George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 21 October 1789

From John Hancock

Boston October 21st 1789


Having received information that you intended to Honor this State with a visit, and wishing personally to shew you every mark of attention which the most sincere friendship can induce. I beg the favor of your making my house the place of your residence while you shall remain in Boston. I could wish that the accommodations were better suited to a Gentleman of your respectability but you may be assured that nothing on my part shall be wanting to render them as agreeable as possible.

As Governor of the Commonwealth I feel it to be my duty to receive your visit with such tokens of respect as may answer the expectations of my Constituents & may in some measure express the high Sentiments of respect they feel towards you. I have therefore issued orders for proper escorts to attend you, & Colo. Hall, Deputy Adjutant General will wait upon you at Worcester, & will inform you of the disposition I have made of the Troops at Cambridge under the command of General Brooks & request that you would be so obliging as to pass that way to the town where you will receive such other tokens of respect from the People as will serve further to evince how gratefully they recollect your exertions for their Liberties & their confidence in you as President of the United States of America. The Gentlemen of the Council will receive you at Cambridge & attend you to town.

I should be obliged to you on the return of this express to let me know when you propose to be in Boston & as near as you can the time of the day. I have the Honor to be, with every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect, Sir, Your most obedt & very hble Servant

John Hancock


For background to this letter, see GW to Betty Lewis, 12 Oct. 1789, n.3, and GW to the Officials of Hartford, 20 Oct. 1789, n.2. Setting out from Springfield at seven o’clock on the morning of 22 Oct., GW and his party stopped briefly for breakfast at Palmer and proceeded to the vicinity of Brookfield where an express arrived bearing Hancock’s letter of 21 October. For GW’s reply, declining Hancock’s invitation, see his letter to the governor, 22 October. See also Hancock’s two letters to GW, 23 Oct. (letter 1 and letter 2), and GW to Hancock, 23 October. The party continued on to Spencer where they “lodged at the House of one Jenks who keeps a pretty good Tavern” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:472). On 23 Oct. GW set out early and in Leicester was welcomed by “some Gentlemen of the Town of Worcester on the line between it and the former to escort us. Arrived about 10 Oclock at the House of [ ] where we breakfasted. . . . Here we were received by a handsome Company of Militia Artillery in Uniform who saluted with 13 Guns on our Entry & departure. At this place also we met a Committee from the Town of Boston, and an Aid of Majr. Genl. Brooke [John Brooks] of the Middlesex Militia who had proceeded to this place in order to make some arrangements of Military & other Parade on my way to, and in the Town of, Boston” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:472). Brooks’s aide, Joseph Hall, probably brought Brooks’s letter of 21 Oct. to GW: “The people of Middlesex participate largely of the joy, with which the prospect of a visit from their beloved President has inspired their brethren in the Capital. As a testimony of this, a military parade has been determined on; & a body of about 800 men, will be under arms at Cambridge on the day of your entering into Boston. The troops will occupy the ground on which the continental army was formed for your reception in the year 1775. Major [Joseph] Hall, one of my Aid de camps, will have the honour, Sir, of waiting on you herewith: He will at the same time acquaint you with the particular arrangements for the day, & with our ardent wishes to be indulged with an oppertunity once more of paying you military respect” (DLC:GW). As GW approached Boston, officials of the town and its surrounding districts scurried to make arrangements. The committee “from the Town of Boston” brought GW a letter from the Boston selectmen, 21 Oct.: “The Town of Boston desirous of Expressing in a Public manner their Joy at being again honored by your presence, and of preventing disorders which might otherwise arise from the eagerness of the Citizens to behold so Illustrious a Character, have Found it necessary to arrange the Citizens in their several Professions for your reseption. The Town will be happy should their intentions meet your approbation, and have directed us, their Committee, to communicate them to you. This Communication will be made by Joseph Barrell, Samuel Breck & William Eustis Esqrs. who are appointed a Committee for that purpose” (DLC:GW). In Boston, as elsewhere, GW’s intention of staying only in public lodgings (see GW to Hancock, 22 Oct. 1789) was not widely known, and he received various offers of hospitality from public officials and private individuals. His wartime aide Caleb Gibbs wrote him on 16 Oct. offering GW “my house (in Summer Street) as your Lodgings, This would add greatly to Mrs Gibbs’s happiness and my own, and Conferring an honor upon us never to be forgotten. I live in a remarkable pleasant, Central situation and in a very Genteel part of the Town” (NNC). “Fearing there might be a possibility of Miscarriage,” he repeated his offer in a letter of 19 Oct. (NNC). Former governor of Massachusetts James Bowdoin wrote on 21 Oct., hoping “for the honour and pleasure of Seeing you at my house; and that among your numerous engagements you will reserve a day for that purpose” (DLC:GW).

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