Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BRYAN, LORD FAIRFAX. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
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TO BRYAN, LORD FAIRFAX. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIV (1798-1799).
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TO BRYAN, LORD FAIRFAX.
Mount Vernon, 20th Jany., 1799.
* * * * * *
When I presented my Valedictory address to the People of the United States, in September, 1796, I little thought that any event would occur in my day, that could again withdraw me from the Retirement after which I had been so long panting;—but we know little of ourselves, and still less of the ways of Providence.—The injurious treatment this Country had received from France, in an open violation of the Treaty between the two Countries, and the laws of Nations.—The Insults & Indignities with which all our overtures for an amicable adjustment of the disputes were treated.—The increasing depredations on our commerce, accompanied with outrage & threats, if we did not comply with their demands, leaving no hope of obtaining restitution for the past, or preserving the little that remained, or the Country from Invasion, but by the adoption of vigorous measures for self defence, having come fully to the view of the People, their resentments have been roused, and with one voice as it were, have made a tender of their lives and fortunes to repel any attempts which may be made on the Constitution or Government of their Country—In consequence of which, and to be prepared for the dernier ressort, if unhappily we shall be driven to it—Troops are to be raised, and the United States placed in a posture of defence—Under these circumstances, and it appearing to be the wish of my Countrymen, and the request of the governing Powers that I should take charge of their Armies, I am embarked so far in the business as will appear by my letter to the President of the 13th of July last—which, as it has run through all the news-papers here, and Published in many of the Foreign Gazettes, you probably may have seen; and though still at home, where indeed I hope to remain, under a persuasion that the French will discover the injustice and absurdity of their conduct;—I hold myself in readiness to gird on the sword, if the immergency shall require it.
Notwithstanding, the Spirit of the People is so animated, that party among us who have been uniform in their opposition to all the measures of Government; in short to every Act, either of Executive or Legislative Authority, which seemed to be calculated to defeat French usurpations, and to lessen the influence of that Nation in our Country, hang upon & clog its wheels as much as in them lye—and with a rancor & virulence which is scarcely to be conceived;—Torturing every act, by unnatural construction, into a design to violate the Constitution—Introduce Monarchy—& to establish an aristocracy—And what is more to be regretted, the same Spirit seems to have laid hold of the major part of the Legislature of this State, while all the other States in the Union (Kentucky, the child of Virginia, excepted) are coming forward with the most unequivocal evidences of their approbation of the measures which have been adopted by both, for self preservation.— In what such a spirit, and such proceedings will issue, is beyond the reach of short sighted men to predict, with any degree of certainty.—I hope well—because I have always believed and trusted, that that Providence which has carried us through a long and painful War with one of the most powerful nations in Europe, will not suffer the discontented among ourselves to produce more than a temporary interruption to the permanent Peace and happiness of this rising Empire—That they have been the cause of our present disquietudes, and the means of stimulating (by mis-representing the sentiments of the mass of citizens of this Country) the Directory of France to their unwarrantable Acts—not from more real affection to the nation than others possess, but to facilitate the design of subverting their own government—I have no more doubt than that I am now in the act of writing you this letter—
It was at the request of the Secretary of War, my journey to Philadelphia was undertaken to assist in the formation of the Augmented Force and to effect some other military arrangements; and although your letter from York of the 7th of September came to hand before I set out, & was taken with me to be acknowledged from thence, yet my time & attention was so much occupied with the business that carried me there, that I never found leisure to do it—
Lady Huntingdon, as you may have been told, was a correspondent of mine;—and did me the honor to claim me as a relation, but in what degree, or by what connexion it came to pass, she did not inform me, nor did I ever trouble her Ladyship with an enquiry—The favorable sentiments which others, you say, have been pleased to express respecting me, cannot but be pleasing to a mind who always walked on a straight line & endeavored as far as human frailties, & perhaps strong passions would enable him, to discharge the relative duties to his Maker & fellowmen, without seeking any indirect, or left handed attempts to acquire popularity.—
Our crops of Wheat & Indian Corn last year (except in places) were extremely short—The drought of the Autumn exceeded anything that has been recollected, in so much that the Mills were scarcely able to work before New Years day.—and the Fly has again begun its ravages on the Wheat in the Counties above us—This calamity, with the severity of the Drought on the Fall seeding, has given a discouraging aspect to the ensuing crop of Wint’r Grain—
We have the pleasure, frequently, of seeing or hearing from Mrs. Fairfax—and on Wednesday last Mrs. Washington & myself took a family dinner at Mount Eagle—and left all the family in good health & Spirits in the afternoon—Miss Custis was, at that time, with her mother, at Hope Park, or she would have accompanied us on that visit.—She is now returned, & unites with Mrs. Washington & myself in offering best wishes for your health & safe return—and with very great & sincere esteem & respect, I remain, dear Sir, your most obedient, &c.
P. S. Finding that I could not comprise what I had to say in one sheet of paper, I have rambled on until I have almost filled a second.1
[1 ]I am indebted to Mrs. Burton N. Harrison for a copy of this letter—one of the many for which I am under heavy obligations to her.