of the best kind that the place you are in will afford; by this means you will be constantly improving your manners and cultivating your mind while you are relaxing from your books; and good company will always be found much less expensive than bad. You cannot offer, as an excuse for not using it, that you cannot gain admission there, or that you have not a proper attention paid you in it, this is an apology made only, by those whose manners are disgusting, or whose character is exceptionable; neither of which, I hope will ever be said of you. I cannot enjoin too strongly upon you a due observance of economy and frugality: As you well know yourself, the present state of your property and finances will not admit of any unnecessary expense. The article of clothing is now one of the chief expenses, you will incur; and in this, I fear, you are not so economical as you should be. Decency and cleanliness will always be the first object in the dress of a judicious and sensible man. A conformity to the prevailing fashion in a certain degree is necessary—but it does not follow from thence that a man should always get a new coat, or other clothes, upon every trifling change in the mode, when, perhaps he has two or three very good ones by him. A person who is anxious to be a leader of the fashion, or one of the first to follow it, will certainly appear in the eyes of judicious men, to have nothing better than a frequent c[h]ange of dress to recommend him to notice. I would always wish you to appear sufficiently decent to entitle you to admission into any company, where you may be,—but I cannot too strongly enjoin it upon you—and your own knowledge must convince you of the truth of it—that you should be as little expensive in this respect as you properly can—You should always keep some clothes to wear to church, or on particular occasions, which should not be worn every day. This can be done without any additional expense; for whenever it is necessary to get new clothes, those which have been kept for particular occasions, will then come in as every day ones, unless they should be of a superior quality to the new. What I have said with respect to clothes will apply perhaps more pointedly to Lawrence than to you,—and as you are much older than he is, and more capable of judging of the propriety of what I have here observed, you must pay attention to him, in this respect, and see that he does not wear his clothes improperly or extravagantly. Much more might be said to you, as a young man, upon the necessity of paying due attention to the moral virtues,—but this may, perhaps, more properly be the subject of a future letter when you are about to enter into the world. If you comply with the advice herein given, to pay a diligent attention to your studies, and employ your time of relaxation in proper company, you will find but few opportunities and little inclination, while you continue at an Acadimy, to enter into those scenes of vice and dissipation which too often present themselves to youth in every place, and particularly in towns. If you are determined to neglect your books, and plunge into extravagance and dissipation nothing that I can now say would prevent it,—for you must be employed, and if it is not in pursuit of those things profitable, it must be in pursuit of those which are —. As your time of continuing with Mr. Hanson expires the last of this month and I understand that Doctor Craik has expressed an inclination to take you and Lawrence to board with him, I shall know his determination respecting the matter,—and if it is agreeable to him and Mrs. Craik to take you I shall be pleased with it; for I am certain that nothing will be wanting on their part to make your situation agreeable and useful to you. Should you live with the Doctor, I shall request him to take you both under his peculiar care—provide such clothes for you from time to time, as he shall judge necessary,—and do by you in the same manner as he would if you were his own children: which if he will undertake, I am sensible, from knowledge which I have of him, and the very amiable character and disposition of Mrs. Craik, that they will spare no proper exertions to make your situation pleasing and profitable to you. Should you or Lawrence therefore behave in such a manner as to occasion any complaint being made to me, you may depend upon losing that place which you now have in my affections, and any future hope you may have from me. But if, on the contrary, your conduct is such as to merit my regard you may always depend upon the warmest attachment and sincere regard of
Your affectionate friend and Uncle.
TO JAMES MADISON, IN CONGRESS.
Mount Vernon, 30 March, 1789.
My dear Sir,
I have been favored with your letter of the 19th, by which it appears that a quorum of Congress was hardly to be expected before the beginning of the next week. As this delay must be very irksome to the attending members, and every day’s continuance of it, before the government is in operation, will be more sensibly felt, I am resolved, that none shall proceed from me that can well be avoided, after notice of the election is announced, and therefore I take the liberty of requesting the favor of you to engage lodgings for me previous to my arrival.
Mr. Lear, who has lived with me three years as a private secretary, will accompany or precede me in the stage; and Colonel Humphreys I presume will be of my party. On the subject of lodgings, I will frankly declare to you, that I mean to go into none but hired ones. If these cannot be had tolerably convenient (for I shall not be nice about them), I would take rooms in the most decent tavern, till a house can be provided for the more permanent reception of the President. I have already declined a very polite and pressing invitation from the Governor to lodge at his house, till a place could be prepared for me; after which, should any other offer of a similar nature be made, there could be no propriety in my acceptance of it. As you are fully acquainted with my sentiments on this head, I shall only add, that, as I mean to avoid private families on the one hand, so on the other I am not anxious to be placed early in a situation for entertaining; for which reason private lodgings, till I can feel the way a little, would not only be more agreeable to my own wishes, but possibly more consistent with sound policy.1
As it is my intention to conform to the public desire and expectation with respect to the style proper for the President to live in, it may be well to know what these are before he enters upon it. After all, something may perhaps have been decided upon before this will reach you, that may make the request nugatory. If otherwise, I will only in one word say, that my wish is to be placed in an independent situation for the purpose I have mentioned. I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the highest regard, &c.
TO THOMAS GREEN.2
Mount Vernon, 31 March, 1789.
I am about to leave my home whether for a length of time is more than I can tell at present.—But be this as it may I expect the agreement to which we have subscribed, will be as strictly complied with on your part as it shall be punctually fulfilled on mine. To enable you to do this, you would do well to keep two things always in remembrance—First that all Bargains are intended, for the mutual benefit of and are equally binding on both the Parties, and are either binding in all their parts or are of no use at all—If then a man receives for his labor, and he with holds that labor, or if he trifles away that time for which he is paid, it is a robbery—and a robbery of the worst kind, because it is not only a fraud but a dishonorable, unmanly and a deceitful fraud;—but it is unnecessary to dwell on this because there is no Man so ignorant of the common obligations of Justice, as not to know it—altho’ there are hundreds who do not scruple to practice it, at the same time that they would think hard, on the other hand, if they were to be deprived of their money. The other matter which I advise you to keep always in remembrance is the good name, which common policy as well as common honesty, makes it necessary for every workman who wishes to pass thro’ life with reputation and to secure employment. Having said thus much by way of exhortation I shall inform you in the most serious and positive terms that I have left strict orders with the Major my nephew, who is vested with full powers to transact all my business, that if he should find you unfaithful to your engagements, either from the love of liquor, from a disposition to be running about, or from proneness to idle when at your work—to discard you immediately, and to remove your family from their present abode. The sure means to avoid this evil is—first to refrain from drink which is the source of all evil—and the ruin of half the workmen in this Country—and next to avoid bad company, which is the bane of good morals, economy and industry. You have every inducement to do this—Reputation—the care and support of a growing family—and society which this family affords within your own doors, which may not be the case with some of the idle (to say nothing worse of them) characters who may lead you into temptation. Were you to look back, and had the means, either from recollection, or accounts, to ascertain the cost of the liquor you have expended it would astonish you—In the manner this expence is generally incurred, that is by getting a little now—a little then, the impropriety of it is not seen, in as much as it passes away without much thought. But view it in the aggregate you will be convinced at once, whether any man who depends upon the labor of his hands, not only for his own support, but that of an encreasing family, can afford such a proportion of his wages to that article. But the expence is not the worst consequence that attends it, for it naturally leads a man into the company of those who encourage dissipation and idleness, by which he is led by degrees to the perpetration of acts which may terminate in his Ruin. But supposing this not to happen, a disordered frame, and a body debilitated, renders him unfit (even if his mind was disposed to discharge the duties of his station with honor to himself or fidelity to his employer) from the execution of it. An aching head and trembling limbs, which are the inevitable effects of drinking, disincline the hands from work; hence begins sloth and that Listlessness, which end in idleness, but which are no reasons for withholding that labor for which money is paid.
I have no other inducement for giving you this advice (in this my hour of hurry) but your own good; for the wages and previleges which you have I well know would obtain for me the best workmen in this country, without the charges of such a family as yours; but as it has been a custom with me through life to give a preference to those who have long lived with me, and my wish to see them do well, I have taken the trouble of writing you this letter. If you have gratitude, or a mind capable of reflection, it will make such an impression on it as may be serviceable to you thro life; if not, I have my labor for my pains.
Whilst the negro carpenters work at the same spot where you are, they will be subject to your inspection and orders—and at other times if it should be found necessary to put them under yr. care it will be expected that you see that they do their duty. I am, &c.1
TO HENRY KNOX.
Mount Vernon, 1 April, 1789.
The mail of the 30th brought me your favor of the 23d, by which, and the regular information you have had the goodness to transmit to me of the state of things in New York, I am very much obliged, and thank you accordingly.
I feel for those members of the new Congress, who hitherto have given an unavailing attendance at the theatre of action. For myself the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for in confidence I tell you, (with the world it would obtain little credit,) that my movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit, who is going to the place of his execution; so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities, and inclination, which are necessary to manage the helm. I am sensible that I am embarking the voice of the people, and a good name of my own, on this voyage; but what returns will be made for them, Heaven alone can foretell. Integrity and firmness are all I can promise. These, be the voyage long or short, shall never forsake me, although I may be deserted by all men; for of the consolations, which are to be derived from these, under any circumstances, the world cannot deprive me. I am &c.1
TO JOHN LANGDON.
Mount Vernon, 14 April, 1789.
I had the honor to receive your official communication, by the hand of Mr. Secretary Thomson, about one o’clock this day. Having concluded to obey the important and flattering call of my country, and having been impressed with an idea of the expediency of my being with Congress at as early a period as possible, I propose to commence my journey on Thursday morning, which will be the day after to-morrow. I have the honor to be, with sentiments of esteem, Sir, &c.2
INAUGURAL SPEECH TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS, APRIL 30TH, 1789.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives,
Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties, than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years; a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust, to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is, that, if in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me; my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And, in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none, under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.
By the article establishing the executive department, it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances, under which I now meet you, will acquit me from entering into that subject farther than to refer you to the great constitutional charter under which we are assembled; and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism, which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges, that as, on one side, no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views or party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye, which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests; so, on another, that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the pre-eminence of a free government be exemplified by all the attributes, which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world.
I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction, which an ardent love for my country can inspire; since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people.
Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide, how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself, that, whilst you carefully avoid every alteration, which might endanger the benefits of a united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience; a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen, and a regard for the public harmony, will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question, how far the former can be more impregnably fortified, or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.
To the preceding observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required, that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed. And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department; and must accordingly pray, that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may, during my continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.
Having thus imparted to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the human race, in humble supplication, that, since he has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures, on which the success of this government must depend.
REPLY TO THE ANSWER OF THE SENATE.
I thank you for your address, in which the most affectionate sentiments are expressed in the most obliging terms. The coincidence of circumstances, which led to this auspicious crisis, the confidence reposed in me by my fellow-citizens, and the assistance I may expect from counsels, which will be dictated by an enlarged and liberal policy, seem to presage a more prosperous issue to my administration, than a diffidence of my abilities had taught me to anticipate. I now feel myself inexpressibly happy in a belief, that Heaven, which has done so much for our infant nation, will not withdraw its providential influence before our political felicity shall have been completed; and in a conviction that the Senate will at all times co-operate in every measure which may tend to promote the welfare of this confederated republic.
Thus supported by a firm trust in the great Arbiter of the universe, aided by the collected wisdom of the Union, and imploring the divine benediction on our joint exertions in the service of our country, I readily engage with you in the arduous but pleasing task of attempting to make a nation happy.
REPLY TO THE ANSWER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
Your very affectionate address produces emotions, which I know not how to express. I feel, that my past endeavors in the service of my country are far overpaid by its goodness; and I fear much, that my future ones may not fulfil your kind anticipation. All that I can promise is, that they will be invariably directed by an honest and an ardent zeal. Of this resource my heart assures me. For all beyond, I rely on the wisdom and patriotism of those with whom I am to co-operate, and a continuance of the blessings of Heaven on our beloved country.1
TO EDWARD RUTLEDGE.
New York, 5 May, 1789.
My dear Sir,
I cannot fail of being much pleased with the friendly part you take in every thing which concerns me; and particularly with the just scale on which you estimate this last great sacrifice, which I consider myself as having made for the good of my country. When I had judged, upon the best appreciation I was able to form of the circumstances which related to myself, that it was my duty to embark again on the tempestuous and uncertain ocean of public life, I gave up all expectations of private happiness in this world. You know, my dear Sir, I had concentered all my schemes, all my views, all my wishes, within the narrow circle of domestic enjoyment. Though I flatter myself the world will do me the justice to believe, that at any time of life and in my circumstances, nothing but a conviction of duty could have induced me to depart from my resolution of remaining in retirement; yet I greatly apprehend that my Countrymen will expect too much from me. I fear, if the issue of public measures should not correspond with their sanguine expectations, they will turn the extravagant (and I may say undue) praises which they are heaping upon me at this moment, into equally extravagant (though I will fondly hope unmerited) censures. So much is expected, so many untoward circumstances may intervene, in such a new and critical situation, that I feel an insuperable diffidence in my own abilities—I feel, in the execution of the duties of my arduous office, how much I shall stand in need of the countenance and aid of every friend to myself, of every friend to the Revolution, and of every lover of good Government. I thank you, my dear Sir, for your affectionate expressions on this point.
I anticipate that one of the most difficult and delicate parts of the duty of my office will be that which relates to nominations for appointments. I receive with the more satisfaction the strong testimonials in behalf of Mr. Hall, because I hope they will tend to supersede the difficulty in this instance. Though, from a system which I have prescribed to myself, I can say nothing decisive on particular appointments; yet I may be allowed to observe in general, that nothing could be more agreeable to me than to have one candidate brought forward for every office with such clear pretensions as to secure him against competition.1
Mrs. W. is not here, but is shortly expected on her arrival.1 I will offer the Complts. of Mrs. R. & yourself to her. In the meantime I pray you to believe that I am, with sentiments of the purest esteem & the highest consideration, &c.
TO JAMES MADISON.
New York, 12 May, 1789.
My dear Sir,
To draw such a line for the conduct of the President as will please everybody, I know is impossible, but to mark out and follow one, which, by being consonant with reason, will meet general approbation, may be as practicable as it is desirable. The true medium I conceive must lie in pursuing such a course, as will allow him time for all the official duties of his station. This should be the primary object. The next, to avoid as much as may be the charge of superciliousness, and seclusion from information, by too much reserve and too great a withdraw of himself from company on the one hand, and the inconveniences, as well as a reduction of respectability, from too free an intercourse and too much familiarity on the other.
Under these impressions I have submitted the enclosed queries1 for your consideration, and would thank you for your sentiments thereon, with the return of the paper. For the remarks which it contains, it is necessary that some plan should be adopted by the President for his mode of living, that the pecuniary estimates for the department may have an eye thereto; and, though secondary, it is a motive for my bringing the matter before you at this time. I am your affectionate friend, &c.
1. Whether a line of conduct, equally distant from an association with all kinds of company on the one hand, and from a total seclusion from society on the other, ought to be adopted by him. And in that case, how is it to be done?
2. What will be the least exceptionable method of bringing any system, which may be adopted on this subject, before the public and into use?
3. Whether, after a little time, one day in every week will not be sufficient for receiving visits of compliment?
4. Whether it would tend to prompt impertinent applications, and involve disagreeable consequences, to have it known that the President will, every morning at eight o’clock, be at leisure to give audience to persons, who may have business with him?
5. Whether, when it shall have been understood, that the President is not to give general entertainments in the manner the presidents of Congress have formerly done, it will be practicable to draw such a line of discrimination, in regard to persons, as that six, eight, or ten official characters, including in rotation the members of both Houses of Congress, may be invited informally, or otherwise, to dine with him on the days fixed for receiving company, without exciting clamors in the rest of the community?
6. Whether it would be satisfactory to the public for the President to make about four great entertainments in a year, on such great occasions as the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the alliance with France, the peace with Great Britain, the organization of the general government; and whether arrangements of these two last kinds could be in danger of diverting too much of the President’s time from business, or of producing the evils, which it was intended to avoid by his living more recluse than the presidents of Congress have heretofore lived?
7. Whether there would be any impropriety in the President’s making informal visits; that is to say, in his calling upon his acquaintances or public characters, for the purpose of sociability or civility? And what, as to the form of doing it, might evince these visits to have been made in his private character, so as that they may not be construed into visits from the President of the United States? And in what light would his appearance rarely at tea-parties be considered?
8. Whether, during the recess of Congress, it would not be advantageous to the interests of the Union for the President to make the tour of the United States, in order to become better acquainted with their principal characters and internal circumstances, as well as to be more accessible to numbers of well-informed persons, who might give him useful information and advice on political subjects?
9. If there is a probability, that either of the arrangements may take place, which will eventually cause additional expenses, whether it would not be proper that those ideas should come into contemplation at the time when Congress shall make a permanent provision for the support of the executive?
Remarks. On the one side, no augmentation can be effected in the pecuniary establishment, which shall be made in the first instance for the support of the executive. On the other, all moneys destined to that purpose, beyond the actual expenditures, will be left in the treasury of the United States, or sacredly applied to the promotion of some national objects.
Many things, which appear of little importance in themselves and at the beginning, may have great and durable consequences from their having been established at the commencement of a new general government. It will be much easier to commence the administration upon a well-adjusted system, built on tenable grounds, than to correct errors, or alter inconveniences, after they shall have been confirmed by habit. The President, in all matters of business and etiquette, can have no object but to demean himself in his public character in such a manner as to maintain the dignity of his office, without subjecting himself to the imputation of superciliousness or unnecessary reserve. Under these impressions, he asks for your candid and undisguised opinion.
TO MARY WOOSTER.1
New York, 21 May, 1789.
I have duly received your affecting letter, dated the 8th day of this month. Sympathizing with you as I do in the great misfortunes, which have befallen your family in consequence of the war, my feelings as an individual would forcibly prompt me to do every thing in my power to repair those misfortunes. But as a public man, acting only with a reference to the public good, I must be allowed to decide upon all points of my duty, without consulting my private inclinations and wishes. I must be permitted, with the best lights I can obtain, and upon a general view of characters and circumstances, to nominate such persons alone to offices, as in my judgment shall be the best qualified to discharge the functions of the departments to which they shall be appointed.
Hitherto I have given no decisive answers to the applications of any candidates whatsoever. Nor would it be proper for me, before offices shall be created, and before I can have a general knowledge of the competitors for them, to say any thing that might be construed as intended to encourage or discourage the hopes, which individuals may have formed of success.1 I only wish, so far as my agency in this business is concerned, that candidates for offices would save themselves the trouble and consequent expense of personal attendance. All that I require is the name and such testimonials with respect to abilities, integrity, and fitness, as it may be in the power of the several applicants to produce. Beyond this, nothing with me is necessary, or will be of any avail to them in my decisions. In the mean time I beg you will be persuaded, Madam, that, let the result be whatsoever it may, I can have no interest to promote but that of the public; and that I remain in all personal considerations, with the highest respect, your most obedient servant.
TO COUNT DE MOUSTIER.
New York, 25 May, 1789.
What circumstances there may be existing between our two nations, to which you allude, on account of their peculiarity I know not. But, as those nations are happily connected in the strictest ties of amity, not less by inclination and interest, than by the solemnity of a treaty, and as the United States are too remote from Europe to take any share in the local politics of that continent, I had concluded, that commerce was the only subject of negotiations, which could at present be very interesting to the inhabitants of the two countries.
In two letters, which I had the pleasure of writing to you before I returned into public life, I stated (if I remember rightly, for I have not the copies of the letters with me), that I was so little acquainted with commercial affairs, that I should very much distrust my own judgment, even in the opinions which I might be obliged to hazard in treating casually of them. This fact, if there had been no other circumstance that merited a consideration, would be a conclusive reason for preventing me individually from entering upon any kind of negotiations on that subject. For while I find myself incompetent to it, I really believe, that much reciprocal advantage might be acquired, if that subject could be candidly and intelligently managed. This I should hope, too, might be the case; and so far shall I be from throwing any obstacles in the way, that I shall certainly take a great pleasure in removing, (so far as lays in my power,) such as may occur.1
Every one, who has any knowledge of my manner of acting in public life, will be persuaded that I am not accustomed to impede the despatch or frustrate the success of business by a ceremonious attention to idle forms. Any person of that description will also be satisfied, that I should not readily consent to lose one of the most important functions of my office, for the sake of preserving an imaginary dignity. But perhaps, if there are rules of proceeding, which have originated from the wisdom of statesmen, and are sanctioned by the common consent of nations, it would not be prudent for a young state to dispense with them altogether, at least, without some substantial cause for so doing. I have myself been induced to think, possibly from the habits of experience, that in general the best mode of conducting negotiations, the detail and progress of which might be liable to accidental mistakes, or unintentional misrepresentations, is by writing. This mode, if I was obliged myself to negotiate with any one, I should still pursue. I have, however, been taught to believe, that there is in most polished nations a system established, with regard to the foreign as well as the other great departments, which, from the utility, the necessity, and the reason of the thing, provides, that business should be digested and prepared by the heads of those departments.
The impossibility that one man should be able to perform all the great business of the state, I take to have been the reason for instituting the great departments, and appointing officers therein, to assist the supreme magistrate in discharging the duties of his trust. And perhaps I may be allowed to say of myself, that the supreme magistrate of no state can have a greater variety of important business to perform in person, than I have at this moment. Very many things will doubtless occur to you, Sir, as being incident to the office of President in the commencement of the government, which cannot be done by the intervention of a third person. You will give me leave to say, likewise, that no third person (were there a disposition for it) shall ever have it in his power to erect a wall between me and the diplomatic corps, that is to say, to prevent necessary communications. Nor has anybody insinuated, that it would be beneath the dignity of a President of the United States occasionally to transact business with a foreign minister. But in what light the public might view the establishment of a precedent for negotiating the business of a department, without any agency of the head of the department, who was appointed for that very purpose, I do not at present pretend to determine; nor whether a similar practice in that case must not of right be extended hereafter to all diplomatic characters of the same rank.
Here you will be pleased to observe, Sir, that I am writing as General Washington to the Count de Moustier. Happy am I, that my regard for yourself and your nation is so far from being equivocal, that I have had several occasions of making it known to you, both in conversation and writing. And I hope you will consider this confidential letter as an evidence of the extreme regret, which I should feel, in being obliged to decline any propositions, as to the mode of doing business, from a person who has so many titles to my esteem as the Count de Moustier.
I will only add, that, under my present impressions, I cannot persuade myself, that I should be justifiable in deviating essentially from established forms. With the highest sentiments of esteem and regard,
I am, Sir, &c.
TO MATHEW CAREY.
New York, 29 May, 1789.
In the course of my whole existence, I never before have been made the subject of such extraordinary conduct as that which I have been obliged to suffer by your sending to me unsealed, through a public conveyance, my letter of the 22d and yours of the 27th of this month.
After the candid and my heart witnessed for me no unfriendly part I had always acted towards you, I hoped for the credit of human nature, at least to have escaped an intentional insult. I am, &c.1
TO THE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS.1
New York, 8 June, 1789.
Although in the present unsettled state of the executive departments, under the government of the Union, I do not conceive it expedient to call upon you for information officially, yet I have supposed, that some informal communications from the office of foreign affairs might neither be improper or unprofitable. For finding myself at this moment less occupied with the duties of my office, than I shall probably be at almost any time hereafter, I am desirous of employing myself in obtaining an acquaintance with the real situation of the several great departments, at the period of my acceding to the administration of the general government. For this purpose I wish to receive in writing such a clear account of the department, at the head of which you have been for some years past, as may be sufficient (without overburdening or confusing the mind, which has very many objects to claim its attention at the same instant,) to impress me with a full, precise, and distinct general idea of the affairs of the United States, so far as they are comprehended in, or connected with, that department.
As I am now at leisure to inspect such papers and documents, as may be necessary to be acted upon hereafter, or as may be calculated to give me an insight into the business and duties of that department, I have thought fit to address this notification to you accordingly. I am, &c.1
TO JAMES McHENRY.
New York, 3 July, 1789.
I have received your very friendly letter of the 28th of June, and feel a grateful sense of the interest which you take in my welfare and happiness, and the kind solicitude, which you express for the recovery of my health. I have now the pleasure to inform you, that my health is restored, but a feebleness still hangs upon me, and I am yet much incommoded by the incision, which was made in a very large and painful tumor on the protuberance of my thigh. This prevents me from walking or sitting. However, the physicians assure me that it has had a happy effect in removing my fever, and will tend very much to the establishment of my general health; it is in a fair way of healing, and time and patience only are wanting to remove this evil. I am able to take exercise in my coach, by having it so contrived as to extend myself the full length of it.
I thank you, my dear Sir, for the anxiety which you express, that I should have some person about me, who is well acquainted with my constitution, and who has been accustomed to my confidence. The habits of intimacy and friendship, in which I have long lived with Dr. Craik, and the opinion I have of his professional knowledge, would most certainly point him out as the man of my choice in all cases of sickness. I am convinced of his sincere attachment to me, and I should with cheerfulness trust my life in his hands, but, how far circumstances at present would justify his quitting his practice in Alexandria and its vicinity to gratify his inclinations and my wishes, I am not able to say; but, could it be made consistent with his advantage to be near me, I am sure it would be highly pleasing to me. I must, however, in justice to Dr. Bard, who has attended me during my late indisposition, declare, that neither skill nor attention has been wanting on his part, and, as I could not have the assistance of my good friend, Dr. Craik, I think myself fortunate in having fallen into such good hands.1
You have my sincere wishes, that your intended journey to the Sweet Springs may be the means of restoring the health of your brother, and that it may be pleasant and healthful to yourself. I am, dear Sir, with very great esteem, your affectionate, &c.
TO JOHN JAY.
New York, 14 July, 1789.
I find myself incompetent to form any decided opinion upon the paper I received from you the other day, without having a view of the transactions, which have been had with the Spanish minister. I wish also to know whether, if the negotiations are renewed, it can be made to appear from any thing, which that gentleman has said, as the result of an advance towards it from him in his official character. Unless this is the case, and primâ facie the reverse, will it not convey to him and his court an idea, that a change of sentiment has taken place in the governing powers of this country? Will it be expedient and proper (at this moment) for the President to encourage such an idea; at any rate, without previously advising with the Senate? With very sincere esteem and regard,
I am, &c.
TO CHARLES THOMSON.
New York, 24 July, 1789.
I have contemplated your note, wherein, after mentioning your having served in quality of secretary of Congress from the first meeting of that body, in 1774, to the present time, through an eventful period of almost fifteen years, you announce your wish to retire to private life; and I have to regret, that the period of my coming again into public life should be exactly that, in which you are about to retire from it.
The present age does so much justice to the unsullied reputation, with which you have always conducted yourself in the execution of the duties of your office, and posterity will find your name so honorably connected with the verification of such a multitude of astonishing facts, that my single suffrage would add little to the illustration of your merits. Yet I cannot withhold any just testimonial in favor of so old, so faithful, and so able a public officer, which might tend to soothe his mind in the shade of retirement. Accept, then, this serious declaration, that your services have been important, as your patriotism was distinguished; and enjoy that best of all rewards, the consciousness of having done your duty well.
You will be pleased, Sir, to deliver the books, records, and papers of the late Congress, the great seal of the federal Union, and the seal of the admiralty, to Mr. Roger Alden, the late deputy secretary of Congress, who is requested to take charge of them until farther directions shall be given. I beg you to be persuaded, that it will always afford me real pleasure to extend whatever encouragement may be consistent with my general duties, to such particular persons as have long been faithful and useful servants to the community. I finally commend you to the protection of Heaven, and sincerely wish you may enjoy every species of felicity. I am, &c.
TO DAVID STUART.
New York, 26 July, 1789.
In the first moment of my ability to sit in an easy chair, and that not entirely without pain, I occupy myself in acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 14th instant, and thanking you for it.
Although my time (before I was confined) had been and probably now will be much more engaged, yet your communications without any reserve will be exceedingly grateful and pleasing to me. While the eyes of America, perhaps of the world, are turned to this government, and many are watching the movements of all those, who are concerned in its administration, I should like to be informed, through so good a medium, of the public opinion of both men and measures, and of none more than myself; not so much of what may be thought commendable parts, if any, of my conduct, as of those which are conceived to be of a different complexion. The man, who means to commit no wrong, will never be guilty of enormities; consequently he can never be unwilling to learn what is ascribed to him as foibles. If they are really such, the knowledge of them in a well-disposed mind will go half way towards a reform. If they are not errors, he can explain and justify the motives of his actions.
At a distance from the theatre of action, truth is not always related without embellishment, and sometimes is entirely perverted, from a misconception of the causes which produce the effects that are the subjects of censure. 1. This leads me to think, that a system, which I found it indispensably necessary to adopt upon my first coming to this city, might have undergone severe strictures, and have had motives very foreign from those that govern me, assigned as causes therefor. I mean, returning no visits1 ; 2ly, appointing certain days to receive them generally, (not to the exclusion however of visits on any other days under particular circumstances;) and, 3ly, at first entertaining no company, and afterwards until I was unable to entertain any at all confining it to official characters. A few days evinced the necessity of the two first in so clear a point of view, that, had I not adopted it, I should have been unable to have attended to any sort of business, unless I had applied the hours allotted to rest and refreshment to this purpose; for by the time I had done breakfast, and thence till dinner, and afterwards till bed-time, I could not get relieved from the ceremony of one visit, before I had to attend to another. In a word, I had no leisure to read or to answer the despatches, that were pouring in upon me from all quarters.
And with respect to the third matter, I early received information through very respectable channels, that the adoption thereof was not less essential, than that of the other two, if the President was to preserve the dignity and respect, that was due to the first magistrate. For that a contrary conduct had involved the late presidents of Congress in insuperable difficulties, and the office, (in this respect,) in perfect contempt; for the table was considered as a public one, and every person, who could get introduced, conceived that he had a right to be invited to it. This, although the table was always crowded (and with mixed company, and the President considered in no better light than as a maitre d’hôtel), was in its nature impracticable, and as many offences given as if no table had been kept.
The citizens of this place were well knowing to this fact, and the principal members of Congress in both Houses were so well convinced of the impropriety and degrading situation of their President, that it was the general opinion, that the President of the United States should neither give or receive invitations; some from a belief, independent of the circumstances I have mentioned, that this was fundamentally right in order to acquire respect. But to this I had two objections, both powerful in my mind; first, the novelty of it I knew would be considered as an ostentatious show of mimicry of sovereignty; and, secondly, that so great a seclusion would have stopped the avenues to useful information from the many, and make me more dependent on that of the few. But to hit on a discriminating medium was found more difficult than it appeared to be at first view; for, if the citizens at large were begun upon, no line could be drawn; all, of decent appearance, would expect to be invited, and I should have been plunged at once into the evil I was endeavoring to avoid. Upon the whole, it was thought best to confine my invitations to official characters and strangers of distinction. This line I have hitherto pursued. Whether it may be found best to adhere to, or depart from it, in some measure must be the result of experience and information.
So strongly had the citizens of this place imbibed an idea of the impropriety of my accepting invitations to dinner, that I have not received one from any family (though they are remarkable for hospitality, and though I have received every civility and attention possible from them) since I came to the city, except dining with the governor on the day of my arrival; so that, if this should be adduced as an article of impeachment, there can be least one good reason adduced for my not dining out; to wit, never having been asked to do so.
One of the gentlemen, whose name is mentioned in your letter, though high-toned, has never, I believe, appeared with more than two horses in his carriage1 ; but it is to be lamented, that he and some others have stirred a question, which has given rise to so much animadversion, and which I confess has given me much uneasiness, lest it should be supposed by some, (unacquainted with facts,) that the object they had in view was not displeasing to me. The truth is, the question was moved before I arrived, without any privity or knowledge of it on my part, and urged, after I was apprized of it, contrary to my opinion; for I foresaw and predicted the reception it has met with, and the use that would be made of it by the adversaries of the government. Happily the matter is now done with, I hope never to be revived.1
The opposition of the Senate to the discrimination in the tonnage bill was so adverse to my ideas of justice and policy, that I should have suffered it to pass silently into a law without my signature, had I not been assured by some members of the Senate, that they were preparing another bill, which would answer the purpose more effectually without being liable to the objections and to the consequences, which they feared would have attended the descrimination, which was proposed in the tonnage law. Why they keep their doors shut, when acting in a legislative capacity, I am unable to inform you, unless it is because they think there is too much speaking to the gallery in the other House, and business thereby retarded.
Your letter is the first intimation I ever received of any defect in the title or of any claim to the land called Claiborn’s. It is hardly to be conceived that Philip Whitehead Claiborn, who was Brother (and as you say Executor) to William Claiborn, for the payment of whose debts it was sold, should have joined in the conveyance of land, to which he himself had a right by entail. Admit this, and bad motives must be ascribed to the action; viz., a knowledge that his son, if the entail was good, would not be barred by his conveyance, if no act of Assembly or writ of ad quod animum had previously docked it. Such a suspicion I cannot harbor of that Gentleman, because he possessed an exceeding fair character. To the best of my recollection there are some papers in the garret at Mount Vernon, which belong to the estate of Mr. Custis. In making a hasty arrangement of my own I came across and had them put into a trunk or box by themselves. From a cursory inspection they appeared altogether unimportant, or I should have sent them to you; and in another trunk in my study there are papers which relate to my accounts and transactions with that estate. Possibly (for it is not very probable,) you may find something in one or the other of those that may be useful. If in the first, I wish, if they are deserving of the carriage, that you would take them home. The others may be necessary for my own security, and therefore I would not have them removed. The decree of King William’s Court will not, I fear avail much, for I do not conceive that it could extend (if there was an entail in force) beyond the life of William Claiborn if then living, or that Phil. Claiborn’s act could bind his son. Your trouble in this and the other disputes with Mr. Custis’s estate I perceive will be very great. That your success may be correspondent I sincerely wish. We shall be anxious after the decisions to learn the result.
I am mistaken greatly, if I did not in the year 1778 convey both the King William and the King and Queen lands to Mr. Custis by deeds executed at Camp before Colonels Harrison, Mead, and many others as witnesses to prove it in the General Court, and this in the presence of Mr. Custis. If it was not received for want of due proof, I am ready to reacknowledge the same deed, or a copy of it, for I recollect (pretty well) taking the opinion of Col. Harrison upon the nature of the conveyance—and if my memory has not failed me you will find some mention of the matter in one of my letters to Mr. Custis which you called upon me some time ago to authenticate.
Mr. Dandridge gave me an order upon Mr. Brown (of Kentucky) for £800 to be applied if received to the credit of Mr. Custis’s Estate but the order was protested, and Mr. Dandridge had been advertised thereof.
Nothing would give me more pleasure, than to serve any of the descendants of General Nelson, of whose merits, when living, no man could entertain a higher opinion than I did. At the same time I must confess, there are few persons of whom I have no personal knowledge, or good information, that I would take into my family, where many qualifications are necessary to fit them for the duty of it; to wit, a good address, abilities above mediocrity, secrecy and prudence, attention and industry, good temper, and a capacity and disposition to write correctly and well and to do it obligingly.
Most clerkships will, I presume, either by law or custom, be left to the appointment of their principals in office. Little expectation therefore could Mr. Nelson, or any stranger, have from this source. This latter consideration, added to the desire I feel of serving the son of my old friend and acquaintance, has induced me at all hazards to offer Mr. Thomas Nelson, his son, a place in my family.
I shall not trouble you with legislative or any other accounts, which are detailed in the papers, but that I have sent you the journals of the Senate, as far as they have been published and handed to me. If the successor of Mr. Richards would get the Federal Gazette, published by Fenno, from this city, it would enable him to collect as much information of what is passing on the theatre of New York, as he could extract from all the other papers of the place (and they are very numerous), were he to go to the expense of them. My best wishes attend Mrs. Stuart and all the family; and I am, dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant.1
TO JAMES MADISON.
New York, 9 August, 1789.
My dear Sir,
In consequence of the enclosed resolution, I had a conference with the committee therein named yesterday, when I expressed the sentiments, which you also have enclosed.
I was assured by the committee, that the only object the senate had in view was to be informed of the mode of communication which would be most agreeable to the President, and that a perfect acquiescence would be yielded thereto. But I could plainly perceive, notwithstanding, that oral communication was the point they aimed at. Indeed, one of the gentlemen candidly declared, that a great object with him, in wishing this, was to effect a viva voce vote in that body. He added, however, that he was not without hopes of accomplishing this without. To this I replied, finding all three were opposed to the balloting system, that nothing would sooner induce me to relinquish my mode of nomination by written messages, than to accomplish this end. Thus the matter stands for my further consideration.
What do you think I had best do? I am willing to pursue that line of conduct, which shall appear to be most conducive to the public good, without regard to the indulgence of my inclination, which, I confess, and for other reasons in addition to those which are enumerated, although they are secondary, would not be gratified by personal nominations.1
The period is now arrived, when the seat of the vacant judge in the western district is to be filled. Would Colonel Carrington, do you think, be pleased with this appointment? Or are you acquainted with any professional character of fitness for the office, south of New Jersey, that would accept it?2
I have had some conversation with Mr. Jay respecting his views to office, which I will communicate to you at our first interview; and this, if perfectly convenient and agreeable to you, may be this afternoon, as I shall be at home, and expect no company.
I am yours affectionately.
SENTIMENTS EXPRESSED BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE COMMITTEE FROM THE SENATE, APPOINTED TO CONFER WITH HIM ON THE MODE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT AND THE SENATE RESPECTING TREATIES AND NOMINATIONS.
August 8th, 1789.
In all matters respecting Treaties, oral communications seem indispensably necessary; because in these a variety of matters are contained, all of which not only require consideration, but some of them may undergo much discussion; to do which by written communications would be tedious without being satisfactory.
Oral communications may be proper, also, for discussing the propriety of sending representatives to foreign courts, and ascertaining the grade, or character, in which they are to appear, and may be so in other cases.
But it may be asked where are these oral communications to be made? If in the Senate-chamber, how are the President and Vice-President to be arranged? the latter by the constitution being ex-officio President of the Senate. Would the Vice-President be disposed to give up the chair? If not, ought the President of the United States to be placed in an awkward situation when there? These are matters, which require previous consideration and adjustment for meetings in the Senate-chamber or elsewhere.
With respect to nominations, my present ideas are, that, as they point to a single object, unconnected in its nature with any other object, they had best be made by written messages. In this case the acts of the President and the acts of the Senate will stand upon clear, distinct, and responsible ground.
Independently of this consideration, it could be no pleasing thing, I conceive, for the President, on the one hand, to be present and hear the propriety of his nominations questioned, nor for the Senate, on the other hand, to be under the smallest restraint from his presence from the fullest and freest inquiry into the character of the person nominated. The President, in a situation like this, would be reduced to one of two things; either to be a silent witness of the decision by ballot, if there are objections to the nomination, or in justification thereof (if he should think it right) to support it by argument; neither of which might be agreeable, and the latter improper; for, as the President has a right to nominate without assigning his reasons, so has the Senate a right to dissent without giving theirs.
SENTIMENTS DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT AT A SECOND CONFERENCE WITH THE COMMITTEE OF THE SENATE, AUGUST 10, 1789.
The President has the power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties and to appoint officers.
The Senate, when this power is exercised, is evidently a council only to the President, however its concurrence may be to his acts. It seems incident to this relation between them, that not only the time, but the place and manner of consultation, should be with the President. It is probable, that the place may vary. The indisposition or inclination of the President may require, that the Senate should be summoned to the President’s house. Whenever the government shall have buildings of its own, an executive chamber will no doubt be provided, where the Senate will generally attend the President. It is not impossible, that the place may be made to depend in some degree on the nature of the business. In the appointment to offices, the agency of the Senate is purely executive, and they may be summoned to the President. In treaties, the agency is perhaps as much of a legislative nature, and the business may possibly be referred to their deliberations in their legislative chamber. The occasion for this distinction will be lessened if not destroyed, when a chamber shall be appropriated for the joint business of the President and the Senate.
The manner of consultation may also vary. The indisposition of the President may supersede the mere question of conveniency. The inclination or ideas of different Presidents may be different. The opinions, both of President and Senators, as to the proper manner, may be changed by experience. In some kinds of business it may be found best for the President to make his propositions orally and in person, in others by a written message. On some occasions it may be most convenient, that the President should attend the deliberations and decisions on his propositions; on others that he should not; or that he should not attend the whole of the time. In other cases, again, as in treaties of a complicated nature, it may happen, that he will send his propositions in writing, and consult the Senate in person after time shall have been allowed for consideration. Many other varieties may be suggested as to the mode by practice.
If these remarks be just, it would seem not amiss, that the Senate should accommodate their rules to the uncertainty of the particular mode and place, that may be preferred, providing for the reception of either oral or written propositions, and for giving their consent and advice in either the presence or absence of the President, leaving him free to use the mode and place, that may be found most eligible and accordant with other business, which may be before him at the time.1
TO JAMES MADISON.
The points which at present occur to me, and on which I wish your aid, are brought to view in the inclosed statement—I give you the trouble of receiving this evening that you may (if other matter do not interfere) suffer them to run through your mind between this and to-morrow afternoon when I shall expect to see you at the appointed time.
Besides the enclosed
Would it do now that Mr. Barton has declined the Judge’s Seat (Western Territory) to nominate Col. Carrington for that office?—If not, can you think of any other that would suit him, of new creation; by this I mean, which has not an actual occupant, or some who, from similarity of Office, may have better pretensions to it.
Can you bring to mind any fit character for the vacancy just mentioned (West of New Jersey). As Virga. has given and may furnish characters for important offices, probably it would be better to exclude her also on this occasion.
What sort of a character in point of respectability and fitness for this office has Maj. [George] Turner late of S. Carolina, now of Philadelphia?1
Have you any knowledge of the character of Mr. Lawrence—a practicing attorney, and son-in-law to General St. Clair?
What can I do with A[rthur] L[ee]? He has applied to be nominated one of the Associate Judges, but I cannot bring my mind to adopt the request. The opinion entertained of him by those with whom I am most conversant, is unpropitious, and yet few men have received more marks of public favor and confidence than he has. These contradictions are embarrassing.
Should the sense of the Senate be taken on the propriety of sending public characters abroad—say, to England, Holland, and Portugal? And of a day for thanksgiving?
Would it be well to advise with them before the adjournment, on the expediency and justice of demanding a surrender of our Posts?
Being clearly of opinion that there ought to be a difference in the Wages of the Members of the two branches of the Legislature, would it be politic or prudent in the President, when the Bill comes to him, to send it back with his reasons for non concurring?
TO BENJAMIN LINCOLN.
New York, 11 August, 1789.
On the 15th of September next there is to be a treaty held in the State of Georgia, between the Indians on the Southern frontiers and Commissioners on the part of Georgia. At this treaty there will be a numerous and respectable concourse of Indians: two, and some say three thousand. Their famous Counsellor, the noted McGillivray, is to be present at it; and it is now in agitation, and a bill is before the House of Representatives for that purpose, to appoint Commissioners on the part of the United States to attend at this treaty, to establish a permanent and lasting peace between the United States and the Indians on the Southern & Western frontiers.—It is necessary, in a matter of such importance to this country, that these Commissioners should be persons who have been known in public life, and who are very respectable characters,—and if to these two circumstances could be added, their being held in high estimation in the Southern States, without being inhabitants of any of them, it would be a very desirable thing.—Under these circumstances, it is my wish that you should be one of these Commissioners;—and I have therefore given you this early intimation of the matter that you might (if it should be determined to appoint Commissioners, and is agreeable to you, and can be made to comport with your present office) be making such arrangements as will enable you to be at New York and ready to embark for Georgia, on or before the first day of September; and with an expectation of being absent 3 or 4 months.
You will make up your mind on this matter, and give me an answer by the first post after you receive this, as you see no time is to be lost, for it is absolutely necessary that the Commissioners should be on the spot the 15th of September to prevent the enormous expense which would be incurred by detaining such a numerous body of Indians for any time.—In the meantime you will keep this intimation to yourself, for in the first place it is not certain that Commissioners will be appointed—And if they should other circumstances might render a concealment of this intimation proper.1 I am, my dear Sir, &c.
TO JAMES CRAIK.
New York, 8 September, 1789.
The letter, with which you favored me on the 24th ultimo came duly to hand, and for the friendly sentiments contained in it you have my sincere and hearty thanks.
My disorder was of long and painful continuance, and, though now freed from the latter, the wound given by the incision is not yet closed. Persuaded as I am, that the case has been treated with skill, and with as much tenderness as the nature of the complaint would admit, yet I confess I often wished for your inspection of it. During the paroxysm, the distance rendered this impracticable, and after the paroxysm had passed, I had no conception of being confined to a lying posture on one side six weeks, and that I should feel the remains of it more than twelve. The part affected is now reduced to the size of a barley-corn, and by Saturday next, which will complete the thirteenth week, I expect it will be skinned over. Upon the whole, I have more reason to be thankful, that it is no worse, than to repine at the confinement.
The want of regular exercise, with the cares of office, will, I have no doubt, hasten my departure for that country from whence no traveller returns; but a faithful discharge of whatsoever trust I accept, as it ever has, so it always will be, the primary consideration in every transaction of my life, be the consequences what they may. Mrs. Washington has, I think, better health than usual, and the children are well and in the way of improvement.
I always expected, that the gentleman, whose name you have mentioned, would mark his opposition to the new government with consistency. Pride on the one hand, and want of manly candor on the other will not, I am certain, let him acknowledge an error in his opinions respecting it, though conviction should flash on his mind as strongly as a ray of light. If certain characters, which you have also mentioned, should tread blindfold in his steps, it would be matter of no wonder to me. They are in the habit of thinking that everything he says and does is right, and (if capable) they will not judge for themselves.
It gives me pleasure to hear, and I wish you to express it to them, that my nephews George and Lawrence Washington are attentive to their studies, and obedient to your orders and admonition. That kind of learning, which is to fit them for the most useful and necessary purposes of life, among which writing well, arithmetic, and the less abstruse branches of the mathematics are certainly to be comprehended, ought to be particularly attended to, and it is my earnest wish that it should be so.
The gazettes are so full of the occurrences of public, and indeed a private nature, which happen in this place that it is unnecessary, (if I had more leisure than falls to my lot,) to attempt a repetition. I shall therefore refer you to them, or to the Alexandria paper, through which they may, if pains are taken, be retailed. Mrs. Washington and the rest of the family join me in every good and friendly wish for Mrs. Craik, yourself and the rest of your family; and with sentiments of sincere regard and friendship, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO MRS. BETTY LEWIS.
New York, 13 September, 1789.
My dear Sister,
Colonel Ball’s1 letter gave me the first account of my mother’s death.2 Since that I have received Mrs. Carter’s letter, written at your request, and previous to both I was prepared for the event by some advices of her illness communicated to your son Robert.
Awful and affecting as the death of a parent is, there is consolation in knowing, that heaven has spared ours to an age beyond which few attain, and favored her with the full enjoyment of her mental faculties, and as much bodily strength as usually falls to the lot of four score. Under these considerations, and a hope that she is translated to a happier place, it is the duty of her relatives to yield due submission to the decrees of the Creator. When I was last at Fredericksburg, I took a final leave of my mother, never expecting to see her more.
It will be impossible for me at this distance, and circumstanced as I am, to give the smallest attention to the execution of her will; nor indeed is much required, if, as she directs, no security should be given, or appraisement made of her estate; but that the same should be allotted to the devisees with as little trouble and delay as may be. How far this is legal, I know not. Mr. Mercer can, and I have no doubt would, readily advise you if asked, which I wish you to do. If the ceremony of inventorying, appraising, &c. can be dispensed with, all the rest, (as the will declares that few or no debts are owing,) can be done with very little trouble. Every person may in that case immediately receive what is specifically devised. The negroes who are engaged in the crops and under an overseer, must remain I conceive on the plantation until the crop is finished (which ought to be as soon as possible), after which the horses, stock of all sorts, and every species of property not disposed of by the will, (the debts if any being first paid) must by law be equally divided into five parts, one of which you,1 another my brother Charles and a third myself are entitled to, the other two thirds fall to the share of the children of our deceased brothers Samuel and John.
Were it not, that the specific legacies, which are given to me by the will, are meant and ought to be considered and received as mementos of parental affection, in the last solemn act of life, I should not be desirous of receiving or removing them; but in this point of view I set a value on them much beyond their intrinsic worth.
Whilst it occurs to me, it is necessary it should be known that there is a fellow belonging to that estate now at my house, who never stayed elsewhere, for which reason, and because he has a family I should be glad to keep him. He must I should conceive be far short in value of the fifth of the other negroes which will be to be divided, but I shall be content to take him as my proportion of them—and, if from a misconception either of the number or the value of these negroes it should be found that he is of greater value than falls to my lot I shall readily allow the difference, in order that the fellow may be gratified, as he never would consent to go from me.
Debts, if any are due, should be paid from the sale of the crops, Plantation utensils, Horses and Stock, and the sooner an account is taken of the latter and they can conveniently be disposed of, the better it will be for two reasons; first because the Overseer (if he is not a very honest man) may take advantage of circumstances, and convert part of these things to his own use—and secondly because the Season is now fast approaching when without feeding (which would lessen the sale of the corn and fodder) the stock will fall off, and consequently sell to a disadvantage. Whether my mother has kept any accounts that can be understood is more than I am able to say—If any thing is owing to her it should be received—and, if due from her, paid after due proof thereof is made—She has had a great deal of money from me at times, as can be made appear by my books, and the accounts of Mr. L. Washington during my absence,—and over and above this has not only had all that was ever made from the Plantation, but got her provisions and every thing else she thought proper from thence. In short to the best of my recollection I have never in my life received a copper from the estate—and have paid many hundred pounds (first and last) to her in cash—However I want no retribution—I conceived it to be a duty whenever she asked for money, and I had it, to furnish her, notwithstanding she got all the crops or the amount of them and took every thing she wanted from the plantation for the support of her family, horses, &c. besides.
As the accounts for or against the estate must not only from the declaration in the will, but from the nature of the case be very trifling and confined I should suppose to the town of Fredericksburg, it might be proper therefore in that paper to require in an advertisement all those who have any demands to bring them in properly attested immediately, and those who are owing to pay forthwith. The same advertisement might appoint a day for selling the stock, and every thing, excepting Negroes, at the plantation, that is not devised by the will, as it will be more convenient I should suppose for the heirs to receive their respective dividends of the money arising from the sales than to be troubled with receiving a cow, a calf, or such like things after the debts (which must be the case) have been first paid. It might be well in fixing the day of sale, to consult the Overseer, to know when the business of the plantation will admit the Cart, Team and Utensils to be taken from it.
As the number of articles to be sold cannot be many and will be of small value, I think they had better be sold for ready money and so advertised, for though they would fetch more on credit, there would more than probable be bad debts contracted, and at any rate delay, if not law suits, before the money could be collected, and besides if there are debts to be paid money will be wanted for the purpose, and in no way can be so readily and properly obtained as by a ready money sale, and from the crops.
If you think this business will be too troublesome for you with the aid of your sons—Mr. Carter and Colonel Ball—who I am persuaded will give each of us assistance, and you will let me know it, I will desire Major George Washington to attend.
As the land at the Little-falls Plantation goes to Mr. Bushrod Washington he should be apprised in time of the breaking of it up, otherwise there may be injury to the houses and fencing if left without some person to attend to them. Have particular care taken of her papers, the letters to her, &c.
I should prefer selling the houses and lotts on which my Mother lived to renting of them,—and would give a year or two years’ credit to the purchasers paying interest—and not being acquainted with the value of lotts in Fredericksburg, I would leave the price to any three indifferent and impartial Gentleman to say what they are worth, and that sum I will take.
If they cannot be sold and soon I would rent them from year to year to any orderly Tenant on a moderate rent. If they are not disposed of on sale or by tennanting before the weather gets cool the paling will, I expect, be soon burnt up.
Give my love to Mrs. Carter, and thank her for the letter she wrote to me. I would have done this myself, had I more time for private correspondences. Mrs. Washington joins in best wishes for her, yourself, and all other friends; and I am, with the most sincere regard, your affectionate brother.1
TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
New York, 23 September, 1789.
The affectionate congratulations on the recovery of my health, and the warm expressions of personal friendship, which were contained in your letter of the 16th instant, claim my gratitude. And the consideration, that it was written when you were afflicted with a painful malady, greatly increases my obligation for it.2
Would to God, my dear Sir, that I could congratulate you upon the removal of that excruciating pain, under which you labor, and that your existence might close with as much ease to yourself, as its continuance has been beneficial to our country and useful to mankind; or, if the united wishes of a free people, joined with the earnest prayers of every friend to science and humanity, could relieve the body from pains or infirmities, you could claim an exemption on this score. But this cannot be, and you have within yourself the only resource to which we can confidently apply for relief, a philosophic mind.
If to be venerated for benevolence, if to be admired for talents, if to be esteemed for patriotism, if to be beloved for philanthropy, can gratify the human mind, you must have the pleasing consolation to know, that you have not lived in vain. And I flatter myself that it will not be ranked among the least grateful occurrences of your life to be assured, that, so long as I retain my memory, you will be thought on with respect, veneration, and affection by your sincere friend.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.
New York, 27 September, 1789.
Impressed with a conviction, that the due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government, I have considered the first arrangement of the judicial department as essential to the happiness of our country, and to the stability of its political system. Hence the selection of the fittest characters to expound the laws, and dispense justice, has been an invariable object of my anxious concern.1
I mean not to flatter when I say, that considerations like these have ruled in the nomination of the attorney-general of the United States, and that my private wishes would be highly gratified by your acceptance of the office. I regarded the office as requiring those talents to conduct its important duties, and that disposition to sacrifice to the public good, which I believe you to possess and entertain. In both instances I doubt not the event will justify the conclusion. The appointment I hope will be accepted, and its functions, I am assured, will be well performed.
Notwithstanding the prevailing disposition to frugality, the salary of this office appears to have been fixed at what it is, from a belief that the station would confer preëminence on its possessor, and procure for him a decided preference of professional employment. As soon as the acts, which are necessary accompaniments of the appointment, can be got ready, you will receive official notice of the latter. This letter is only to be considered as an early communication of my sentiment on this occasion, and as a testimony of the sincere regard and esteem, with which I am, &c.1
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
New York, 13 October, 1789.
In my first moments of leisure I acknowledge the receipt of your several favors of the 23d of February, 3 of March and 29 of April.
To thank you for the interesting communications contained in those letters, and for the pains you have taken to procure me a watch, is all, or nearly all, I shall attempt in this letter; for I could only repeat things, were I to set about it, which I have reason to believe have been regularly communicated to you in detail, at the periods which gave birth to them. It may not, however, be unpleasing to you to hear in one word, that the national government is organized, and, as far as my information goes, to the satisfaction of all parties; that opposition to it is either no more, or hides its head; that it is hoped and expected it will take strong root; and that the non-acceding States will very soon become members of the Union. No doubt is entertained of North Carolina; nor would there be of Rhode Island, had not the majority of that people bid adieu, long since, to every principle of honor, common sense, and honesty. A material change however has taken place, it is said, at the late election of representatives, and confident assurances are given, from that circumstance, of better dispositions in their legislature at its next session, now about to be held.
The revolution, which has been effected in France is of so wonderful a nature, that the mind can hardly realize the fact. If it ends as our last accounts, to the first of August, predict, that nation will be the most powerful and happy in Europe; but I fear, though it has gone triumphantly through the first paroxysm, it is not the last it has to encounter before matters are finally settled. In a word, the revolution is of too great magnitude to be effected in so short a space, and with the loss of so little blood. The mortification of the king, the intrigues of the queen, and the discontent of the princes and the noblesse, will foment divisions, if possible, in the National Assembly; and they will unquestionably avail themselves of every faux pas in the formation of the constitution, if they do not give a more open, active opposition. To these, the licentiousness of the people on one hand, and sanguinary punishments on the other, will alarm the best disposed friends to the measure, and contribute not a little to the overthrow of their object. Great temperance, firmness, and foresight are necessary in the movements of that body. To forbear running from one extreme to another is no easy matter; and, should this be the case, rocks and shelves, not visible at present, may wreck the vessel.
This letter is an evidence, though of a trifling sort, that in the commencement of any work one rarely sees the progress or end of it. I declared to you in the beginning that I had little to say. I have got beyond the second page and find I have a good deal to add; but that no time or paper may be wasted in a useless preface I will come to the point.
Will you then, my good Sir, permit me to ask the favor of you to provide and send to me by the first Ship, bound to this place, or Philadelphia, mirrors for a table, with neat and fashionable but not expensive ornaments for them—such as will do credit to your taste—The mirrors will of course be in pieces that they may be adapted to the company, (the size of it I mean) the aggregate length of them may be ten feet—the breadth two feet—The frames may be plated ware, or any thing else more fashionable but not more expensive. If I am defective recur to what you have seen on Mr. Robert Morris’s table for my ideas generally. Whether these things can be had on better terms and in a better style in Paris than in London I will not undertake to decide. I recollect however to have had plated ware from both places, and those from the latter came cheapest,—but a single instance is no evidence of a general fact.
Of plated ware may be made I conceive handsome and useful Coolers for wine at and after dinner. Those I am in need of viz: eight double ones (for madeira and claret the wines usually drank at dinner) each of the apertures to be sufficient to contain a pint decanter, with an allowance in the depth of it for ice at bottom so as to raise the neck of the decanter above the cooler—between the apertures a handle is to be placed by which these double coolers may with convenience be removed from one part of the table to another. For the wine after dinner four quadruple coolers will be necessary, each aperture of which to be of the size of a quart decanter or quart bottle for four sorts of wine—These decanters or bottles to have ice at bottom, and to be elevated thereby as above—a central handle here also will be wanting—Should my description be defective, your imagination is fertile and on this I shall rely. One idea however I must impress you with and that is in whole or part to avoid extravagance. For extravagance would not comport with my own inclination, nor with the example which ought to be set. The reason why I prefer an aperture for every decanter or bottle to coolers that would contain two and four is that whether full or empty the bottles will always stand upright and never be at variance with each other.
The letter enclosed with your draught accompanying it will provide the means for payment—The clumsy manner in which Merchants (or rather their tradesmen) execute commissions, where taste is required, for persons at a distance must be my apology, and the best that can be offered by—
Dear Sir, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 13 October, 1789.
In the selection of characters to fill the important offices of government in the United States, I was naturally led to contemplate the talents and disposition, which I knew you to possess and entertain for the service of your country; and, without being able to consult your inclination, or to derive any knowledge of your intentions from your letters, either to myself or to any other of your friends, I was determined, as well by motives of private regard as a conviction of public propriety, to nominate you for the Department of State, which, under its present organization, involves many of the most interesting objects of the executive authority. But, grateful as your acceptance of this commission would be to me, I am at the same time desirous to accommodate your wishes, and I have therefore forborne to nominate your successor at the court of Versailles, until I should be informed of your determination.
Being on the eve of a journey through the eastern States, with a view to observe the situation of the country, and in a hope of perfectly reëstablishing my health, which a series of indispositions has much impaired, I have deemed it proper to make this communication of your appointment, in order that you might lose no time, should it be your wish to visit Virginia during the recess of Congress, which will probably be the most convenient season, both as it may respect your private concerns and the public service.
Unwilling as I am to interfere in the direction of your choice of assistants, I shall only take the liberty of observing to you, that, from warm recommendations which I have received in behalf of Roger Alden, Esquire, assistant secretary to the late Congress, I have placed all the papers thereunto belonging under his care. Those papers, which more properly appertain to the office of foreign affairs, are under the superintendence of Mr. Jay, who has been so obliging as to continue his good offices, and they are in the immediate charge of Mr. Remsen. With sentiments of very great esteem and regard, I have the honor, to be, &c.1
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
New York, 13 October, 1789.
It being important to both countries, that the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States should be observed and performed with perfect and mutual good faith, and that a treaty of commerce should be concluded by them, on principles of reciprocal advantage to both, I wish to be ascertained of the sentiments and intentions of the court of London on these interesting subjects.
It appears to me most expedient to have these inquiries made informally, by a private agent; and, understanding that you will soon be in London, I desire you in that capacity, and on the authority and credit of this letter, to converse with his Britannic Majesty’s ministers on these points, namely, whether there be any and what objections to performing those articles in the treaty, which remain to be performed on his part; and whether they incline to a treaty of commerce with the United States on any and what terms.
This communication ought regularly to be made to you by the Secretary of State; but, that office not being at present filled, my desire of avoiding delays induces me to make it under my own hand. It is my wish to promote harmony and mutual satisfaction between the two countries; and it would give me great pleasure to find that the result of your agency, in the business now committed to you, will conduce to that end. I am, Sir, yours, &c.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
New York, 13 October, 1789.
My letter to you, herewith enclosed, will give you the credence necessary to enable you to do the business, which it commits to your management, and which I am persuaded you will readily undertake.
Your inquiries will commence by observing, that, as the present constitution of government, and of the courts established in pursuance of it, removes the objections heretofore made to putting the United States in possession of their frontier posts, it is natural to expect from the assurances of his Majesty and the national good faith, that no unnecessary delays will take place. Proceed then to press a speedy performance of the treaty respecting that object.
Remind them of the article by which it was agreed, that negroes belonging to our citizens should not be carried away, and of the reasonableness of making compensation for them. Learn with precision, if possible, what they mean to do on this head.
The commerce between the two countries you well understand. You are apprized of the sentiments and feelings of the United States on the present state of it; and you doubtless have heard, that, in the late session of Congress, a very respectable number of both houses were inclined to a discrimination of duties unfavorable to Britain, and that it would have taken place but for conciliatory considerations, and the probability that the late change in our government and circumstances would lead to more satisfactory arrangements.
Request to be informed, therefore, whether they contemplate a treaty of commerce with the United States, and on what principles or terms in general. In treating this subject, let it be strongly impressed on your mind, that the privilege of carrying our productions in our vessels to their Islands, and of bringing in return the productions of those Islands to our own ports and markets, is regarded here as of the highest importance; and you will be careful not to countenance any idea of our dispensing with it in a treaty. Ascertain, if possible, their views on this point; for it would not be expedient to commence negotiations without previously having good reasons to expect a satisfactory termination of them.
It may also be well for you to take a proper occasion of remarking, that their omitting to send a minister here, when the United States sent one to London, did not make an agreeable impression on this country; and request to know what would be their future conduct on similar occasions.
It is in my opinion very important, that we avoid errors in our system of policy respecting Great Britain; and this can only be done by forming a right judgment of their disposition and views. Hence you will perceive how interesting it is, that you obtain the information in question, and that the business be so managed, as that it may receive every advantage, which abilities, address, and delicacy can promise and afford. I am, Sir, yours, &c.1
TO JOHN HANCOCK.
Weston, 23 October, 1789.
I have this moment received your Excellency’s polite letter of to-day, and have the honor to inform you, that, in consequence of suggestions made by the gentlemen from Boston, and the deputy adjutant-general, (whom I met at Worcester) this morning, that it would make it more convenient for the troops, many of whom lived at a distance from the place of parade, if I should pass through Cambridge at an earlier hour than I intended, I thought it best to alter the time of my arrival at that place, which I had the pleasure to mention to your Excellency in my letter of yesterday; and the alteration, which I had made, I immediately communicated to you by a letter, which the gentlemen from Boston were so kind as to take charge of. But lest any accident should prevent that letter from getting to your hands, I would here mention, that it is my determination to be at Cambridge to-morrow at ten o’clock, and from thence proceed to Boston as soon as circumstances will permit, where it is probable I may arrive by twelve o’clock; and I will do myself the honor to accept your Excellency’s polite invitation of taking an informal dinner with you.
I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO BEVERLEY RANDOLPH, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
New York, 22 November, 1789.
From the original letter, which I forward herewith, your Excellency will comprehend the nature of a proposal for introducing and establishing the woollen manufactory in the State of Virginia. In the present stage of population and agriculture, I do not pretend to determine how far that plan may be practicable and advisable; or, in case it should be deemed so, whether any or what public encouragement ought to be given to facilitate its execution. I have however no doubt, as to the good policy of increasing the number of sheep in every State. By a little legislative encouragement the farmers of Connecticut have, in two years past, added one hundred thousand to their former stock. In my late tour through the eastern States I found, that the manufacturers of woollens (for the manufacture of woollens is carried on there to very considerable extent and advantage) preferred the wool raised in Virginia for its fineness, to that raised in more northern parts of the continent. If a greater quantity of wool could be produced, and if the hands, which are often in a manner idle, could be employed in manufacturing it, a spirit of industry might be promoted, a great diminution might be made in the annual expenses of individual families, and the public would eventually be exceedingly benefited.
Under these impressions I have thought proper to transmit the proposal, and will only add, that, if it should be judged expedient to submit the subject to the legislature, or if any private company should engage in promoting the business, the necessity of keeping the manufacturer’s name concealed would undoubtedly occur; as a premature knowledge of it might not only frustrate the success of the project, but also subject the person principally concerned to the most distressing consequences. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JAMES McHENRY.
New York, 30 November, 1789.
I have received your letter of the 14th instant, and in consequence of the suggestions contained therein, added to other considerations which occurred to me, I have thought it best to return Judge [Robert Hanson] Harrison his commission, and I sincerely hope, that upon a further consideration of the subject he may be induced to revoke his former determination, and accept the appointment.1
Mr. [Thomas] Johnson has likewise declined his appointment of district judge, and I have no information of Mr. [Richard] Potts the attorney, or Mr. [Nathaniel] Ramsay the marshal, having accepted their commissions. Thus circumstanced with respect to Maryland, I am unwilling to make a new appointment of judge for that district, until I can have an assurance, or at least a strong presumption, that the person appointed will accept; for it is to me an unpleasant thing to have commissions of such high importance returned; and it will, in fact, have a tendency to bring the government into discredit.
Mr. [Alexander Contee] Hanson is the person, whom I now have it in contemplation to bring forward as district judge of Maryland, and shall do so, provided I can obtain an assurance, that such an appointment would be acceptable to him. But as I cannot take any direct measures to draw from him a sentiment on this head, I must request, my dear Sir, that you will be so good as to get for me, if you can, such information upon the subject as will enable me to act with confidence in it, and convey the same to me as soon as possible. I shall leave to your prudence and discretion the mode of gaining this knowledge. It is a delicate matter, and will not bear any thing like a direct application, if there is the least cause to apprehend a refusal. I have observed in the papers, that Mr. Hanson has been appointed chancellor of the State since the death of Mr. [John] Rogers. What the emoluments of this office are, or its tenure, I know not, therefore can form no opinion how far it may operate in this matter.
Mr. Johnson’s resignation came to hand too late to admit of a new appointment, and information to be given of it before the time fixed by the act for holding the first District Court in Maryland. However, if this had not been the case, I should hardly have hazarded a new appointment for the reasons before mentioned, until I had good grounds to believe it would be accepted.
Should it be found, that the office of district judge would not be acceptable to Mr. Hanson, Mr. Paca has been mentioned for that appointment; and, although his sentiments have not been altogether in favor of the general government, and a little adverse on the score of paper emissions, I do not know but his appointment on some other accounts might be a proper thing. However, this will come more fully under consideration if Mr. Hanson should not wish to be brought forward; and, in that case, I will thank you to give me information relative to Mr. Paca.1 Mr. Gustavus Scott and Mr. Robert Smith of Baltimore have also been mentioned for the office; but the age and inexperience of the latter is in my opinion an insuperable objection; for, however good the qualifications or promising the talents of Mr. Smith may be, it will be expected that the important offices of the general government, and more especially those of the judges, should be filled by men who have been tried and proved. I thank you, my good Sir, for your kind wishes for my health and happiness, and reciprocate them with sincerity. With very great regard, I am, &c.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.
New York, 30 November, 1789.
Your letter of the 8th of October gave me pleasure, as I not only entertain hopes, but shall fully expect from the contents of it, to see you in the office of attorney-general when the purposes mentioned by you for the delay are answered.
I shall now mention some matters to you in confidence. Mr. Pendleton’s declining to accept the appointment of district judge has embarrassed me, and this embarrassment was not a little increased by the lateness of the period at which (being on a tour through the eastern States) I came to the knowledge of it. When I was about to make the nominations in the judiciary for the Union, the character and abilities of Mr. Wythe did not escape me; and I accordingly consulted such gentlemen from the State of Virginia, (then in this city,) as I thought most likely to have some knowledge of his inclinations. Their opinion was, that, as he had lately been appointed sole Chancellor, an office to which by inclination he was led, and engaged in other avocations, which engrossed his attention and appeared to afford him pleasure, he would not exchange the former for a federal appointment. However, since these appointments have been announced, I have heard that it has been the wonder of some in Virginia, that Mr. Wythe should have been overlooked. The cause (if the epithet applies) I have assigned. And if there was reason to apprehend a refusal in the first instance, the non-acceptance of Colonel Pendleton would be no inducement to him to come forward in the second. To consult him through the medium of a friend there was not time, as the third Tuesday in December is the day appointed for holding the District Court in the district of Virginia, and to hazard a second refusal I was on many accounts unwilling to do. Under these circumstances I have, by the powers of the constitution, appointed Mr. Cyrus Griffin during the recess of the Senate.
My reasons for this appointment in preference to any other, except Mr. Wythe, are, because he has, (as I am informed,) been regularly bred to the law, has been in the court of appeals, has been discontinued of the Council in Virginia, (contrary to the expectation of his friends here at the time, who thought that his temporary appointment as a negotiator with the southern Indians would not bring him under the disqualifying law of Virginia,) and thereby thrown entirely out of employment, and because I had it in my power to ascertain with precision his acceptance. I shall say nothing of his being a man of amiable character and of competent abilities, because in these respects some of the present judges in that State may be his equals; but to what I have said may be added, he has no employment now, and needs the emolument of one as much as any of them.
I will not conceal from you, that two motives have induced me to give this explanation; the first, if a favorable opportunity should present itself, is, that Mr. Wythe may, in a delicate manner, be informed of the principles by which I was governed in this business; the second, that my inducements to appoint Mr. Griffin may not, (if the propriety of it should be questioned,) be altogether unknown. For having in every appointment endeavored, as far as my own knowledge of characters extended, or information could be obtained, to select the fittest and most acceptable persons, and having reason to believe that the appointments, which have been made heretofore, have given very general satisfaction, it would give me pain if Mr. Wythe or any of his friends should conceive, that he has been passed by from improper motives. I have prejudices against none, nor partialities which shall bias me in favor of any one. If I err, then, my errors will be of the head, and not of the heart of, my dear Sir, your most obedient, &c.1
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
New York, 17 December, 1789.
As I am uncertain of the condition, and even the office, in which the papers containing accounts of our disbursements for subsistence of British prisoners remain; and as it is not improbable, that some negotiations may (whenever our union under the general government shall be completed) take place between the United States and Great Britain, in which an accurate understanding of those accounts will become necessary, I have therefore tho’t proper to suggest the expediency of having some immediate attention paid to them.
Notwithstanding, on as fair a statement of expenditures as could now be made, much property must undoubtedly be lost by the United States for want of vouchers, and by reason of the negligence with which the business was conducted on our part, yet I was always impressed with an idea, that, under all these disadvantageous circumstances, a very considerable balance would still be found in our favor. My present wish is, to have the subject so far investigated, as that we might not commit ourselves by bringing forward accounts, which had better continue dormant. Shou’d there be no danger of that kind, it would then be desirable to have the business placed in a state, which might enable us to speak from a general knowledge of facts, and in a proper tone, in case a demand of the American posts held by the King of Great Britain should draw pecuniary subjects into discussion. I believe lists of property, carried away by the British at the time when they evacuated the posts they had occupied during the late war, are lodged in the office of Foreign Affairs. I am, Sir, &c.
TO JABEZ BOWEN.
New York, 27 December, 1789.
The letters with which you have been pleased to favor me, dated in October, and the 15th of the present month, came duly to hand, and are entitled to my thanks for the communications contained in them. As it is possible the conduct of Rhode Island, (if persevered in,) may involve questions in Congress, which will call for my official decisions, it is not fit that I should express more than a wish, in reply to your letter, that the legislature at the coming session would consider well before it again rejects the proposition for calling a convention to decide on their accession to, or rejection of, the present government. The adoption of it by North Carolina has left them entirely alone.1 I am much obliged to you for your good wishes, and with esteem and regard, I am, Sir, &c.
[1 ]“It would take up more time, than I could well spare, to notice the applications which have been made to me in consequence of the new government. In answer to as many as I have been at leisure to acknowledge, I have invariably represented the delicacy of my situation, the impropriety of bringing such things before me, the decided resolution I had formerly made, and the ardent wishes I still entertain of remaining in a private life. You will not then expect, that I should commit myself by saying any thing on a subject, which has never failed to embarrass and distress me beyond measure, whensoever it has been forced upon my consideration.”—Washington to Lutterloh, 1 January, 1789.
[1 ]“Last Thursday our votes were given in for representatives, and for electors of president and vice-president. Mr. Ames is probably chosen for this district. He was an active member in our convention, and has always distinguished himself as an honest, good man. I can hardly guess who will represent the other districts, except the western one, which I think will be represented by Mr. Sedgwick. The majority, however, I am confident will be good members. There were great exertions made for Mr. Samuel Adams. He would probably have carried the vote, could the people have been persuaded, that he was in heart a federalist. Our senators are federal indeed, Mr. Strong and Mr. Dalton.”—Lincoln to Washington, 20 December, 1788.
[1 ]“In the latter end of this summer, it was suggested to me, that the British court had emissaries in Kentucky. From the abhorrence and detestation which I have to a British connexion, other than that of friends and allies, I was induced to keep a look-out, and scrutinize the conduct of all strangers. My observations soon convinced me of the truth of the case. Among others, Lieutenant-Colonel Connolly (late of Fort Pitt) from Detroit has visited this district. His conduct has alarmed my fears. He had some confidential conferences with influential characters. He touched the key to fomentations, and offered assistance to enable the inhabitants of the western country to seize on the city of New Orleans, and secure thereby the navigation of the Mississippi. How his machinations are to be counteracted is the great object. I would be more explicit if the conveyance of my letter were more certain. It is entrusted to chance; I must therefore act with caution.
[1 ]The loan was increased by one hundred pounds, to enable Washington to go to New York.
[1 ]To another application for office from a foreigner, Samuel Vaughan, he wrote:
[1 ]The office wanted was that of naval officer of the District of Portsmouth and Norfolk. Col. Parker had just resigned it, to take his seat in Congress, and the Virginia Council had chosen Capt. William Lindsay to succeed him.
[1 ]Both Governor Clinton and John Jay invited Washington to stay with them on his arrival in New York. To Clinton he replied, 25 March, 1789:
[2 ]“A Rough and incorrect Draught of a letter.”—Note by Washington.
[1 ]The patience of Washington was sorely tried by Green, and subsequently an annual contract appears to have been made between them. The last contract was made 2 October, 1793, by which Green and his four negro carpenters were to receive £10 a month and certain articles of food, and Green engaged never to be away while his people were at work, and he in health, or be absent without permission. “And whereas it too often happens that men (regardless of their engagements and of course their reputation) when working on standing wages, are apt to be idle, careless and indifferent to the interest of their employers, thereby setting the reverse of good examples, it is hereby clearly understood and expressly agreed to by the said Thomas Green, that he will be at his business as soon as it is light, and remain thereat until dark, when he is in health; and when not employed in laying out, or marking off work for others, that he will labor as faithfully, and as effectually as any hand under him; as well for the purpose of fulfilling this agreement as for the good example he would set by so doing to those who are under his care, and who are not so ignorant (knowing this is required of him) as not to relax as he relaxes, and be idle in proportion as he is idle; because all of them have discernment enough to know that no man can, with propriety, or a good conscience, correct others for a fault he is guilty of himself; the consequence of which is, that indolence and sloth take possession of the whole.”—Agreement. In February, 1794, Washington wrote to Pearce, his overseer, that he had become convinced of Green’s unfitness to look after his carpenters, that only the helpless condition of the family had prevailed to retain him so long, and that a change must be made. Green, in September, left of his own accord.
[1 ]The day appointed for the assembling of Congress was the 4th of March; but so tardily did the members come together, that a quorum of both Houses was not formed until the 6th of April. “The stupor or listlessness, with which our public measures seem to be pervaded, is to me a matter of deep regret. Indeed it has so strange an appearance, that I cannot but wonder how men, who are anxious to get into office or who are ever prevailed upon to accept it, can reconcile such conduct with their sense of propriety. The delay is inauspicious to say the least of it, and the world must condemn it.”—Washington to Knox, 10 April, 1789.
[2 ]On the 6th of April, when the electoral votes were opened, it appeared that Washington was unanimously chosen President of the United States. With marked fitness, Charles Thomson was appointed to notify Washington of the result. On April 14th he reached Mount Vernon and in a few words performed the object of his mission. In reply the President-elect said:
[1 ]The form of these speeches was that used by the colonial governors in addressing the colonial assemblies, but was later set aside in favor of a single message to which no replies by the respective houses of Congress were given. The President had consulted Madison on the replies:
[1 ]Similar sentiments were expressed in a letter to General Wayne. “My greatest apprehension at present is, that more will be expected from me, than I shall be able to perform. All that an honest zeal can dictate for the advancement of the interests of our country will, however, be cheerfully and perseveringly attempted.”—May 4th. And to General Schuyler: “It is only from the assurances of support, which I have received from the respectable and worthy characters in every part of the Union, that I am enabled to overcome the diffidence, which I have in my own abilities to execute my great and important trust to the best interest of our country. An honest zeal, and an unremitting attention to the interests of the United States, are all that I dare promise.”—May 9th. And again to Mr. Jones: “The numerous and friendly congratulations, which I have received from respectable characters in every part of the Union, are truly pleasing to me; not only on account of their discovering a warm attachment to my person, but because they convey the most flattering idea of the good dispositions of the people in the several States, and the strongest assurances of support to the government. It affords me likewise no small satisfaction to find, that my friends have done justice to the motives, which again brought me into public life. Under all these circumstances I shall feel a degree of confidence in discharging the duties of my administration, with which a consciousness alone of the purity of my intentions could not have inspired me.”—May 14th. To Robert R. Livingston, after stating the principles which he had adopted for regulating his conduct in regard to appointments, he wrote: “The delicacy with which your letter was written, and your wishes insinuated, did not require me to be thus explicit on this head with you; but the desire which I have, that those persons whose good opinion I value, should know the principles on which I mean to act in this business, has led me to this full declaration, and I trust, that the truly worthy and respectable characters in this country will do justice to the motives by which I am actuated in all my public transactions.”—May 31st.
[1 ]Mrs. Washington did not arrive in New York till May 27th.
[1 ]The queries were also sent to Mr. Jay.
[1 ]The widow of General Wooster, who died of the wounds he received in an action with the enemy when the British made an incursion to Danbury in April, 1777.
[1 ]In no respect was Washington’s anxious care more fully shown than in seeking the proper persons for the offices in the new government. “That part of the President’s duty which obliges him to nominate persons for office,” he wrote to Joseph Jones, 14 May, 1789, “is the most delicate, and in many instances will be, to me, the most unpleasing; for it may frequently happen that there will be several applicants for the same office, whose merits and pretensions are so nearly equal, that it will almost require the aid of supernatural intuition to fix upon the right. I shall, however, in all events, have the consolation of knowing that I entered upon my office unconfined by any engagements, and uninfluenced by any ties; and that no means in my power will be left untried to find out, and nominate those characters who will discharge the duties of their respective offices to the best interests and highest credit of the American Union.” That he was sincere in this wish, there will be abundant evidence afforded in these volumes; and that he was successful in his policy is proved by the frequent reference to his administration as the type of a true and honest civil service.
[1 ]Moustier’s “commercial ideas are probably neither illiberal nor unfriendly to this country. The contrary has been supposed.”—Madison to Jefferson, 27 May, 1789.
[1 ]“In addition to what I wrote to you formerly on the subject of a loan, I now inform you (and desire that this letter which conveys the information may be destroyed so soon as it is read) that my utmost exertions were ineffectually used to borrow a sum of money (even at a high interest, and for me on disadvantageous terms) to comply with contracts of my own before I left Virginia. Having made this communication it is unnecessary to adduce further proof of my inability to comply with the request which is contained in your letter of the 18th instant.”—Washington to Carey, 22 May, 1789.
[1 ]The secretaries of the several executive departments under the new government were not appointed till September. In the meantime the usual business of the departments was transacted by the officers who had charge of them when the old government expired. Mr. Jay continued to fill the office of secretary of foreign affairs, till Mr. Jefferson entered upon its duties in March, 1790. The name of the department was changed by law to that of the Department of State, and its head was thenceforward called Secretary of State. General Knox acted as Secretary of War, till his new appointment to the same post, on the 12th of September, 1789. The affairs of the treasury were administered by a Board, consisting of Samuel Osgood, Walter Livingston, and Arthur Lee. These gentlemen retained their places till September 11th, when Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury. The reason why the appointments were so long delayed was, that the laws instituting the departments, and fixing the salaries of the officers, were not sooner passed by Congress.
[1 ]A copy of the same letter was sent to the Secretary of War and to the Board of the Treasury; and a similar one to Ebenezer Hazard, Postmaster-General.
[1 ]An anecdote characteristic of Washington is related by Professor McVickar, in his narrative of Dr. Bard’s life, respecting an incident that happened in the course of his illness. “It was a case of anthrax, so malignant as for several days to threaten mortification. During this period Dr. Bard never quitted him. On one occasion, being left alone with him, General Washington, looking steadfastly in his face, desired his candid opinion as to the probable termination of his disease, adding, with that placid firmness which marked his address, ‘Do not flatter me with vain hopes; I am not afraid to die, and therefore can bear the worst.’ Dr. Bard’s answer, though it expressed hope, acknowledged his apprehensions. The President replied: ‘Whether to-night, or twenty years hence, makes no difference; I know that I am in the hands of a good Providence.’ ”—Life of Dr. Samuel Bard, p. 136.
[1 ]He seems to have made visits of ceremony before his inauguration.
[1 ]A report had gone abroad, that the Vice-President never appeared publicly except with a coach and six horses, which Dr. Stuart said was creating much excitement in Virginia, and was put forward by the opponents of the constitution as a proof of the monarchical tendency of the government.
[1 ]This paragraph relates to a scheme, which had lately been before Congress, respecting the titles by which the high officers of government should be addressed. “Nothing could equal the ferment and disquietude,” said Dr. Stuart, “occasioned by the proposition respecting titles. As it is believed to have originated with Mr. Adams and Mr. Lee, they are unpopular to an extreme.” The history of the proceedings on this subject is briefly as follows:
[1 ]The first appointment submitted to the Senate by the President was that of William Short to be in charge of the American legation in Paris, during the absence of Thomas Jefferson, the minister under the confederation. This nomination was made on June 16th, and confirmed on the 18th. On August 3d, a long list of appointments in the revenue service was submitted, and the Senate acted upon them, rejecting but one—the nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn as naval officer for the port of Savannah. In sending in the name of Lachlan McIntosh as his substitute, Washington showed that the rejection had not a little touched him. “Permit me to submit to your consideration, whether on occasions, where the propriety of a nomination appears questionable to you, it would not be expedient to communicate that circumstance to me, and thereby avail yourselves of the information which led me to make them and which I would with pleasure lay before you.” And he proceeded to give his reasons for naming Fishbourn.—Message, 6 August, 1789.
[1 ]A motion had been made in the Senate on the 3d of August proposing that in place of determining upon a nomination by ballot, as settled by a rule adopted June 18th, some other mode should be adopted, like a viva voce vote; but the motion was lost. On the 5th of August another motion was made, “That it is the opinion of the Senate, that their advice and consent to the appointment of officers should be given in the presence of the President.” This motion was postponed to the next day, when it was ordered, “That Mr. Izard, Mr. King, and Mr. Carroll be a committee to wait on the President of the United States, and confer with him on the mode of communication proper to be pursued between him and the Senate in the formation of treaties, and making appointments to offices.” The committee accordingly waited on the President, and had the conference mentioned in the above letter.
[2 ]On the 18th the following nominations for the several offices in the Western Territory were sent to the Senate: for Governor, Arthur St. Clair; for Secretary, Winthrop Sergeant; Judges, Samuel Holden Parsons, John Cleve Symmes, and William Barton.
[1 ]“In Senate, August 21st, 1789.
[1 ]September 11th George Turner was nominated, in place of Barton, declined.
[1 ]Alexander McGillivray, who controlled the Creek Indians, was the son of a tory inhabitant of Georgia, and a principal woman of the Creek nation. He had received an English education, and his ability and ambition were great and sharpened by a resentment against Georgia, which had confiscated his estates in the late war. On the signing of peace at Paris, he had proposed a treaty of alliance and commerce to the Spanish Governor of Pensacola (Arthur O’Neal or O’Neil), thus virtually seeking the protection of Spain, and even hinting at a separation of the Western territory, now rapidly being colonized from the Atlantic States, from the Confederation.—Gayarre, Louisiana under the Spanish Domination, 158, 159. A treaty was made, and the profits of the resulting commerce, carried on as a monopoly under Spanish protection, centred in Great Britain, one of the Bahamas being the place of deposit. The validity of certain treaties of cession made between Georgia and the Creeks resulted in hostilities, and the Continental Congress (15 July, 1788) notified the Indians that “should they persist in refusing to enter into a treaty upon reasonable terms, the arms of the United States shall be called forth for the protection of that frontier.” A condition of war and the unfulfilled threat of Congress were forced upon the attention of Washington.
[1 ]Burges Ball.
[2 ]Mary Washington died at Fredericksburg, August 25th, 1789, in the eighty-third year of her age. She had been a widow forty-six years. General Washington’s father died on the 12th of April, 1743.
[1 ]As Mrs. Washington was possessed of the negroes only during her life, her husband having disposed of them by will after her death, Mrs. Lewis was not entitled to any part of them.
[1 ]The will of Mary Washington and some letters of Washington on the estate, are printed in my Wills of George Washington and his Immediate Ancestors, 1891.
[2 ]Dr. Franklin’s letter:
“Philadelphia, 16 September, 1789.
“My malady renders my sitting up to write rather painful to me; but I cannot let my son-in-law, Mr. Bache, part for New York, without congratulating you by him on the recovery of your health, so precious to us all; and on the growing strength of our new government under your administration. For my own personal ease, I should have died two years ago; but, though those years have been spent in excruciating pain, I am pleased that I have lived them, since they have brought me to see our present situation. I am now finishing my eighty-fourth year, and probably with it my career in this life; but in whatever state of existence I am placed hereafter, if I retain any memory of what has passed here, I shall with it retain the esteem, respect, and affection, with which I have long been, my dear friend, &c.”
[1 ]As early as July 10th Washington had talked with Cyrus Griffin, of the Virginia delegation, on the judiciary and customs appointments in Virginia, and appeared anxious to know if Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe, Lyons, or John Blair would prefer a federal to a State appointment. Edmund Randolph was also suggested, but no mention was made of particular offices for the person to be named. Late in July or early in August, the President wrote to Madison that he had determined to nominate Mr. Blair and Colonel Pendleton as associate and district judges, and Randolph as Attorney-General: “Mr. Randolph in this character I would prefer to any person I am acquainted with of not superior abilities, from habits of intimacy with him.” Pendleton declined to serve, and Cyrus Griffin was named in his place.
[1 ]Randolph’s private affairs and his incompleted revision of the laws of the State, were urged as reasons for delaying an acceptance of the office.
[1 ]Mr. Jefferson arrived at Norfolk on the 23d of November; and at Eppington in Chesterfield county, on his way to Monticello, received the above letter, and also another from President Washington on the same subject dated November 30th. In his reply he said that his inclinations led him to prefer his former station in France, to which it had been his intention to return.
[1 ]Morris in his first interview with the Duke of Leeds, on March 29th, outlined the wishes of the President as given in this letter, and was well received; but by September, when Morris returned to France, nothing definite had been concluded upon any of the subjects in dispute. In June following Colonel William S. Smith arrived in America, bearing reports of some conversations he had held with British officials, but they were no more conclusive than Morris’.—Sparks’ Washington, x., 168; Madison’s Writings, i., 537.
[1 ]This visit to Boston occasioned a somewhat amusing exchange of words between the President and Governor Hancock on a point of etiquette. On October 21st Hancock wrote offering his house for Washington’s use during his visit, and informing him of the measures taken for his reception:
GOVERNOR HANCOCK TO PRESIDENT WASHINGTON.
“Sunday, 26 October, half past twelve o’clock.
“The Governor’s best respects to the President. If at home, and at leisure, the Governor will do himself the honor to pay his respects in half an hour. This would have been done much sooner, had his health in any degree permitted. He now hazards every thing, as it respects his health, for the desirable purpose.”
THE PRESIDENT’S REPLY.
“Sunday, 26 October, one o’clock.
“The President of the United States presents his best respects to the Governor, and has the honor to inform him, that he shall be at home till two o’clock.
“The President needs not express the pleasure it will give him to see the Governor; but, at the same time, he most earnestly begs that the Governor will not hazard his health on the occasion.”
Fisher Ames said “The gout came so opportunely last Saturday, that it has been doubtful whether his [Hancock’s] humility would be gratified with the sight of his superior.”
[1 ]Washington’s letter to Harrison is printed by Sparks, x., 52.
[1 ]On this point Mr. McHenry answered: “I have had a long conversation with Mr. Paca. I have every reason to say, that he will make every exertion in his power to execute the trust in the most unexceptionable manner. I believe, also, that the appointment will be highly gratifying to him, and I think it may have political good consequences.”—Annapolis, December 10th.
[1 ]In reply, Mr. Randolph said: “You may be assured, that Mr. Wythe neither wished nor expected to be the successor of Mr. Pendleton.”—December 15th. Again: “I found a fortunate moment for a conversation with Mr. Wythe. He repeated what I wrote to you in answer to your favor of the 30th ultimo. Indeed he declared himself happy in believing, that he held a place in your esteem, and that he was confident you had looked towards him with every partiality, which he could wish. Nay, without going into the detail of our discourse, I am convinced from his own mouth, that the knowledge of his present situation is considered by him as the only reason of a seat on the bench not being tendered to him.”—Richmond, December 23d.
[1 ]At the first convention in North Carolina the Constitution was not ratified; but at a second convention, held in November, 1789, it was adopted by a majority of more than two to one, the vote being one hundred and ninety-three in the affirmative, and seventy-five in the negative. The legislature of Rhode Island, during the session in September, had sent an address to “The President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Eleven United States of America in Congress assembled,” in which were contained explanations of the course pursued by that State in not adopting the Constitution.