George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 28 May 1787

From David Humphreys

New Haven [Conn.] May 28th 1787

My dear General

I intended fully, when I left Philadelphia, to have written to you from New York, but on my arrival there my Servant (who was a German) ran away, & I was so occupied in procuring another, that I have not been able to take up the pen until the present moment.1

Recollecting imperfectly, as I do, the purport of Mr Jefferson’s letter, as well as of the Extract from the Encyclopedia; I have found myself embarrassed in attempting to say any thing on so delicate a subject—especially considering it a subject on whose merits Posterity is to judge, & concerning which every word that may be drawn from you, will probably hereafter be brought into question & scrutinised—Under this view I have thought, the less that could with decency be said, the better.2 With sentiments of perfect friendship & consideration I have the honor to be my dear General Your Most Obedt hble Servt

D. Humphreys


1David Humphreys was among the party of former officers who went out to Chester on Sunday, 13 May, to conduct GW into Philadelphia (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:155).

2Humphreys provided GW with a draft to be used to answer Thomas Jefferson’s letter of 14 Nov. 1786 in which Jefferson had criticized the Society of the Cincinnati and had enclosed an encyclopedia article attacking it. When writing his reply to Jefferson on 30 May, GW simply copied Humphreys’ draft for the part of his letter that related to the Cincinnati. See also GW to Henry Knox (second letter), 27 April 1787. Humphreys’ draft has been transcribed for CD-ROM:GW.

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