George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Hanson, 18 November 1787

From Samuel Hanson

Alexandria, Novr 18th 1787


The last time I did myself the honour to address you, I promised to take your Nephews, if it were agreeable to you, another Year.1 You will, I fear, suspect me of being whimsical in requesting the favour of you to release me from the obligation of that promise. I have lately engaged with some Gentlemen to dine with me by the year: and I find that the accommodating of these will clash with the attention necessary to the Boys. As the Boys must dine early, in order to attend School, we shall be under the necessity of keeping for them a separate Table. The trouble of doing this, would exceed any profits which so small a number could afford. I, therefore, hope you will not think my request unreasonable.

I make it with less reluctance, as I have been with Mr McWhir to know if he would take them, and have reason to believe that he would. I am very sincere in declaring that, from the course of my observations on boys in general, there is no situation for them so eligible as the immediate inspection of their Teacher. I should, Sir, be unjust to the confidence you have reposed in me, if I did not add that, with respect to your Nephews, they ought to be placed under some person willing, & capable, to controul them. The difficulty of doing this appears to be encreased by a particular Circumstance which, from restraints of respect, I can but hint at—I have often had cause to suspect that your Kinsmen arrogate to themselves no Small degree of Self-Estimation from those high & distinguished Offices to which you have been appointed. It has been my endeavour to discourage any pretensions arising in them from Considerations foreign to their own merit: but not, as I conceive, with entire effect.2

I beg you not to impute the freedom of this remark to any asperity remaining from some occasional disagreement with the Boys, nor to any other unworthy motive. They have, indeed, my hearty good-wishes for their wellfare and advancement in Learning; but I am persuaded their progress will be best facilitated under Some one invested with a proper Authority to controu⟨l and⟩ if necessary, to correct, the⟨m⟩. I remain, with perfect resp⟨ect⟩ and Esteem, Sir Your most obedt Servt

S. Hanson of Saml


1Hanson wrote GW on 23 September.

2The brothers George Steptoe Washington and Lawrence Augustine Washington had been studying at William Mc Whir’s academy in Alexandria since November 1785 and living in Hanson’s house since January 1787. GW replied from Mount Vernon on 24 Nov.: “Sir, I am sorry it is not convenient for you to board my Nephews any longer—Mr Lear is desired to see what can be done with them—For the advice you have given them I feel myself obliged & wish they had sense & prudence enough to be governed by it. I am &c. G. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). After leaving Hanson’s house GW’s nephews boarded at Mr. McWhir’s for only a few months. On 16 Mar. 1788 Hanson wrote GW that as McWhir could not “accomodate your Nephews any longer,” he was applying to GW “to let me have them again.” By 4 May Hanson once more was complaining to GW about the conduct of George Steptoe Washington. In view of Hanson’s fairly constant flow of criticism of the two boys, GW must have taken some satisfaction when he attended the school exams earlier in November and learned that “in the Second [class], examined in Latin and ancient Geography, George Washington and Charles Alexander were deemed the best scholars” (Virginia Journal, and Alexandria Advertiser, 8 Nov. 1787).

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