George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Governor and Council of North Carolina, 19 June 1789

To the Governor and Council of North Carolina

New York, June 19th 1789


It was scarcely possible for any Address to have given me greater pleasure, than that which I have just received from you: because I consider it not only demonstrative of your approbation of my conduct in accepting the first office in the Union, but also indicative of the good dispositions of the citizens of your State towards their Sister States, and of the probability of their speedily acceeding to the new general Government.1

In justification of the opinion which you are pleased to express, of my readiness “to advise every measure calculated to compose party divisions, and to abate any animosity that may be excited by mere difference of opinion,” I take the liberty of referring you to the sentiments communicated by me to the two Houses of Congress. On this occasion, I am likewise happy in being able to add the strongest assurances, that I entertain a well-grounded expectation that nothing will be wanting on the part of the different branches of the general Government to render the Union as perfect, and more safe than ever it has been.

A difference of opinion on political points is not to be imputed to Freemen as a fault; since it is to be presumed that they are all actuated by an equally laudable and sacred regard for the liberties of their Country. If the mind is so formed in different persons as to consider the same object to be somewhat different in its nature and consequences, as it happens to be placed in different points of view, and if the oldest, the ablest and the most virtuous Statesmen have often differed in judgment as to the best forms of Government—we ought, indeed, rather to rejoice that so much has been effected, than to regret that more could not all at once be accomplished.

Gratified by the favourable sentiments which are evinced in your address to me, and impressed with an idea that the Citizens of your State are sincerely attached to the Interest, the Prosperity and the Glory of America; I most earnestly implore the Divine benediction and guidance in the councils, which are shortly to be taken by their Delegates on a subject of the most momentuos consequence, I mean, the political relation which is to subsist hereafter, between the State of North Carolina and the States now in Union under the new general Government.

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LS, Nc-Ar: Governor’s Papers; LB, DLC:GW. The letter-book copy is dated 15 June 1789.

On 10 May 1789 the governor and council of North Carolina sent an address to GW stating that amid “the congratulations which surround you from all quarters, we the Governor and Council of the State of North Carolina, beg leave to offer ours with equal sincerity and fervency with any which can be presented to you. Though this State be not yet a Member of the Union under the new Form of Government, we look forward with the pleasing hope of its shortly becoming such, and in the meantime consider ourselves bound in a common interest and affection with the other States, waiting only for the happy event of such alterations being proposed as will remove the apprehensions of many of the good Citizens of this State for those liberties for which they have fought and suffered in common with others. This happy event we doubt not will be accelerated by your Excellency’s appointment to the first office in the Union, since we are well assured that the same greatness of mind which in all scenes has so eminently characterized your Excellency, will induce you to advise every measure calculated to compose Party-Divisions, and to abate any animosity which may be excited by a mere difference of opinion. Your Excellency will consider (however others may forget) how extremely difficult it is to unite all the People of a great Country in one common sentiment upon almost any political subject, much less upon a new form of Government materially different from one they have been accustomed to, and will therefore rather be disposed to rejoice that so much has been done than regret that more could not all at once be accomplished. We sincerely believe that America is the only country in the world where such a deliberate change of Government could take place under any circumstances whatever.

“We hope your Excellency will pardon the liberty we take in writing so particularly on this subject: But this State however it may differ in any political opinions with the other States, cordially joins with them in sentiments of the utmost gratitude and veneration for those distinguished Talents, and that illustrious virtue, which we feel a pride in saying we believe, under God, have been the principal means of preserving the liberty, and procuring the independence of your country. We cannot help considering you, Sir, in some measure, as the Father of it, and hope to experience the good effects of that confidence you so justly have acquired, in an abatement of the Party spirit which so much endangers a Union, on which the safety and happiness of America can alone be founded. May that Union, at a short distance of time, be as perfect and more safe than ever! and, in the mean time, may the State of North Carolina be considered, as it truly deserves to be, attached with equal warmth with any State in the Union, to the true Interest, Prosperity, and Glory of America, differing only in some particulars in opinion as to the means of promoting them” (DLC:GW). The address is signed by Gov. Samuel Johnston and James Iredell, president of the council.

1North Carolina did not ratify the Constitution until November 1789.

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