George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Ezra Stiles, 2 June 1779

From Ezra Stiles

Yale College [New Haven, Conn.] June 2. 1779.

In a general Course of Liberal Education, as well as in a particular and very curious Invention, Mr Bushnel has displayed such a singular Genius, and evinced such an Acquaintance with the Pyrotecnical Art, and the mathematical Theory of Projectiles, Artillery and Engineering and other mechanical Branches of Experimental Philosophy, as cannot fail to recommend him to Improvement in those military and naval Enterprizes, which require this kind of Knowledge, and all for the Exertion of such Talents and Abilities. And should he be admitted into the Companies of Sappers and Miners now forming, it is not doubted but that Mons. de Portel would find him to surpass any written Recommendation that may be given of him.1

Ezra Stiles Coll. Yal. Prof.


Ezra Stiles (1727–1795) graduated from Yale in 1746, continued his studies, especially in theology, and received a master’s degree from the same school in 1749. While working as a tutor at Yale for the next six years, he also studied law and secured admission to the Connecticut bar. Stiles accepted the invitation of the Second Congregational Church of Newport, R.I., to become its pastor in October 1755. He subsequently helped to found Rhode Island College, now Brown University. A powerful intellect, his interests extended from astronomy and chemistry to ancient languages, and he earned membership in the American Philosophical Society in January 1768. Stiles was an early supporter of American independence, but fearing a British invasion of Newport, he moved in March 1776 to Dighton, Mass., and took charge of several churches until accepting a pastorship at Portsmouth, N.H., in May 1777. Stiles became president of Yale in July 1778 and held that position until his death. In a sermon preached on 8 May 1783, Stiles exclaimed: “O WASHINGTON! how do I love thy name! how have I often adored and blessed thy God, for creating and forming thee the great ornament of human kind! upheld and protected by the Omnipotent, by the Lord of Hosts, thou hast been sustained and carried through one of the most arduous and most important wars in all history. The world and posterity will, with admiration, contemplate thy deliberate, cool, and stable judgment, thy virtues, thy valour and heroic achievements. … The sound of thy fame shall go out into all the earth, and extend to distant ages” (Stiles, The United States elevated to Glory and Honor. A Sermon, Preached before His Excellency Jonathan Trumbull … And the Honorable The General Assembly of The State of Connecticut, Convened at Hartford, At the Anniversary Election, May 8th, 1783. [New Haven, Conn., 1783], 42; see also Stiles to GW, 9 Nov. 1786, and n.1 to that document, Papers, Confederation Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends 4:352–53).

1For GW’s appointment of David Bushnell as a captain lieutenant in the corps of sappers and miners, see the general orders for 2 Aug.; see also Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., to GW, 29 May, and Israel Putnam to GW, 7 May, and n.6.

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