From William S. Smith
Union Brigade [Scotch Plains, New Jersey] Feby. 24th. 1800
I have the Honor to inform you that in obediance to The Proclamation of The President of the United States,1 recommending that on the 22d. day of Feby. public testimony should be given of the grief of our Nation for the death of General George Washington by suitable Eulogies, orations and discourses, or by public prayer—the Union Brigade discharged the duty required with respect & reverence—a prayer was by the Reverend Mr. Austin2 addressed to the throne of Grace—a military oration Delivered by Capt. White3 of the 11th. and a few Verses chaunted by the Corps suitable to the occasion—the troops moved with accuracy and the whole performance was solem impressive and highly respectfull.4
I have the Honor to be, with great respect Sir, Your most obedt Humble Servt.
W. S. Smith Lt. Colo of ye. 12th
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. On December 30, 1799, John Marshall of the Joint House Committee on “what measures ought to be adopted in honor of the memory of George Washington” introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives requesting President John Adams to issue a proclamation calling on Americans to set aside February 22, 1800, to honor George Washington. The House passed the resolution the same day, and the Senate passed it on December 31, 1799 (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , X, 22, 223). Adams signed the resolution on January 6, 1800 (2 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845); II (Boston, 1850). description ends 87), and issued the following Proclamation: “A PROCLAMATION By the President of the United States of America.
“WHEREAS the Congress of the United States have this day resolved, ‘That it be recommended to the People of the United States to assemble on the twenty-second day of February next, in such numbers and manner as may be convenient, publicly to testify their grief for the death of General George Washington, by suitable eulogies, orations and discourses, or by public prayers;’ and, ‘That the President be requested to issue a Proclamation for the purpose of carrying the foregoing resolution into effect.’ NOW THEREFORE, I John Adams, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the same accordingly.
“Given under my hand and the seal of the United States, at Philadelphia, the sixth day of January in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-fourth.
“By the President, Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State.” (Gazette of the United States, and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, January 8, 1800.)
2. David Austin, a graduate of Yale, was a Congregational clergyman who had several parishes in Connecticut in the seventeen-eighties. In 1788 he was installed as the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was convinced of the imminence of the millennium and was the author of several pamphlets on the subject. Because of his unorthodox views he was eventually compelled to give up his parish in New Jersey.
His sermon at Scotch Plains was published as part of A Discourse, delivered on occasion of the death of George Washington … in compliance with the request of the mayor … of the borough of Elizabeth, December 25, 1799. Also, sketches of a running discourse, delivered to the Union brigade …, December 26, 1799. With an address to the throne of grace, offered at the cantonment on Green Brook, February 22 … (New York: Printed by G. F. Hopkins, 1800).
3. Before becoming a captain in the Eleventh Regiment of Infantry, Samuel White was a lawyer in Delaware. Following his military service, he was a presidential elector in 1800 and a Federalist member of the United States Senate from 1801 until his death in 1809.
4. These proceedings were published as Proceedings of the Union Brigade, commanded by Colonel Smith, on the death of General Washington. Together with the Rev. Mr. Austin’s prayer, and Captain Samuel White’s oration ([New York] From Lang’s Press, 1800).