George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Citizens of Portsmouth, 2 November 1789

To the Citizens of Portsmouth

[2 November 1789]


I am sensibly impressed with your friendly welcome to the Metropolis of New Hampshire, and have a grateful heart for your kind and flattering congratulations on my election to the Presidency of these United States.1

I fear the fond partiality of my countrymen has too highly appreciated my past exertions, and formed too sanguine anticipations of my future services—If the former have been successful, much of the success should be ascribed to those who laboured with me in the common cause—and the glory of the event, should be given to the great Disposer of events.

If an unremitting attention to the duties of my office, and the zeal of an honest heart can promote the public-good, my fellow-citizens may be assured that these will not be wanting in my present station.

I can claim no particular merit, Gentlemen, for the preservation of your town from the devastation of the enemy. I am happy if by any event of the war your property has been preserved from that destruction, which fell but too heavily on your neighbours—and I sincerely condole with you for the loss which you sustained in navigation and commerce: But I trust that industry and oeconomy, those fruitful and never failing sources of private and public opulence, will, under our present system of government, restore you to your former flourishing state.

The interest which you take in my personal happiness, and the kind felicitations which you have expressed on the recovery of my health, are peculiarly grateful to me; and I earnestly pray that the great Ruler of the Universe may smile upon your honest exertions here, and reward your welldoings with future happiness.

G. Washington


For background to GW’s tour of the eastern states, see GW to Betty Lewis, 12 Oct. 1789, n.3, and John C. Ogden to GW, 30 Oct. 1789, source note.

1The address from the citizens of Portsmouth, 2 Nov. 1789, was signed by John Pickering and reads: “Sensible of the honor done them by this visit from Your Excellency, the Inhabitants of Portsmouth improve this first opportunity of bidding you welcome to New Hampshire: and beg leave to mingle their warmest congratulations with those of their Brethren throughout the Union, upon your election to the high and important office of President of the United States.

“We attempt not to recount the number, variety, and merit, of your important services to our common country—these are already written in indelible characters on the heart of every true American, which the faithful page of history will transmit to generations yet unborn: But to express our gratitude to him, who with a magnanimity peculiar to himself, under the smile of Heaven, defended the rights, and gave birth to the empire of America.

“Permit us to add the grateful sense we entertain of our high obligations to you, Sir, as a Town, for our security from that devastation, which was the fate of many other sea-port Towns in the Union, and would probably have been ours, had not the enemy, by your wise and spirited exertions, been drawn from the capital of a neighbouring State, and compelled to seek an Asylum, for a while, within their own dominions.

“Our happy escape from this calamity, while it demands our devout ascriptions of praise to the Great Ruler of all events, consoles us under the many heavy losses we have sustained in our navigation and commerce during the war—the distressing effects of which we still but too sensibly feel.

“It is with pleasing emotions we recognize the dispensations of divine providence towards the United-States in placing the Deliverer of his country at the head of the General Government by the unanimous suffrages of a free and grateful people, at a crisis when none but the Man who has long enjoyed, and richly merited the confidence of America, and the plaudits of an enlightened world, could be found equal to the arduous task.

“We felicitate you and these States on your speedy recovery from your late sickness, and ardently wish your life may be continued a blessing to yourself, and your country; and that, at some far distant period, full of years and the most benevolent and glorious atchievements, embalmed with the tears of grateful millions, you may be called to inherit an incorruptible crown in the realms of glory” (DLC:GW).

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