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Washington, George (1732-1799) to Burwell Bassett

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04709 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 23 May 1785 Pagination: 2 p. : address : docket ; 30.7 x 18.5 cm.

Summary of Content: Mentions that he would have enjoyed seeing him at Richmond if it had been possible. Remarks that an artist, Mr. Pine, was at Mount Vernon and had to wait for him to return to do his historical painting. Comments on the engagement of his nephew, George Augustine Washington to Fanny [Frances] Bassett, Burrell Bassett's daughter. Expresses his views on marriage, "I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of ones life. -- The foundation of happiness or misery." States that he does not believe in promoting or preventing a marriage unless it absolutely requires interference. Believes George Augustine and Fanny should marry, " ... as their attachment to each other seems of early growth, warm, & lasting, it bids for happiness." Advises that he has asked them to live at Mount Vernon. Invites anyone in Bassett's family to visit.

Background Information: George Augustine Washington died in 1793 and Frances Bassett Washington was remarried to Tobias Lear, but she died only three years later in 1796. Signer of the U.S. Constitution.

Full Transcript: Mount Vernon, 23d May 1785
Dear Sir,
It would have given me much pleasure to have seen you at Richmond; and it was part of my original plan to have spent ...a few days with you at Eltham whilst I was in the lower parts of the Country; but an intervention of circumstances not only put it out of my power to do the latter but would have stopped my journey to Richmond altogether had not the meeting, the time, and the place been of my own appointing. -- I left company at home when I went away who proposed to wait my return -- among them a Mr. Pine, an artist of eminence, came all the way from Philadelphia on purpose for some materials for an historical painting which he is about, and for which he was obliged to stay til I got back; which I did after an absence of eight days only. --
My Nephew Geo. Aug[ustin]e Washington is just returned from his peregrination. -- apparently much amended as in his health but not quite free from the disorder in his Side -- I have understood that his Addresses to Fanny were made with your conse & I now [?] learn that he is desirous; and she is willing, to fulfill the engagement they have entered into; and that they are applying to you for permission to do so.
It has ever been a maxim with me through life, neither to promote, nor to prevent a matrimonial connection, unless there should be something indispensably [2] requiring interference in the latter. -- I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of ones life. -- The foundation of happiness or misery. To be instrumental therefore in bringing two people together who are indifferent to each other, & may soon become objects of disgust, -- or to prevent a union which is prompted by the affection of the mind, is what I never could reconcile with reason, & therefore neither directly, nor indirectly have I ever said a syllable to Fanny, or George, upon the subject of their intended connection but as their attachment to each other seems of early growth, warm, & lasting, it bids fair for happiness. -- If therefore you have no obection, I think, the sooner it is consummated the better.
I have just now informed them both (the former through Mrs. Washington) that it is my wish they should live at Mount Vernon. --
It is unnecessary I hope to say how happy we should be to see you, her Brothers, and any of her friends -- who can make it convenient, and are disposed at this place, on this occasion. -- All here join in best wishes here for you, and with every sincere esteem and regard
I am -- Dear Sir
Yr affecte friend and
Obedt Hble Servant
Go: Washington

[Address panel:]
The Honble
Burwell Bassett

Genl Washington
23 May 1785
See More

People: Washington, George, 1732-1799
Bassett, Burwell, 1764-1841
Washington, George Augustine, 1763-1793
Lear, Frances Bassett Washington, 1767-1796

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentMount VernonArt, Music, Theater, and FilmEntertaining and HospitalityChildren and FamilyMarriageWomen's History

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

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