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Washington, George (1732-1799) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.09349 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Manuscript letter Date: 20 September 1795 Pagination: 3 p. ; 32 x 19.5 cm.

Summary of Content: Later copy of a letter from Washington to Knox, discussing a letter recently received from Knox "with great pleasure." Comments on Knox's home in Maine (Knox retired to his estate, Montpelier, in 1795, located near the St. George River in Thomaston, Maine). Mentions the "Treaty with Great Britain," possibly referring to the Jay Treaty, signed by Washington in August 1795. Refers to public opinion of the Treaty. Discusses the details of providing for George Washington Lafayette (son the Marquis de Lafayette and the President's godson). Relates that he has arranged for Lafayette to be cared for by Senator George Cabot and entered in the University of Cambridge with his tutor. Instructed Cabot to inform the boy Washington would "be to him as a friend & father," though his relationship to Lafayette was to initially remain a secret. Hopes Knox will move his family to Philadelphia for the winter. Copy made 6 March 1854.

Background Information: Signer of the U.S. Constitution.

Full Transcript: [Draft]
Mount Vernon 20th. Septr. 1795

My dear Sir,

I received with great pleasure the letter you wrote me from Boston, dated the 2d. instant - as I always shall do ...any others you may favor me with. - This pleasure was increased by hearing of the good health of Mrs. Knox and the rest of your family, and the agreeableness of your establishment at St. George's in the Province of Maine. - I may add also, that the account given of the favorable disposition of the people, generally, in your hemisphere, relatively to the Treaty with Great Britain, contributed not a little to the satisfaction I derived in hearing from you.

Next to a conscientious discharge of my public duties, to carry along with me the approbation of my Constituents, would be the highest gratification my mind is susceptible of; but the latter being subordinate, I cannot make the former yield to it; unless some criterian more infallible than partial (if they are not party) meetings, can be discovered as the touch stone of public sentiment. - If [2] any power on earth could, or the great power above would, erect the standard of infallibility in political opinions, there is no being that inhabits this terrestrial globe that would resort to it with more eagerness than myself, so long as I remain a servant of the public. - But as I have found no better guide hitherto than upright intentions, and close investigation, I shall adhere to these maxims while I keep the watch; leaving it to those who will come after me to explore new ways, if they like; or think them better. -

The temper of the people of this State, particularly the Southern parts of it, of South Carolina & Georgia, as far as it is discoverable from the several meetings & resolutions which have been published, is adverse to the Treaty with Great Britain; - and yet, I doubt much whether the great body of Yeomanry have formed any opinion on the subject; & whether, if their sense could be fairly taken under a plain and simple statement of facts, nine tenths of them would not advocate the measure. But with such abominable misrepresentations as appear in most of the proceedings, is it to be wondered at that uninformed [3] minds should be affrighted with the dreadful consequences which are predicted - and [struck: that they] are taught to expect, from the ratification of such a diabolical instrument, as the treaty is denominated. - From North Carolina we hear little concerning it - and from Kentucky nothing. -

The moment I received your letter - with one from young Fayette (which was not until the evening preceeding my departure for this place) I wrote to Mr. Cabot - the Senator - requesting, without letting my name appear, that the young gentleman might be provided (at my expence) with every thing that he and his Tutor might stand in need of. - And as his coming to Philadelphia - immediately at least - might, the French Minister being there - occasion embarrassments and be productive of no essential good - I proposed, until something [inserted: more] eligible could be devised, to have him entered at the University in Cambridge, with his Tutor. - I did not write to the youth myself, for reasons which will readily occur to you; but entreated Mr. Cabot to explain them to him in the most affectionate & consoling manner [4]; and to assure him in the strongest terms, that I would be to him as a friend & father; and that he might to all intents and purposes, count upon me as such. -

If your mind is still balancing between Philadelphia and Boston for Winter quarters, I sincerely wish it may fix on the former. - Mrs. Washington and the rest of my family are well, and unite in best regards for you, Mrs. Knox &ca.; with

Dear Sir
Your sincere friend, and
Affectionate Servant

Go: Washington
Genl Knox
See More

People: Washington, George, 1732-1799
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Lafayette, George Washington, 1779-1849

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentTreatyGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsGovernment and CivicsDiplomacyJay's TreatyPoliticsRevolutionary War GeneralChildren and FamilyEducationFrance

Sub Era: The Early Republic

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