George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Elias Boudinot, 22 April 1789

From Elias Boudinot

Elizabeth Town [N.J.]
Wednesday Evening [22 April 1789]


I have the honor of informing your Excellency that the Committees of both Houses arrived here this afternoon and will be ready to receive your Excellency at my House as soon as you can arrive here tomorrow morning.1

If you, Sir, will honor us with your company at Breakfast, it will give us great pleasure—We shall wait your Excellency’s arrival in hopes of that gratification. You can have a room to dress in if you should think it necessary as co[n]venient as you can have it in Town. I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s Most obedient humble Servant

Elias Boudinot


1GW may have received this note while he was at the house of Maj. Thomas Egbert. See Elizabeth Citizens to GW, 22 April 1789, source note. Though not able to breakfast with Boudinot, GW went to his house later in the morning to meet with the joint committee from the House of Representatives and Senate who had come to Elizabeth to accompany him to New York. After leaving Boudinot’s house, the party, accompanied by a large crowd, moved on to Elizabeth Point to board the large ceremonial barge that was to take them to New York. See GW to Thomas Randall, 2 May 1789.

Descriptions of GW’s reception in New York are legion. The most detailed newspaper accounts are in the New-York Daily Gazette, 25 April 1789, the Daily Advertiser (New York), 24 April 1789, and the Gazette of the United States (New York), 29 April 1789. GW himself, in a diary entry for 23 April 1789—one of two surviving entries for this period—stated that the “display of boats which attended and joined us on this occasion, some with vocal and some with instrumental music on board; the decorations of the ships, the roar of cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people which rent the skies, as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful (considering the reverse of this scene, which may be the case after all my labors to do good) as they are pleasing” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:447). One New York newspaper claimed that “no language can paint the beautiful display made on his excellency’s approach to the city. The shores were crouded with a vast concourse of citizens, waiting with exulting anxiety his arrival—His Catholic Majesty’s ship sloop of war the Galviston, (Mr. Dohrman’s) ship North-Carolina, and the other vessels in port, were dressed and decorated in the most superb manner. His excellency’s barge was accompanied by the barge of the Hon. Gen. Knox, and a great number of vessels and boats from Jersey and New-York, in his train. As he passed the Galviston, he received a salute of thirteen guns, and was welcomed by an equal number from the battery.” Arriving at the stairs at Murray’s Wharf GW was greeted by Governor Clinton “and the officers of the State and Corporation,” and the party proceeded through Queen Street to “the house fitted up for the reception of his Excellency, where it terminated. After which, he was conducted without form to the house of Governor Clinton, with whom his Excellency dined. In the evening the houses of the citizens were brilliantly illuminated” (Daily Advertiser [New York], 24 April 1789). For a detailed, if effusive, account of the day’s festivities, see also Elias Boudinot’s letter to his wife, 24 April 1789, printed in Boyd, Boudinot, description begins George Adams Boyd. Elias Boudinot: Patriot and Statesman, 1740–1821. Princeton, N.J., 1952. description ends 162–64. On his way through the city GW “frequently bowed to the multitude, and took off his hat to the ladies at the windows, who waved their handkirchiefs, and threw flowers before him, and shed tears of joy and congratulation. The whole city was one scene of triumphal rejoicing. His name, in every form of decoration, appeared on the fronts of the houses; and the streets which he passed through to the Governor’s mansion were ornamented with flags, silk banners of various colors, wreaths of flowers, and branches of evergreen” (Quincy, Memoir of Life of Eliza S. M. Quincy, description begins Eliza Susan Quincy, ed. Memoir of the Life of Eliza S. M. Quincy. Boston, 1861. description ends 50). In the midst of this adulation there was the occasional discordant note. John Armstrong, Jr., writing to Horatio Gates on 7 April, noted that “all the world here and elsewhere are busy in collecting flowrs & sweets of every kind to amuse and delight him in his approach and at his arrival & Even Roger Sherman has set his head at work to devise some style of address more novel & dignified than Excellency. Yet in the midst of this admiration there are Sceptics who doubt its propriety and wits who amuse themselves wt its extravagance. The first will grumble, and the last will laugh, and the Presidt should be prepard to meet the attacks of both with firmness and good Nature. A Caricature has already appeard called ‘the Entry’ full of very disloyal & profane allusions. It represents the Gen. mounted on an Ass & in arms of his Mulatto Man Billy—Humphreys leading the Jack and Chaunting Hosannas & Birth day odes. The following Couplet makes the motto of this device. ‘The glorious time has come to pass When David shall conduct an Ass’” (Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers” description begins James Gregory and Thomas Dunnings, eds. “Horatio Gates Papers, 1726–1828.” Sanford, N.C., 1979. Microfilm. description ends ).

Index Entries