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.
A high-resolution version of this object is available for registered users. LOG IN
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.09431 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 2 March 1797 Pagination: 3 p. ; 24.4 x 20.1 cm.
Thanks Knox for a letter recently received. Offers condolences to Knox for his recent losses (three of Knox's children died 1796-1797, including his seven year old son named after George Washington). Washington complains of those who lack confidence in and have criticized his leadership, stating that they will be satisfied with nothing "short of a change in our political system." Writes that he looks forward to the prospect of retirement, but is not "without my regrets at parting with (perhaps never more to meet) the few intimates whom I love, among these, be assured you are one." Has heard, through Mr. Bingham, that Knox is doing well in Maine (Knox retired in 1795 to Montpelier, his estate in Thomaston, Maine). After retirement, expects to be occupied in "rural amusements," and not to travel more than twenty miles from Mount Vernon. Hopes his friends and colleagues will visit him. Relates that in two days, on 4 March, he will leave his position as President, and shall witness the inauguration of his successor, John Adams. Declines to say more about politics, and sends his and Martha's good wishes to Knox and his family. Docketed twice, one of them being an extensive Henry Knox autograph endorsement.
Signer of the U.S. Constitution.
Philadelphia 2d March 1797.
My dear Sir;
Amongst the last Acts of my political life, and before I go hence into retirement, profound, will be the acknowledgement of your kind and affectionate letter from Boston - dated 15.th of January. -
From the friendship I have always borne you - and from the interest I have ever taken in whatever relates to your prosperity & happiness, I participated in the sorrows which I knew you must have felt for your late heavy losses. - But it is not for man to scan the wisdom of Providence. The best he can do, is to submit to its decrees. Reason, religion & Philosophy, teaches us [inserted: to do] this, but 'tis time alone that can ameliorate the pangs of humanity, & soften its woes.
To the wearied traveller who sees a resting place, and is bending his body to lean thereon, I now compare myself; but to [inserted: be suffered to] do this in peace, is [inserted: I perceive] too much, to be endured by some. To misrepresent my motives; to reprobate my politics; - and to weaken the confidence which has been reposed in my  administration are objects which cannot be relinquished by those who, will be satisfied with nothing short of a [inserted: change in our] political System. - The consolation however, which results from conscious rectitude, and the approving voice of my Country, unequivocally expressed by its Representatives - deprives their sting of its poison, and places in the same point of view both the weakness, and malignity of their efforts: -
Although the prospect of retirement is most grateful to my soul, - and I have not a wish to mix again in the great world, or to partake in its politics, yet, I am not without my regrets at parting with (perhaps never more to meet) the few intimates whom I love, among these, be assured you are one. -
The account given by Mr Bingham and others, of your agreeable situation, and prospects at S.t George's; gave me infinite pleasure; and no one wishes more sincerely than I do, that they may increase with your years. The remainder of my life (which in the course of nature cannot be long) will be occupied in rural amusements  ments, and though I shall seclude myself as much as possible from the noisy and bustling crowd, none more than myself, would be regaled by the company of those I esteem, at Mount Vernon: - More than 20 miles from which, after I arrive there, it is not likely I ever shall be. -
As early in next week as I can make arrangements for it, I shall commence my journey for Mount Vernon. - Tomorrow, at dinner, I shall, as a servant of the public, take my leave of the President Elect. - of the foreign characters, - head of Departments, - &cw. - And the day following, with pleasure, I shall witness the inauguration of my Successor to the Chair of government. -
On the subject of Politics I shall say nothing; - you will have an opportunity of seeing & conversing with many of the Legislators; from who, so far as it relates to the proceedings of their own body, they can give you the details. - The Gazettes will furnish the rest. - M.rs Washington unites with me in every good wish for you, M.rs Knox & family, and with unfeigned truth, I am Yours always, & affectionately
Philadelphia 2 March
1797 Genl Washington
from the President
of the United States,
dated, the last day
but one of his adminis-
tration as President of
the United States
The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.