George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Ruston, 17 August 1788

From Thomas Ruston

Philad[elphi]a Augt 17th 1788.


Will your Excellency permit me to congratulate you on the acceptance of the new constitution by eleven of the States? An event that I think must be highly pleasing to your Excellency, for as there is no one who has contributed so much towards the establishment of the liberty and independence of this Country, so I am convinced that there are none who have her happiness and prosperity more at heart. With regard to the two delinquent States (North Carolina and Rhode Island) when we consider the diversity of opinion that takes place amongst mankind upon almost every subject, it is perhaps more to be wondered at that eleven out of the thirteen should so immediately come into the measure, than that there should be two defaulters. the measure of Independence, so indispensible and necessary, if I remember right, was not immediately come into by all the States. Whatever ostensible reasons may be offered by those two States for the rejection of this constitution, from what I can learn the true one is the inhibition of paper money, a system which, as it has been practised, is founded in fraud, and the advocates of it seem loth to part with this darling privelege of cheating their neighbours according to law, but it is to be presumed that a little time and reflection will bring them to a right use of their reason.

Amidst the variety of important concerns that must necessarily engross your Excellencies attention at this crisis, it may perhaps be scarcely excusible in a private individual to attempt to call off your thoughts but for a moment to his particular concerns. as the subject however is of considerable importance to him, relying on your Vonted goodness, and the notice with which you have already indulged him, he is encouraged to mention the circumstance, leaving it entirely to your Excellency to take such notice of it as you shall think proper.

Your Excellency may possibly recollect that I mentioned to you, transiently, that I had some claims on the Principio Company. These claims were set forth in a petition which I presented to the Legislature of Maryland, at their last session, of which the inclosed is a copy.1 This petition was read in both houses, but it being a short session, and the members in a great hurry to get home, it was, with a great deal of other business refered over to next session. Upon a perusal of it I presume there is nothing that appears unreasonable, and I flatter myself I shall be able to make good all the allegations contained in it. You may perceive that I ask nothing but what I shall prove that I have a clear right to, nor do I expect any part of that which has been given to other claims—but only my proportional part out of that which still remains in the hands of the State. To this Claim permit me to observe, that, as far as I have gone, I have hitherto met with no obstruction, but it was observed by some of my friends that as I was necessarily almost an entire stranger, it would be well if I could procure some leters of introduction to some of the Members of the Senate, or house of Delegates, or both, against the next session.2 Pray make my best respect to Mrs Washington the Major & his Lady not forgeting Master Custis from Dr Sr Yr obliged and obedt humble Servt

Thos Ruston

N.B. Mr Morris’s Ship, the Alliance, from India is arrived ⟨mutilated⟩ the capes.


1GW, who owed his acquaintance with Dr. Ruston to George William Fairfax, may have learned of Ruston’s interest in the Principio Iron Company in November 1787 or January 1788, when Ruston visited Mount Vernon. See George William and Sarah Cary Fairfax to GW, 2 July 1785, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:217, 268. For references to the involvement of the Washington family in the Principio Iron Company, see GW to George Plater, Charles Carroll, John Cadwalader, and Samuel Chase, 11 Dec. 1784, and the source note of that document. In the enclosed petition directed to the Maryland legislature, Ruston asked that the shares in the Principio Company which his grandfather had acquired as one of the initial investors be restored to him.

2GW wrote to Ruston from Mount Vernon on 31 Aug.: “Sir, I have been regularly favored with your letter of the 17th instant, and am much obliged by your polite congratulations on the ratification of the Constitution by eleven States. Your remark seems to be well-founded, that it is much more wonderful so many States should have adopted, than that two only should not as yet have accepted the government. It remains for us to hope the best; and I would fain persuade myself that the same power, which hath hitherto kept us from Disunion and Anarchy, will not suffer us to be disappointed.

“Although I am not personally acquainted with many of the Gentlemen who compose the Senate of Maryland, I have, according to your desire, given you introductory letters to some of them. As a New House of Delegates is to be Elected before the next Session of Assembly, it might not be so easy for me to know & address any of them, in time. Ever disposed to testify my regard and esteem for you, I remain Sir Your Most Obedt and very Humble Servt Go: Washington” (ALS, PWacD; LB, DLC:GW). There are three letters dated 25 Aug. in GW’s letter book recommending Ruston in almost identical terms, one to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one to George Plater, and one to William Smallwood. The letter to Carroll reads: “Dear Sir, This letter will be presented to you by Doctr Ruston who came warmly recommended to me by my deceased Friend Colo. Fairfax of England as a Gentleman of merit and a firm friend to the American cause during its contest with Great Britian. The Doctor has business with your assembly whch will call him to Annopolis and take the liberty of introducing him to your acquaintance. I am &ca Go. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). The main differences in the three letters is that while GW introduces Ruston only to Carroll’s acquaintance, he introduces him to Plater’s “acquaintance and civilities,” (LB, DLC:GW; copy, PHi: Tench Coxe Papers) and Smallwood only to his “civilities” (LB, DLC:GW; copy, PHi: Tench Coxe Papers). The full text of each of the three letters is in CD-ROM:GW.

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