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 Jonathan Trumbull re: unwillingness to accept a 3d term, political attacks

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05787 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 July 1799 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Explaining unwillingness to accept a third term, describing political attacks, etc.: "Let that party [the Democrats] set up a broomstick, and call it a true son of Liberty, a Democrat, or give it any other epithet that will suit their purpose, and it will command their votes in toto!* [Washington's footnote, written at bottom of page: * As an analysis of this position, look to the pending Election of Governor in Pennsylvania.] Will not the Federalists meet, or rather defend their cause on the opposite ground? Surely they must, or they will discover a want of Policy, indicative of weakness & pregnant of mischief, which cannot be admitted. Wherein then would lye the difference between the present Gentleman in Office, & Myself?" He also alludes to his "ardent wishes to pass through the vale of life in retirem[en]t undisturbed in the remnant of the days I have to sojourn here[,] unless called upon to defend my country (which every citizen is bound to do)...." Washington says that if he were to run to succeed Adams, "I am thoroughly convinced I should not draw a single vote from the Anti-federal side." Washington appends at the end "I cannot conclude it [the letter] without expressing an earnest wish that, some intimate & confidential [inserted: friend] of the President[']s would give him to understand that his long absence from the Seat of Government in the present critical conjucture, affords matter for severe animadversion...." Later note on p. 7 "Copied for Washington Irving October 8, 1858." Washington's footnote alludes to the campaign of Thomas McKean, soon to be elected governor of Pennsylvania. His closing remarks concern President Adams's spending much of his time away from the capital.

People: Washington, George, 1732-1799.

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Keywords/Subjects: President, Government and Civics, Politics, Election, Federalists

Sub Era: The Early Republic