Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Washington, George (1732-1799) to Henry Knox

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Log in
to see this thumbnail image

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.09419 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1 April 1789 Pagination: 1 p. : docket ; 23.2 x 19.1 cm.

A high-resolution version of this object is available for registered users. LOG IN

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.09419 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1 April 1789 Pagination: 1 p. : docket ; 23.2 x 19.1 cm.

Summary of Content: One of Washington's most famous letters, written shortly before going to New York for his inauguration. Washington writes about his apprehensions on assuming the presidency: "my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied with 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 & inclination which is necessary to manage the helm..." Promises integrity and firmness at his post.

Background Information: Washington was sworn in as the nation's first president 30 April 1789. Signer of the U.S. Constitution.

Full Transcript: Mount Vernon April 1st. 1789
My dear Sir;
The Mail of the 30th. brought me your favor the 23d. - For which, & the regular information you have had the goodness to ...transmit of the state of things in New York, I feel myself 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 business: - For myself, the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for in confidence I can assure you - with the world it would obtain little credit - that my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied with 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 [inserted: & inclination] which is necessary to manage the helm. - I am sensible, that I am embarking the voice of my Countrymen and a good name of my own, on this voyage, but what returns will be made for them - Heaven alone can foretell. - Integrity & firmness is all I can promise - these, be the voyage long or short, never shall 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. - With best wishes for Mrs. Knox, & sincere friendship for yourself - I remain
Your Affectionate
Go: Washington
The Honble
Majr Genl Knox
[docket]
from The President
Mount Vernon
1 April 1789
Original
No 7 -
See More

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

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentInaugurationMount VernonGovernment and Civics

Sub Era: The Early Republic

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources