Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER TWELVE: Washington the President 1789-1791 - George Washington: A Collection
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CHAPTER TWELVE: Washington the President 1789-1791 - George Washington, George Washington: A Collection 
George Washington: A Collection, compiled and edited by W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988).
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Washington the President
WE principally behold Washington, in the following pages, describing the character of his country and administration in general correspondence, rather than in official acts. Thus it is that, in the course of pro forma responses to congratulatory letters, Washington candidly declared what he conceived as the breadth and limits of religious freedom. There also emerges here a suggestive portrait of Washington’s use of indirection, as opposed to direct command, to accomplish the aims of policy. The clearest indication of a settled policy conviction are his notes on a “Plan of American Finance” sketched in his own hand. Several of the items printed here are not found in the Fitzpatrick Writings.
As Washington undertook the task of organizing the new government under the Constitution, he was alert to the significance of every word and deed for subsequent practice. His efforts to establish healthy precedents speak for themselves, but this emphatic concern produced at least one humorous irony. Washington enlisted the aid of James Madison in drafting his first inaugural address. After he delivered it, each house of Congress responded with a written address (adopting the custom of the colonial legislatures, which always responded to Royal Governors’ official addresses that opened their legislative sessions). Madison wrote the address for the House of Representatives (but not, of course, that of the Senate). Then Washington summoned Madison’s aid in drafting his response to each of the responses from Congress. Thus, Madison was involved in lengthy conversation with himself as Washington sought to establish satisfactory principles under the conviction that “everything in our situation will serve to establish a precedent.”
TO JAMES MADISON
New York, May 5, 1789
My dear Sir:
Notwithstanding the conviction I am under of the labour which is imposed upon you by Public Individuals as well as public bodies; yet, as you have begun, so I could wish you to finish, the good work in a short reply to the Address of the House of Representatives (which I now enclose) that there may be an accordance in this business.
Thursday 12 Oclock, I have appointed to receive the Address. The proper plan is with the House to determine. As the first of everything, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles. With Affectionate regard etc.
TO THE UNITED BAPTIST CHURCHES IN VIRGINIA
[May 10, 1789]
I request that you will accept my best acknowledgements for your congratulation on my appointment to the first office in the nation. The kind manner in which you mention my past conduct equally claims the expression of my gratitude.
After we had, by the smiles of Heaven on our exertions, obtained the object for which we contended, I retired at the conclusion of the war, with an idea that my country would have no farther occasion for my services, and with the intention of never entering again into public life. But when the exigence of my country seemed to require me once more to engage in public affairs, an honest conviction of duty superseded my former resolution, and became my apology for deviating from the happy plan which I had adopted.
Religious freedomIf I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution. For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.
While I recollect with satisfaction that the religious society of which you are members, have been, throughout America, uniformly, and almost unanimously, the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution; I cannot hesitate to believe that they will be the faithful supporters of a free, yet efficient general government. Under this pleasing reflection I rejoice to assure them that they may rely on my best wishes and endeavors to advance their prosperity.
In the meantime be assured, Gentlemen, that I entertain a proper sense of your fervent supplications to God for my temporal and eternal happiness.
TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PRESBYTERIAN CHURCHES
While I reiterate the professions of my dependence upon Heaven as the source of all public and private blessings; I will observe that the general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and oeconomy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs, particularly necessary for advancing and conforming the happiness of our country. While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences; it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his own religious society.
I desire you to accept my acknowledgments for your laudable endeavors to render men sober, honest, and good Citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government.
TO THE ANNUAL MEETING OF QUAKERS
Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the persons and consciences of men from oppression, it certainly is the duty of rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but, according to their stations, to prevent it in others.
The liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshipping Almighty God agreeably to their consciences, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights. While men perform their social duties faithfully, they do all that society or the state can with propriety demand or expect; and remain responsible only to their Maker for their religion, or modes of faith, which they may prefer or profess.
Your principles and conduct are well known to me;* and it is doing the people called Quakers no more than justice to say, that (except their declining to share with others the burden of the common defense) there is no denomination among us, who are more exemplary and useful citizens.
I assure you very explicitly, that in my opinion the conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be as extensively accommodated to them, as a due regard to the protection and essential interests of the nation may justify and permit.
City of New York, October 3, 1789
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Purpose of ThanksgivingNow therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
SKETCH OF A PLAN OF AMERICAN FINANCE
[October ? 1789]
Preliminary. Consider all requisitions heretofore made by Congress on the states, as if they had never been made. This gets rid of the adjustment of quotas for the past. The contributions in money, provisions &ca. made by each State to the Union, become a debt from the Union to the respective State, deduct from this all monies advanced to that State by the Union; the balance will constitute the debt of the Union to the State. Let that debt bear an interest of 6 pr Ct. With that interest each state may pay annually the interest of the debts they owe, and the annual expences of their Government. They will then have no occasion for Taxes and consequently may abandon all the subjects of taxation to the Union.
Impost on importsI. Let the Union lay an Impost of 5 pr Cent on Importations. Suppose it worth from 1 1/2 to 2 millions of Dollars. Open a loan in Europe sufficient to pay the foreign debts, and to support the government a year or two. Suppose this to be 12 millions of dollars at 5 pr Cent interest. 600,000 Dollars a year.
Appropriate this Impost
Produce taxII. Lay a direct tax of 1/20 of all produce, payable in kind, but commutable for half its worth in money. Should this produce more than the State’s quota, let the Surplus belong to the State. The State Legislature may then be entrusted with fixing the objects on which it is to fall, their value, the places of delivery, Sale of the produce, conduct of the receivers &ca:
Postages and tax on civil processIII. Postages and a Tax on Civil Process may form a third fund.
The aggregate fund thus formed of the residuary parts of all Taxes.
TO CATHERINE MACAULAY GRAHAM
New York, January 9, 1790
Your obliging letter, dated in October last, has been received; and, as I do not know when I shall have more leisure than at present to throw together a few observations in return for yours, I take up my Pen to do it by this early occasion.
In the first place I thank you for your congratulatory sentiments on the event which has placed me at the head of the American Government; as well as for the indulgent partiality, which it is to be feared, however, may have warped your judgment too much in my favor. But you do me no more than justice in supposing that, if I had been permitted to indulge my first and fondest wish, I should have remained in a private Station. Although neither the present age or Posterity may possibly give me full credit for the feelings which I have experienced on the subject;Return to public life yet I have a consciousness, that nothing short of an absolute conviction of duty could ever have brought me upon the scenes of public life again. The establishment of our new GovernmentThoughts on the new American government seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by reasonable compact in civil Society. It was to be, in the first instance, in a considerable degree a government of accommodation as well as a government of Laws. Much was to be done by prudence, much by conciliation, much by firmness. Few who are not philosophical spectators can realize the difficult and delicate part which a man in my situation had to act. All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity. In our progress towards political happiness my station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground.On the conduct of the first President There is scarcely any part of my conduct wch. may not hereafter be drawn into precedent. Under such a view of the duties inherent to my arduous office, I could not but feel a diffidence in myself on the one hand; and an anxiety for the Community that every new arrangement should be made in the best possible manner on the other. If after all my humble but faithful endeavours to advance the felicity of my Country and mankind, I may indulge a hope that my labours have not been altogether without success, it will be the only real compensation I can receive in the closing of life.
On the actual situation of this Country under its new Government I will, in the next place, make a few remarks. That the Government, though not absolutely perfect, is one of the best in the world, I have little doubt. I always believed that an unequivocally free and equal Represen[chtation of the People in the Legislature, together with an efficient and responsable Executive, were the great Pillars on which the preservation of American Freedom must depend. It was indeed next to a Miracle that there should have been so much unanimity, in points of such importance, among such a number of Citizens, so widely scattered, and so different in their habits in many respects as the Americans were. Nor are the growing unanimity and encreasing goodwill of the Citizens to the Government less remarkable than favorable circumstances. So far as we have gone with the new Government (and it is completely organized and in operation) we have had greater reason than the most sanguine could expect to be satisfied with its success.
Recovery and progress of the nationPerhaps a number of accidental circumstances have concurred with the real effects of the Government to make the People uncommonly well pleased with their situation and prospects. The harvests of wheat have been remarkably good, the demand for that article from abroad is great, the encrease of Commerce is visible in every Port, and the number of new manufactures introduced in one year is astonishing. I have lately made a tour through the Eastern States. I found the country, in a great degree, recovered from the ravages of War, the Towns flourishing, and the People delighted with a government instituted by themselves and for their own good. The same facts I have also reason to believe, from good authority, exist in the Southern States. By what I have just observed, I think you will be persuaded that the ill-boding Politicians who prognosticated that America would never enjoy any fruits from her Independence, and that she would be obliged to have recourse to a foreign Power for protection, have at least been mistaken.
I shall sincerely rejoice to see that the American Revolution has been productive of happy consequences on both sides of the Atlantic. The renovation of the French Constitution is indeed one of the most wonderful events in the history of mankind; and the agency of the Marquis de la Fayette in a high degree honorable to his character. My greatest fear has been, that the nation would not be sufficiently cool and moderate in making arrangements for the security of that liberty, of which it seems to be fully possessed.
Mr. Warville, the French Gentleman you mention, has been in America and at Mount Vernon; but has returned sometime since to France.
Mrs. Washington is well and desires her compliments may be presented to you. We wish the happiness of your fireside, as we also long to enjoy that of our own at Mount Vernon. Our wishes, you know, were limited; and I think that our plans of living will now be deemed reasonable by the considerate part of our species. Her wishes coincide with my own as to simplicity of dress, and everything which can tend to support propriety of character without partaking of the follies of luxury and ostentation. I am, etc.
TO DAVID STUART
New York, March 28, 1790
Your letter of the 15. enclosing the act of Assembly authorising an agreement with Mr. Alexander came to my hand in the moment my last to you was dispatched.
Discontent in the southern statesI am sorry such jealousies as you speak of should be gaining ground, and are poisoning the minds of the southern people; but admit the fact which is alledged as the cause of them, and give it full scope, does it amount to more than what was known to every man of information before, at, and since the adoption of the Constitution? Was it not always believed that there are some points which peculiarly interest the eastern States? and did any One, who reads human nature, and more especially the character of the eastern people conceive that they would not pursue them steadily by a combination of their force. Are there not other points which equally concern the southern States? If these States are less tenacious of their interest, or, if whilst the eastern move in a solid phalanx to effect their views, the southern are always divided, which of the two is most to be blamed?Diversity of interests in the union That there is a diversity of interests in the Union none has denied. That this is the case also in every State is equally certain. And that it even extends to the Counties of individual States can be as readily proved. Instance the southern and northern parts of Virginia, the upper and lower parts of south Carolina, &ca. have not the interests of these always been at variance? Witness the County of Fairfax, have not the interests of the people of that County varied, or the Inhabitants been taught to believe so? These are well known truths, and yet it did not follow that separation was to result from the disagreement.
To constitute a dispute there must be two parties. To understand it well both parties and all the circumstances must be fully heard, and to accommodate differences, temper and mutual forbearance are requisite. Common danger brought the States into confederacy, and on their union our safety and importance depend. A spirit of accommodation was the basis of the present constitution, can it be expected then that the Southern or the Eastern part of the Empire will succeed in all their measures? certainly not; but I will readily grant that more points will be carried by the latter than the former, and for the reason which has been mentioned, namely, that in all great national questions they move in unison whilst the others are divided; but I ask again which is most blame-worthy, those who see, and will steadily pursue their interest, or those who cannot see, or seeing will not act wisely? And I will ask another question, of the highest magnitude in my mind, to wit, if the eastern and northern States are dangerous in Union,Dangers of separation will they be less so in separation? If self interest is their governing principle will it forsake them or be less restrained by such an event? I hardly think it would. Then, independent, of other considerations what would Virginia (and such other States as might be inclined to join her) gain by a separation? Would they not, most unquestionably, be the weaker party?
Men who go from hence without feeling themselves of so much consequence as they wished to be considered, and disappointed expectants, added to malignant, designing characters, who miss no opportunity of aiming a blow at the Constitution, paint highly on one side without bringing into view the arguments which are offered on the other.
Publication of Congressional debatesIt is to be lamented that the Editors of the different Gazettes in the Union, do not more generally, and more correctly (instead of stuffing their papers with scurrility, and nonsensical declamation, which few would read if they were apprised of the contents) publish the debates in Congress on all great national questions, and this with no uncommon pains, everyone of them might do. The principles upon which the difference of opinion arises, as well as the decisions would then come fully before the public, and afford the best data for its judgment. Mr. Madison, on the question of discrimination, was actuated, I am convinced, by the purest motives, and most heartfelt conviction; but the subject was delicate, and perhaps had better never been stirred.
The assumption of the State debts by the United States is another subject that has given rise to long and labored debates, without having yet taken a final form.
The memorial of the Quakers (and a very mal-apropos one it was) has at length been put to sleep, and will scarcely awake before the year 1808. I am etc.
TO DAVID STUART
New York, June 15, 1790
Your letter of the 2nd Instant came duly to hand. If there are any Gazettes among my files at Mount Vernon which can be of use to you they are at your Service.
Discontentment of VirginiaYour description of the public Mind, in Virginia, gives me pain. It seems to be more irritable, sour and discontented than (from the information received) it is in any other State in the Union, except Massachusetts; which, from the same causes, but on quite different principles, is tempered like it.
Defense of CongressThat Congress does not proceed with all that dispatch which people at a distance expect; and which, were they to hurry business, they possibly might; is not to be denied. That measures have been agitated wch. are not pleasing to Virginia; and others, pleasing perhaps to her, but not so to some other States; is equally unquestionable. Can it well be otherwise in a Country so extensive, so diversified in its interests? And will not these different interests naturally produce in an Assembly of Representatives who are to Legislate for, and to assimilate and reconcile them to the general welfare, long, warm and animated debates? Most undoubtedly; and if there was the same propensity in Mankind to investigate the motives, as there is for censuring the conduct of public characters, it would be found that the censure so freely bestowed is oftentimes unmerited and uncharitable; for instance, the condemnation of Congress for sitting only four hours in the day. The fact is, by the established rules of the House of Representatives, no Committee can sit whilst the House is sitting; and this is, and has been for a considerable time, from ten o’clock in the forenoon until three, often later, in the afternoon; before and after which the business is going on in Committees. If this application is not as much as most Constitutions are equal to, I am mistaken. Many other things which undergo malignant constructions wd. be found, upon a candid examination to wear other faces than are given to them. The misfortune is the enemies to the Government, always more active than its friends and always upon the watch to give it a stroke, neglect no opportunity to aim one. If they tell truth, it is not the whole truth; by which means one side only of the picture appears; whereas if both sides were exhibited it might, and probably would assume a different form in the opinion of just and candid men who are disposed to measure matters on a Continental Scale. I do not mean however, from what I have here said, to justify the conduct of Congress in all its movements; for some of these movements, in my opinion, have been injudicious and others unseasonable, whilst the questions of Assumption; Residence and other matters have been agitated with a warmth and intemperence; with prolixity and threats; which it is to be feared has lessened the dignity of that body and decreased that respect which was once entertained for it. And this misfortune is increased by many members, even among those who wish well to the Government, ascribing in letters to their respective States when they are unable to carry a favourite measure, the worst motives for the conduct of their opponents; who, viewing matters through a different medium may, and do retort in their turn; by which means jealousies and distrusts are spread most impolitickly, far and wide; and will, it is to be feared, have a most unhappy tendency to injure our public affairs, which, if wisely conducted might make us (as we are now by Europeans thought to be) the happiest people upon Earth.America’s reputation abroad As an evidence of it, our reputation has risen in every part of the Globe; and our credit, especially in Holland, has got higher than that of any Nation in Europe (and where our funds are above par) as appears by Official advices just received. But the conduct we seem to be pursuing will soon bring us back to our late disreputable condition. The introductions of the (Quaker) Memorial respecting Slavery, was to be sure, not only an illjudged piece of business, but occasioned a great waste of time. The final decision thereon, however, was as favourable as the proprietors of that species of property could have expected considering the great dereliction to Slavery in a large part of this Union.
Assumption of states’ debtsThe question of Assumption has occupied a great deal of time, and no wonder; for it is certainly a very important one; and, under proper restrictions, and scrutiny into Accounts will be found, I conceive to be just. The Cause in which the expenses of the War was incurred, was a Common Cause. The States (in Congress) declared it so at the beginning and pledged themselves to stand by each other. If then, some States were harder pressed than others, or from particular or local circumstances contracted heavier debts, it is but reasonable when this fact is ascertained (though it is a sentiment I have not made known here) that an allowance ought to be made them when due credit is given to others. Had the invaded, and hard pressed States believed the case would have been otherwise; opposition in them would very soon, I believe, have changed to submission; and given a different termination to the War.
Management of public visits and ceremoniesIn a letter of last year to the best of my recollection, I informed you of the motives, which compelled me to allot a day for the reception of idle and ceremonious visits (for it never has prevented those of sociability and friendship in the afternoon, or at any other time) but if I am mistaken in this, the history of this business is simply and shortly as follows. Before the custom was established, which now accommodates foreign characters, Strangers, and others who from motives of curiosity, respect to the Chief Magistrate, or any other cause, are induced to call upon me, I was unable to attend to any business whatsoever; for Gentlemen, consulting their own convenience rather than mine, were calling from the time I rose from breakfast, often before, until I sat down to dinner. This, as I resolved not to neglect my public duties, reduced me to the choice of one of these alternatives, either to refuse them altogether, or to appropriate a time for the reception of them. The first would, I well knew, be disgusting to many. The latter, I expected, would undergo animadversion, and blazoning from those who would find fault, with, or without cause. To please everybody was impossible; I therefore adopted that line of conduct which combined public advantage with private convenience, and which in my judgment was unexceptionable in itself. That I have not been able to make bows to the taste of poor Colonel Bland, (who, by the by, I believe never saw one of them) is to be regretted especially too as (upon those occasions) they were indiscriminately bestowed, and the best I was master of; would it not have been better to throw the veil of charity over them, ascribing their stiffness to the effects of age, or to the unskillfulness of my teacher, than to pride and dignity of office, which God knows has no charms for me? for I can truly say I had rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me, than to be attended at the Seat of Government by the Officers of State and the Representatives of every Power in Europe.
Description of meetings with the publicThese visits are optional. They are made without invitation. Between the hours of three and four every Tuesday I am prepared to receive them. Gentlemen, often in great numbers, come and go, chat with each other, and act as they please. A Porter shews them into the room, and they retire from it when they please, and without ceremony. At their first entrance they salute me, and I them, and as many as I can talk to I do. What pomp there is in all this, I am unable to discover. Perhaps it consists in not sitting. To this two reasons are opposed, first it is unusual; secondly, (which is a more substantial one) because I have no room large enough to contain a third of the chairs, which would be sufficient to admit it. If it is supposed that ostentation, or the fashions of courts (which by the by I believe originates oftener in convenience, not to say necessity than is generally imagined) gave rise to this custom, I will boldly affirm that no supposition was ever more erroneous; for, if I was to give indulgence to my inclinations, every moment that I could withdraw from the fatigues of my station should be spent in retirement. That they are not proceeds from the sense I entertain of the propriety of giving to every one as free access, as consists with that respect which is due to the Chair of government; and that respect I conceive is neither to be acquired or preserved but by observing a just medium between much state and too great familiarity.
Similar to the above, but of a more sociable kind are the visits every Friday afternoon to Mrs. Washington where I always am. These public meetings and a dinner once a week to as many as my table will hold, with the references to and from the different Departments of State, and other Communications with all parts of the Union is as much, if not more, than I am able to undergo;Poor health for I have already had within less than a year, two severe attacks; the last worse than the first; a third more than probable, will put me to sleep with my fathers; at what distance this may be I know not. Within the last twelve months I have undergone more, and severer sickness than thirty preceding years afflicted me with, put it all together. I have abundant reason however to be thankful that I am so well recovered; though I still feel the remains of the violent affection of my lungs. The cough, pain in my breast, and shortness in breathing not having entirely left me. I propose in the recess of Congress to visit Mount Vernon; but when this recess will happen is beyond my ken, or the ken I believe of any of its members. I am &c.
TO THE HEBREW CONGREGATIONS
The liberal sentiment towards each other which marks every political and religious denomination of men in this country stands unrivalled in the history of nations. The affection of such a people is a treasure beyond the reach of calculation; and the repeated proofs which my fellow citizens have given of their attachment to me, and approbation of my doings form the purest source of my temporal felicity. The affectionate expressions of your address again excite my gratitude, and receive my warmest acknowledgements.
The power and goodness of the Almighty were strongly manifested in the events of our late glorious revolution and his kind interposition in our behalf has been no less visible in the establishment of our present equal government. In war he directed the sword and in peace he has ruled in our councils. My agency in both has been guided by the best intentions, and a sense of the duty which I owe my country. And as my exertions hitherto have been amply rewarded by the approbation of my fellow citizens, I shall endeavor to deserve a continuance of it by my future conduct.
May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me, rest upon your congregations.
TO THE ROMAN CATHOLICS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
[March 15], 1790
While I now receive with much satisfaction your congratulations on my being called, by an unanimous vote, to the first station in my country; I cannot but duly notice your politeness in offering an apology for the unavoidable delay. As that delay has given you an opportunity of realizing, instead of anticipating, the benefits of the general government, you will do me the justice to believe, that your testimony of the increase of the public prosperity, enhances the pleasure which I should otherwise have experienced from your affectionate address.
I feel that my conduct, in war and in peace, has met with more general approbation than could reasonably have been expected and I find myself disposed to consider that fortunate circumstance, in a great degree, resulting from the able support and extraordinary candour of my fellow-citizens of all denominations.
The prospect of national prosperity now before us is truly animating, and ought to excite the exertions of all good men to establish and secure the happiness of their country, in the permanent duration of its freedom and independence. America, under the smiles of a Divine Providence, the protection of a good government, and the cultivation of manners, morals, and piety, cannot fail of attaining an uncommon degree of eminence, in literature, commerce, agriculture, improvements at home and respectability abroad.
As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality. And I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed.
I thank you, gentlemen, for your kind concern for me. While my life and my health shall continue, in whatever situation I may be, it shall be my constant endeavour to justify the favourable sentiments which you are pleased to express of my conduct. And may the members of your society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity.
TO THE HEBREW CONGREGATION IN NEWPORT
While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.
If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no factions, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.
TO THE HEBREW CONGREGATIONS OF THE CITY OF SAVANNAH, GEORGIA
I thank you with great sincerity for your congratulations on my appointment to the office which I have the honor to hold by the unanimous choice of my fellow-citizens, and especially the expressions you are pleased to use in testifying the confidence that is reposed in me by your congregations.
As the delay which has naturally intervened between my election and your address has afforded me an opportunity for appreciating the merits of the Federal Government and for communicating your sentiments of its administration, I have rather to express my satisfaction rather than regret at a circumstance which demonstrates (upon experiment) your attachment to the former as well as approbation of the latter.
I rejoice that a spirit of liberality and philanthropy is much more prevalent than it formerly was among the enlightened nations of the earth, and that your brethren will benefit thereby in proportion as it shall become still more extensive; happily the people of the United States have in many instances exhibited examples worthy of imitation, the salutary influence of which will doubtless extend much farther if gratefully enjoying those blessings of peace which (under the favor of heaven) have been attained by fortitude in war, they shall conduct themselves with reverence to the Deity and charity toward their fellow-creatures.
May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors, planted them in a promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation, still continue to water them with the dews of heaven and make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.
TO THE CHIEFS AND COUNSELORS OF THE SENECA NATION
Philadelphia, December 29, 1790
I the President of the United States, by my own mouth, and by a written Speech signed with my own hand [and sealed with the Seal of the U S] Speak to the Seneka Nation, and desire their attention, and that they would keep this Speech in remembrance of the friendship of the United States.
I have received your Speech with satisfaction, as a proof of your confidence in the justice of the United States, and I have attentively examined the several objects which you have laid before me, whether delivered by your Chiefs at Tioga point in the last month to Colonel Pickering, or laid before me in the present month by the Cornplanter and the other Seneca Chiefs now in Philadelphia.
Friendship with the Six NationsIn the first place I observe to you, and I request it may sink deep in your minds, that it is my desire, and the desire of the United States that all the miseries of the late war should be forgotten and buried forever. That in future the United States and the six Nations should be truly brothers, promoting each other’s prosperity by acts of mutual friendship and justice.
Effect of new Constitution on Indian relationsI am not uninformed that the six Nations have been led into some difficulties with respect to the sale of their lands since the peace. But I must inform you that these evils arose before the present government of the United States was established, when the separate States and individuals under their authority, undertook to treat with the Indian tribes respecting the sale of their lands.
But the case is now entirely altered. The general Government only has the power, to treat with the Indian Nations, and any treaty formed and held without its authority will not be binding.
Here then is the security for the remainder of your lands. No State nor person can purchase your lands, unless at some public treaty held under the authority of the United States. The general government will never consent to your being defrauded. But it will protect you in all your just rights.
Hear well, and let it be heard by every person in your Nation, That the President of the United States declares, that the general government considers itself bound to protect you in all the lands secured you by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, the 22nd of October 1784, excepting such parts as you may since had fairly sold to persons properly authorized to purchase of you.
You complain that John Livingston and Oliver Phelps have obtained your lands, assisted by Mr. Street of Niagara, and they have not complied with their agreement.
It appears upon enquiry of the Governor of New York, that John Livingston was not legally authorized to treat with you, and that every thing he did with you has been declared null and void, so that you may rest easy on that account.
But it does not appear from any proofs yet in the possession of government, that Oliver Phelps has defrauded you.
If however you should have any just cause of complaint against him, and can make satisfactory proof thereof, the federal Courts will be open to you for redress, as to all other persons.
But your great object seems to be the security of your remaining lands, and I have therefore upon this point, meant to be sufficiently strong and clear.
That in future you cannot be defrauded of your lands. That you possess the right to sell, and the right of refusing to sell your lands.
Future sale of Indian landsThat therefore the sale of your lands in future, will depend entirely upon yourselves.
But that when you may find it for your interest to sell any parts of your lands, the United States must be present by their Agent, and will be your security that you shall not be defrauded in the bargain you may make.
[It will however be important, that before you make any further sales of your land that you should determine among yourselves, who are the persons among you that shall give sure conveyances thereof as shall be binding upon your Nation and forever preclude all disputes related to the validity of the sale.]
That besides the [before mentioned] security for your land, you will perceive by the law of Congress, for regulating trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, the fatherly care the United States intend to take of the Indians. For the particular meaning of this law, I refer you to the explanations given thereof by Colonel Pickering at Tioga, which with the law, are herewith delivered to you.
You have said in your Speech “That the game is going away from among you, and that you thought it the design of the great Spirit, that you should till the ground, but before you speak upon this subject, you want to know whether the United States meant to leave you any land to till?”
You now know that all the lands secured to you by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, excepting such parts as you may since have fairly sold are yours, and that only your own acts can convey them away; speak therefore your wishes on the subject of tilling the ground. The United States will be happy to afford you every assistance in the only business which will add to your numbers and happiness.
Murder of IndiansThe murders that have been committed upon some of your people, by the bad white men I sincerely lament and reprobate, and I earnestly hope that the real murderers will be secured, and punished as they deserve. This business has been sufficiently explained to you here, by the Governor of Pennsylvania, and by Colonel Pickering on behalf of the United States, at Tioga.
The Senekas may be assured, that the rewards offered for apprehending the murderers, will be continued until they are secured for trial, and that when they shall be apprehended, that they will be tried and punished as if they had killed white men.
Having answered the most material parts of your Speech, I shall inform you,Bad Indians that some bad Indians, and the outcast of several tribes who reside at the Miamee Village, have long continued their murders and depredations upon the frontiers, lying along the Ohio. That they have not only refused to listen to my voice inviting them to peace, but that upon receiving it, they renewed their incursions and murders with greater violence than ever. I have therefore been obliged to strike those bad people, in order to make them sensible of their madness. I sincerely hope they will hearken to reason, and not require to be further chastised. The United States desire to be the friends of the Indians, upon terms of justice and humanity. But they will not suffer the depredations of the bad Indians to go unpunished.
My desire is that you would caution all the Senekas and six Nations, to prevent their rash young men from joining the Miamee Indians. For the United States cannot distinguish the tribes to which bad Indians belong, and every tribe must take care of their own people.
The merits of the Cornplanter, and his friendship for the United States are well known to me, and shall not be forgotten. And as a mark of the esteem of the United States, I have directed the Secretary of war to make him a present of Two hundred and Fifty Dollars, either in money or goods, as the Cornplanter shall like best. And he may depend upon the future care and kindness of the United States. And I have also directed the Secretary of War to make suitable presents to the other Chiefs present in Philadelphia. And also that some further tokens of friendship to be forwarded to the other Chiefs, now in their Nation.
Remember my words Senekas, continue to be strong in your friendship for the United States, as the only rational ground of your future happiness, and you may rely upon their kindness and protection.
An Agent shall soon be appointed to reside in some place convenient to the Senekas and six Nations. He will represent the United States. Apply to him on all occasions.
If any man brings you evil reports of the intentions of the United States, mark that man as your enemy, for he will mean to deceive you and lead you into trouble. The United States will be true and faithful to their engagements.
TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Philadelphia, July 28, 1791
Events in FranceI have, my dear Sir, to acknowledge the receipt of your favors of the 7 of March and 3 of May, and to thank you for the communications which they contain relative to your public affairs. I assure you I have often contemplated, with great anxiety, the danger to which you are personally exposed by your peculiar and delicate situation in the tumult of the times, and your letters are far from quieting that friendly concern. But to one, who engages in hazardous enterprises for the good of his country, and who is guided by pure and upright views, (as I am sure is the case with you) life is but a secondary consideration.
To a philanthropic mind the happiness of 24 millions of people cannot be indifferent; and by an American, whose country in the hour of distress received such liberal aid from the French, the disorders and incertitude of that Nation are to be peculiarly lamented. We must, however, place a confidence in that Providence who rules great events, trusting that out of confusion he will produce order, and, notwithstanding the dark clouds, which may threaten at present, that right will ultimately be established.
ParisThe tumultuous populace of large cities are ever to be dreaded. Their indiscriminate violence prostrates for the time all public authority, and its consequences are sometimes extensive and terrible. In Paris we may suppose these tumults are peculiarly disastrous at this time, when the public mind is in a ferment, and when (as is always the case on such occasions) there are not wanting wicked and designing men, whose element is confusion, and who will not hesitate in destroying the public tranquillity to gain a favorite point. But until your Constitution is fixed, your government organized, and your representative Body renovated, much tranquillity cannot be expected; for, until these things are done, those who are unfriendly to the revolution, will not quit the hope of bringing matters back to their former state.
Commercial measures of the National AssemblyThe decrees of the National Assembly respecting our tobacco and oil do not appear to be very pleasing to the people of this country; but I do not presume that any hasty measures will be adopted in consequence thereof; for we have never entertained a doubt of the friendly disposition of the French Nation toward us, and are therefore persuaded that if they have done any thing which seems to bear hard upon us, at a time when the Assembly must have been occupied in very important matters, and which perhaps would not allow time for a due consideration of the subject, they will, in the moment of calm deliberation, alter it and do what is right.
I readily perceive, my dear Sir, the critical situation in which you stand, and never can you have greater occasion to show your prudence, judgment, and magnanimity.
Tour of the southern statesOn the 6 of this month I returned from a tour through the southern States, which had employed me for more than three months. In the course of this journey I have been highly gratified in observing the flourishing state of the Country, and the good dispositions of the people. Industry and economy have become very fashionable in these parts, which were formerly noted for the opposite qualities, and the labours of man are assisted by the blessings of Providence. The attachment of all Classes of citizens to the general Government seems to be a pleasing presage of their future happiness and respectability.
The complete establishment of our public credit is a strong mark of the confidence of the people in the virtue of their Representatives, and the wisdom of their measures; and, while in Europe, wars or commotions seem to agitate almost every nation, peace and tranquillity prevail among us, except on some parts of our western frontiers, where the Indians have been troublesome, to reclaim or chastise whom proper measures are now pursuing.Contrasts with Europe This contrast between the situation of the people of the United States, and those of Europe is too striking to be passed over, even by the most superficial observer, and may, I believe, be considered as one great cause of leading the people here to reflect more attentively on their own prosperous state, and to examine more minutely, and consequently approve more fully of the government under which they live, than they otherwise would have done. But we do not wish to be the only people who may taste the sweets of an equal and good government; we look with an anxious eye to the time, when happiness and tranquillity shall prevail in your country, and when all Europe shall be freed from commotions, tumults, and alarms.
Your friends in this country often express their great attachment to you by their anxiety for your safety. Knox, Jay, Hamilton, Jefferson remember you with affection; but none with more sincerity and true attachment than etc.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS
Philadelphia, July 28, 1791
I have now before me your favors of the 22 of November 1 and 24 of December 1790, and of the 9 of March 1791. The Plateaux which you had the goodness to procure for me arrived safe, and the account of them has been settled, as you desired, with Mr. Robert Morris. For this additional mark of attention to my wishes you must accept my thanks.
The communications in your several letters, relative to the state of affairs in Europe, are very gratefully received; and I should be glad if it was in my power to reply to them more in detail than I am able to do. But my public duties, which are at all times sufficiently numerous, being now much accumulated by an absence of more than three months from the seat of government, make the present a very busy moment for me.
Change of systems in EuropeThe change of systems, which have so long prevailed in Europe, will, undoubtedly, affect us in a degree proportioned to our political or commercial connexions with the several nations of it. But I trust we shall never so far lose sight of our own interest and happiness as to become, unnecessarily, a party in their political disputes. Our local situation enables us to keep that state with them, which otherwise could not, perhaps, be preserved by human wisdom. The present moment seems pregnant with great events; But, as you observe, it is beyond the ken of mortal foresight to determine what will be the result of those changes which are either making or contemplated in the general system of Europe. Altho’ as fellow-men we sincerely lament the disorders, oppressions, and incertitude which frequently attend national events, and which our European brethren must feel; yet we cannot but hope that it will terminate very much in favor of the Rights of man; and that a change there will be favorable to this Country I have no doubt. For, under the former system we were seen either in the distresses of war, or viewed after the peace in a most unfavorable light through the medium of our distracted state. In neither point could we appear of much consequence among Nations. And should affairs continue in Europe in the same state they were when these impressions respecting us were received, it would not be an easy matter to remove the prejudices imbibed against us. A change of system will open a new view of things, and we shall then burst upon them, as it were with redoubled advantages.
Treaties with EuropeShould we under the present state of affairs form connexions, other than we now have, with any European powers, much must be considered in effecting them, on the score of our increasing importance as a Nation; and, at the same time, should a treaty be formed with a Nation whose circumstances may not at this moment be very bright much delicacy would be necessary in order to shew that no undue advantages were taken on that account. For unless treaties are mutually beneficial to the Parties, it is in vain to hope for a continuance of them beyond the moment when the one which conceives itself to be over-reached is in a situation to break off the connexion. And I believe it is among nations as with individuals, the party taking advantage of the distresses of another will lose infinitely more in the opinion of mankind and in subsequent events than he will gain by the stroke of the moment.
Tour of the southern statesIn my late tour through the southern States I experienced great satisfaction in seeing the good effects of the general Government in that part of the Union. The people at large have felt the security which it gives and the equal justice which it administers to them. The Farmer, the Merchant, and the Mechanic have seen their several interests attended to, and from thence they unite in placing a confidence in their representatives, as well as in those in whose hands the execution of the laws is placed. Industry has there taken place of idleness, and economy of dissipation. Two or three years of good crops, and a ready market for the produce of their lands, has put every one in good humour; and, in some instances they even impute to the Government what is due only to the goodness of Providence.
Bank of the United StatesThe establishment of public credit is an immense point gained in our national concerns. This I believe exceeds the expectation of the most sanguine among us; and a late instance, unparalleled in this country, has been given of the confidence reposed in our measures by the rapidity with which the subscriptions to the Bank of the United States were filled. In two hours after the books were opened by the Commissioners the whole number of shares were taken up, and 4000 more applied for than were allowed by the Institution. This circumstance was not only pleasing as it related to the confidence in government; but as it exhibited an unexpected proof of the resources of our Citizens.
First censusIn one of my letters to you the account which I gave of the number of inhabitants which would probably be found in the United States on enumeration, was too large. The estimate was then founded on the ideas held out by the Gentlemen in Congress of the population of their several States, each of whom (as was very natural) looking thro’ a magnifying glass would speak of the greatest extent, to which there was any probability of their numbers reaching. Returns of the Census have already been made from several of the States and a tolerably just estimate has been formed now in others, by which it appears that we shall hardly reach four millions; but one thing is certain our real numbers will exceed, greatly, the official returns of them; because the religious scruples of some, would not allow them to give in their lists; the fears of others that it was intended as the foundation of a tax induced them to conceal or diminished theirs, and thro’ the indolence of the people, and the negligence of many of the Officers numbers are omitted. The authenticated number however is far greater, I believe, than has ever been allowed in Europe, and will have no small influence in enabling them to form a more just opinion of our present and growing importance than has yet been entertained there.
This letter goes with one from Mr. Jefferson, to which I must refer you for what respects your public transactions, and I shall only add to it the repeated assurances of regard and affection etc.
TO ARTHUR YOUNG
Philadelphia, December 5, 1791
In a letter which I addressed to you on the 15th. of August, acknowledging the receipt of your favor dated the 25th. of January preceeding, I promised to answer the queries contained in it, in detail.
Reply to agricultural surveyAccordingly, I took measures for that purpose, by writing to some of the most intelligent Farmers in the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia; as you will perceive by the circular letter herewith enclosed: and have obtained the answers from the three last mentioned States that are thereunto annexed. I did not extend my enquiries to the Northward of New York, nor to the Southward of Virginia; because in neither extremity of the Union, in my opinion, is the climate, Soil, or other circumstances well adapted to the pursuits of a mere Farmer, or congenial to the growth of the smaller Grains.
I have delayed the information I am about to give you, in expectation of receiving answers which have been promised me from the States of New York and New Jersey; but as they are not yet arrived, and a Vessel is on the point of Sailing for London, I shall put this Packet under cover to Joshua Johnson Esqr. our Consul at that Port; with a request to him, that it may be forwarded to you, by a safe conveyance. The others shall follow as opportunities may present; it being my wish to give you a comprehensive view of the different parts of this Country: although I have no hesitation in giving it at the sametime as my opinion, if I had a new establishment to make in it, that it would be,A comprehensive view of different parts of the country under the knowledge I entertain of it at present (and I have visited all parts from New Hampshire to Georgia inclusively) in one of the three States of which you are furnished with particular Accounts. New York and New Jersey do not differ much in Soil, or Climate, from the Northern parts of Pennsylvania. Both are pleasant, and both are well improved, particularly the first. But the Country beyond these, to the Eastward, (and the farther you advance that way it is still more so) is unfriendly to Wheat, which is subject to a blight or mill-dew, and of late years, to a fly, which has almost discouraged the growth of it. The lands, however, in the New England States are strong, and productive of other Crops; are well improved; populously seated; and as pleasant as it can be in a Country fast locked in Snow sevl. months in the year.
To the Southward of Virginia the climate is not well adapted to Wheat; and less and less so as you penetrate the warmer latitudes; nor is the Country so thickly settled, or well cultivated. In a word, as I have already intimated, was I to commence my career of life anew, I shd. not seek a residence north of Pennsylvania, or South of Virginia: nor, but this I desire may be received with great caution, for I may, without knowing I am so, be biassed in favor of the River on which I live, should I go more than 25 miles from the margin of the Potomac, in less than half the distance, in some places I might seat myself either in Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia, as local circumstances might prompt me.
Advantages of Potomac regionHaving said thus much, some of the reasons which lead to this opinion, may be expected in support of it. Potomac River then, is the centre of the Union. It is between the extremes of heat and cold. It is not so far to the south as to be unfriendly to grass, nor so far north as to have the produce of the Summer consumed in the length, and severity of the winter. It waters that soil, and runs in that climate, which is most congenial to English grains, and most agreeable to the Cultivators of them.
It is the River, more than any other, in my opinion, which must, in the natural progress of things, connect by its inland navigation (now nearly compleated 190 measured miles up to Fort Cumberland, at the expence of £50,00 Sterlg. raised by private subscription) the Atlantic States with the vast region which is populating (beyond all conception) to the Westward of it. It is designed by law for the seat of the Empire; and must, from its extensive course through a rich and populous country become, in time, the grand Emporium of North America. To these reasons may be added, that, the lands within, and surrounding the district of Columbia are as high, as dry, and as healthy as any in the United States; and that those above them, in the Counties of Berkeley in Virginia, Washington in Maryland, and Franklin in Pennsylvania (adjoining each other) at the distance of from Sixty to 100 miles from Columbia, are inferior in their natural state to none in America.
The general Map of North America, which is herewith enclosed, will shew the situation of this district of the United States. And on Evan’s Map of the Middle Colonies, which is on a larger scale, I have marked the district of Columbia with double red lines; and the Counties adjacent to, and above it, of which particular mention has been made, with single red lines.
The last mentioned Map shews the proximity of the Potowmac (which is laid down from actual Survey) to the Western Waters, and it is worthy of observation, that the Shenandore, in an extent of 150 miles from its confluence, through the richest tract of land in the State of Virginia, may (as is supposed) be made navigable for less than £2,000. The South branch of Potowmac (100 miles higher up, and) for a hundred miles of its extent, may be made navigable for a much less sum. And the intermediate waters on the Virginia side, in that proportion, according to their magnitude. On the Maryland side (the river Potowmac to the head of the North branch being the boundary between the two States) the Monocasy and Conogocheag are capable of improvement to a degree which will be convenient and benificial to the Inhabitants of the State, and to parts of Pennsylvania.
The local, or State taxes, are enumerated in the answers to the circular letter; and these from the nature of the Government, will probably decrease. The taxes of the General Government will be found in the Revenue laws, which are contained in the volume that accompanies this letter.
“The Pennsylvania Mercury, and Philadelphia Price current” is sent that you may see what is, and has been, the prices of the several enumerated Articles which have been bought, and sold in this market at different periods, within the last twelve months.
Low productivity of American farmersAn English farmer must entertain a contemptible opinion of our husbandry, or a horrid idea of our lands, when he shall be informed that not more than 8 or 10 bushels of Wheat is the yield of an Acre; but this low produce may be ascribed, and principally too, to a cause which I do not find touched by either of the Gentlemen whose letters are sent to you, namely, that the aim of the farmers in this Country (if they can be called farmers) is not to make the most they can from the land, which is, or has been cheap, but the most of the labour, which is dear, the consequence of which has been, much ground has been scratched over and none cultivated or improved as it ought to have been; Whereas a farmer in England, where land is dear and labour cheap, finds it his interest to improve and cultivate highly, that he may reap large crops from a small quantity of ground. That this last is the true, and the first an erroneous policy, I will readily grant, but it requires time to conquer bad habits, and hardly anything short of necessity is able to accomplish it. That necessity is approaching by pretty rapid strides.
If from these communications you shall derive information or amusement, it will be but a small return for the favors I have received from you; and I shall feel happy in having had it in my power to render them. As they result from your letter of the 25th. of January, and are intended for your private satisfaction it is not my wish that they should be promulgated as coming from me. With very great esteem I am etc.
[*]Washington is addressing a regional meeting assembling Quakers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
[*]Washington replies to Hebrew congregations in Philadelphia, Newport, Charleston, and Richmond.