Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN TRUMBULL. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO JOHN TRUMBULL. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO JOHN TRUMBULL.
Mount Vernon, 25 June, 1799.
Your favor of the 18th of September last, with the small box containing four pair of Prints, came safe to hand, but long after the date of the letter. Immediately upon the receipt of these having forgot the terms of the Subscription, and not knowing, as you were absent, to whom the money was to be paid, I wrote to Governor Trumbull for information on this head, without obtaining further satisfaction, than that he thought it probable Mr. Anthony of Philadelphia was authorized by you to receive the amount. In consequence I addressed this Gentleman, (who being absent from that City—as is said, by way of apology for the delay, in answering my letter in a reasonable time), and shall immediately pay what is due from me thereon.
I give you the trouble of this detail, because I should feel unpleasant myself, if, after your marked politeness and attentions to me in this as in every other transaction, any tardiness should have appeared on my part in return for Prints so valuable.
The two vols. put into your hands by Mr. West, for transmission to me, are the production of a Mr. Uvedale Price on the Picturesque; accompanied by a very polite letter, of which the enclosed is an acknowledgement to that Gentleman, recommended to your care, with my best respects to Mr. West.1
I was on the point of closing this letter, with my thanks for the favorable sentiments you have been pleased to express for me, and adding Mrs. Washington’s complimts and best wishes thereto, when the mail from Philadelphia brought me your interesting letter of the 24th of March.
For the political information contained in it I feel grateful, as I always shall for the free and unreserved communication of your sentiments upon subjects so important in their nature and tendency. No well-informed and unprejudiced man, who has viewed with attention the conduct of the French Government since the Revolution in that Country, can mistake its objects, or the tendency of the ambitious plans it is pursuing. Yet, strange as it may seem, a party, and a powerful one too among us, affect to believe that the measures of it are dictated by a principal of self-preservation; that the outrages of which the Directory are guilty proceeds from dire necessity; that it wishes to be upon the most friendly and agreeable terms with the President of the United States; that it will be the fault of the latter, if this is not the case; that the defensive measures, which this Country have adopted, are not only unnecessary and expensive, but have a tendency to produce the evil, which to deprecate is mere pretence, because war with France, they say, is the wish of this government; that on the militia we should rest our Security; and that it is time enough to call upon these, when the danger is imminent, &c., &c., &c.
With these and such like ideas, attempted to be inculcated upon the public mind, (and prejudices not yet eradicated,) with all the arts of sophistry, and no regard to truth or respect to characters public or private who happen to differ from themselves in politics, I leave you to decide on the probability of carrying such extensive plans of defence as you have suggested in your last letter into operation, and in the short period you suppose may be allowed to accomplish it in.
The public mind has changed, and is yet changing every day, with respect to French principles. The people begin to see clearly, that the words and actions of the governing powers of that nation cannot be reconciled, and that hitherto they have been misled by words; in a word that, while they were pursuing the shadow, they lost the substance. The late changes in the Congressional Representation sufficiently evince this opinion; for, of the two sent from the State of Georgia, one certain, some say both, are Federal characters; of six from South Carolina, five are decidedly so; of ten from North Carolina, seven may be counted upon; and, of nineteen from this State, (Virginia), eight are certain, a ninth doubtful, and, but for some egregious mismanagement, Eleven supporters of governmental measures would have been elected.
I mention these facts merely to shew, that we are progressing to a better state of things, not that we are quite right yet. Time I hope will shew us the necessity, or at least the propriety, of becoming so. God grant it, and soon.
It is unfortunate when men cannot or will not see danger at a distance; or, seeing it, are undetermined in the means, which are necessary to avert or keep it afar off. I question whether the evil arising from the French getting possession of Louisiana and the Floridas would be generally seen, until it is felt; and yet no problem in Euclid is more evident, or susceptible of clearer demonstration. Not less difficult is it to make them believe, that offensive operations oftentimes are the surest, if not (in some cases) the only means of defence.
Mrs. Washington is grateful for your kind remembrance of her, and with Mrs. Lewis’s (formerly your old acquaintance Nelly Custis) compliments and good wishes united, I am, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]Mr. Price’s work was entitled, “Essays on the Picturesque, as compared with the Sublime and Beautiful; and on the Use of Studying Pictures for the Purpose of Improving Real Landscape.” Notwithstanding the compass of this title, the author’s main object was to express his views of the art of landscape gardening and ornamental planting; an art in which Washington always took an interest, and which he practised at Mount Vernon as far as opportunity and circumstances would permit.—Sparks.