Our Collection

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 #: GLC02437.09419 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1 April 1789 Pagination: 1

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.

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

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Keywords/Subjects: President Inauguration, Mount Vernon, Government and Civics

Sub Era: The Early Republic