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At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 65,000 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

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.09410 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 3 February 1787 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Refers to the constitutional rights of Massachusetts. Also discusses insurgents in that state (Shays' Rebellion was losing momentum). Relates in confidence that he does not want to go to the Constitutional Convention (to be held in Philadelphia) but that convention organizers have included him and implored him not to make a final decision regarding whether or not he will attend. Admits that "powers are wanting" in government, but takes a pessimistic view, wondering how such powers shall be derived. Comments that Knox's opinion, to build a central national government, is energetic and favorable compared to the existing system, which he calls "slow - debilitated - and liable to be thwarted by every breath." Warns that those in favor of strong state governments will oppose a powerful national system of government. Admits that his opinions might be sheltered, as he never leaves his farms. Reflects that he would never have previously predicted a rebellion "against the laws & constitutions of our own making." Sends his and Martha's love to Knox and his wife Lucy.

People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806.
Washington, George, 1732-1799.
Washington, Martha, 1731-1802.
Knox, Lucy Flucker, ca. 1756-1824.

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Keywords/Subjects: President Government and Civics, Articles of Confederation, US Constitution, US Constitutional Convention, Politics, Mount Vernon, Rebellion, Shays' Rebellion, Mobs and Riots, First Lady

Sub Era: Creating a New Government