George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Citizens of New York City, 9 May 1789

To the Citizens of New York City

[New York, 9 May 1789]


The affectionate address presented by the Magistrates and the general joy testified by the Citizens of New York, on my arrival in this Metropolis, have filled my mind with the mingled emotions of gratitude and satisfaction.1 In accepting the momentuous trust which has been spontaneously committed to me by a free people; it was not enough to have felt a consciousness of having acted in conformity to the dictates of patriotism; it was not enough to have known that I met the wishes of my fellow-citizens; but it seemed that these farther pledges of their confidence and support were wanting to overcome the diffidence I had in my own abilities, and the reluctance I experienced at engaging in such new and arduous affairs.

Unelated by your too favorable appreciation of my past services, I can only pour forth the effusions of a grateful heart to Heaven, if I have been made, in any degree an instrument of good to my country—And, although I am far from claiming any merit for retiring in the manner I did from a military command to the shade of private life; yet I am pleased to find that your candor has done justice to the principles, by which I have been actuated on the present occasion. No circumstance, in my conception, can be more consolatory to a public Man, especially to one truly sensible that the purest intentions cannot always preserve him from error, than a knowledge that his countrymen are disposed to consider the motives of his conduct with that liberality, which is reciprocally necessary for all, who are subject to the frailties of human nature. In this place I cannot avoid expressing an apprehension that the partiality of my Countrymen in my favor has induced them to expect too much from the exertions of an individual. It is from their co-operation alone, I derive all my expectations of success—Indeed the unanimity which has prevailed in some instances is a happy presage that our national government will be firmly established in the hearts of the People, and receive their united and zealous support.

From the accommodating spirit which has been displayed in respect to the Constitution, I anticipate that the government will in its’ operation, be productive of the most extensive utility, by rendering the Union as respectable in peace as it was triumphant in war.

I feel a just sense of your fervent wishes for my personal happiness, and the success of my administration—I pray you, Gentlemen, to accept in return my cordial thanks for these demonstrations of your affection, as well as for the assurances you have given of the attachment of your fellow-citizens.

Go: Washington


1The address from the citizens of New York, dated 9 May 1789, reads: “The Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of New York beg leave to offer you our most respectful and affectionate congratulations on your safe arrival in this Metropolis; and at the same time to express the general joy of our fellow-citizens of every order on this auspicious event.

“In thus presenting ourselves before you we experience all the emotions, which naturally arise from a high veneration for your character, an exalted sense of your services, and a perfect conviction that a Trust, the most momentous which could be conferred by a free people, has been committed to a citizen, who has given unequivocal proofs of his possessing all the good and great qualities requisite to it’s successful discharge.

“With peculiar pleasure, Sir, we recall to mind that illustrious display of wisdom, virtue, and valour which distinguished your military command—With equal pleasure we recollect the exemplary moderation which marked your retreat from the head of a victorious army to the shade of private life.

“Permit us to add that we contemplate with pious gratitude that unparalelled coincidence of circumstances which has constrained you, by motives that Patriotism could not resist, to re-engage in the arduous duties of a public station.

“Long in the habit of revering you as the Father of our country, we rejoice at the happiness of being placed once more under your protection; we consider the unanimity, which prevailed in your appointment, as a presage that our national government will be firmly established in the hearts of all the People, and receive their united and zealous support; and we are fully persuaded that under the divine favor, it’s operation will be productive of the most extensive benefits and blessings, and render the Union as respectable in peace as, under your auspices, it was triumphant in war.

“To our most fervent wishes for your personal happiness, and for the success of your administration, we should not do justice to the sentiments of our fellow-citizens, if we did not add the strongest assurances of their inviolable attachment to you, and of their earnest disposition to render you all the support which can flow from the most cordial Respect, Gratitude, and confidence” (DLC:GW). The address was signed in behalf of the corporation of the city of New York by Mayor James Duane.

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