James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George Washington, 16 February 1789

From George Washington

Mount Vernon Feby. 16th. 1789

My dear Sir,

Having heard of your Election, by a respectable majority of the suffrages of the District for which you stood—and conceiving it probable that you would soon be on your Journey to New York—possibly before my return from the Senaca Falls—for which place, by appointment, I am this moment setting off by the way of George Town; where I expect to meet Governors Johnson & Lee—I take the liberty of submitting the Papers herewith enclosed, for your perusal, in case of that event.

You have the rough draught only of the letter I had in contemplation to write to you—so soon as I should have received your answer to the one I had written to you, soon after you left this. But having heard nothing from you since, I concluded that the intercourse between this & Orange was not very regular although, ultimately, it might be safe. Therefore, & because I expected you would soon be on, I gave up the intention of forwarding the enclosures you will now receive.1

I shall certainly be back on Friday—probably on Thursday—when if you should in the meantime have arrived, it would give me much pleasure to see you at this place—being always with the sincerest regard & friendship Your Most Obedient & Affectionate Hble Servt

Go: Washington

PS. If it should be your own desire, I have not the smallest objection to your conversing freely with Colo. H——2 on all matters respecting this business.


RC (owned by Justin G. Turner, Los Angeles, Calif., 1961); FC (DLC: Washington Papers). FC in a clerk’s hand. Minor variations between the RC and the FC have not been noted. For the enclosure, see n. 1

1The “rough draught” was evidently the letter (now missing) that Washington wrote ca. 30 Jan. and that JM returned when he stopped at Mount Vernon on his way to New York (Washington to JM, 2 Jan. 1789 and n. 1). In 1827 Jared Sparks saw this letter and the enclosure referred to in the present letter. He gave the following description and commentary to JM: “The letter dated Jany. 1789, relates to the Message to the first Congress, and there is preserved with it the copy of a message, or as he calls it, a speech, in his own hand, which I presume is the same that was sent to you for your revision, according to the request in his letter. The person to whom he alludes as the author of it, and whom he designates as a ‘gentleman under this roof,’ I suppose to be Colonel Humphreys. The speech, as copied by Washington, extends to seventy three pages, in which is included a short space for a prayer, that was to be introduced after the first paragraph. It is certainly an extraordinary production for a message to Congress, and it is happy, that Washington took counsel of his own understanding, and of his other friends, before he made use of this document. No part of it seems to have been formally introduced in the real message.” Sparks went on to say that in his edition of Washington’s writings he would omit “any allusion to this draft of a message, or his letter to you respecting it.” JM concurred with this decision and added, “Nothing but an extreme delicacy towards the author of the Draft, who, no doubt, was Col. Humphreys, can account for the respect shewn to so strange a production” (Sparks to JM, 22 May 1827 [DLC]; JM to Sparks, 30 May 1827, Madison, Letters [Cong. ed.] description begins [William C. Rives and Philip R. Fendall, eds.], Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (published by order of Congress; 4 vols.; Philadelphia, 1865). description ends , III, 582). Regarding the manuscript as of no importance, Sparks cut up the draft and sent the resulting fragments to friends as specimens of Washington’s handwriting. Fitzpatrick painstakingly reassembled as many of these as he could and published them (Writings of Washington, XXX, 296–97 n. 51, 296–308).

2At a later time JM placed an asterisk here and wrote below the postscript “*Humphreys.”

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