George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Eliza Harriot O’Connor, 7 October 1788

From Eliza Harriot O’Connor

Alexandria Octbr 7th 1788


However flattering the encouragement I may yet receive in this Town and the honor I should feel to exert my efforts in this humble line under your Excellency’s patronage and Notice, yet I am obliged to join my Husband at Edenton North Carolina where he intends to publish his History of this Country from an Office over which he is appointed to preside, as well as to superintend a young Seminary of Education.

As I am resolved in every situation to unite my best endeavours for our common benefit, I mean there to resume my present office, and I humbly flatter myself your Excellency may think me in some degree qualified; however it is not presuming on any merit of mine but your Excellency’s goodness that I take the liberty to request a line of Introduction from you to Governor Johnston who lives at Edenton and has ⟨ ⟩Children1 If I have the happiness to meet your condescension and kind opinion, I can only assure you of my Gratitude and best endeavours to act worthy of him who has yet appeared the patron of Science.

If your Excellency, and Mrs Washington will permit, [(]and I can procure a Carriage) to wait upon you and receive your advice, I shall chearfully embrace the opportunity of having the honor of seeing her, which I most earnestly wish before I leave Alexandria.

I hope you will pardon me for this intrusion on your time, and if I may be allow’d the liberty of waiting upon you, and receiving your approbation respecting my intended Journey it will be confirming an obligation upon her who has ever esteemed herself Your Excellency’s Most Obedient & most humb. Sevt2

Eliza Harriot O’Connor


Eliza H. O’Connor recently had opened an academy for young ladies in Alexandria. In June 1788 she attempted unsuccessfully to persuade GW to become one of the school’s visitors. Her husband, John O’Connor, arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1787 and traveled extensively through the states to collect materials for a geographical and topographical account of the Americas. In February 1788 he dined with GW at Mount Vernon (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:272–73). O’Connor described himself as “a barrister at law in the kingdom of Ireland” and represented his work as in press although in fact subscribers soon discovered no material had yet gone to the printer (Maryland Gazette [Annapolis], 6 Dec. 1787; Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser, 22 April, 13 May 1788). By 5 Oct. 1789 O’Connor was at Georgetown, Md., and wrote GW that “it was, and is my determined intention to publish the History of America—My Circumstances are improving and all my resources point to that Event.” The volume apparently never appeared.

1Samuel Johnston (1733–1816), elected governor of North Carolina in 1787, resigned in 1789 to become a United States senator. For GW’s reply to this request, see his letter to Eliza H. O’Connor, 17 Oct. 1788.

2Upon receiving GW’s invitation to visit Mount Vernon, she arrived on 19 Oct. and stayed until 22 Oct. when GW “sent Mrs. O’Conner to Alexa.” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:409, 410; GW to Eliza H. O’Connor, 17 Oct. 1788, Eliza H. O’Connor to GW, 18 Oct. 1788).

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