George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the New Jersey Legislature, 4 December 1789

To the New Jersey Legislature

[New York, c.4 Dec. 1789]


In replying to the flattering and affectionate address, with which you are pleased to honor me, I confess a want of expression to convey the grateful sentiments which it inspires1—You will do justice to those sentiments by believing that they are founded in sincere regard and respectful esteem.

The opportunities which were afforded me, in the trying vicissitudes of our arduous struggle, to remark the generous spirit which animated the exertions of your citizens, have impressed a remembrance of their worth, which no length of time or change of circumstance can efface. To the gallantry and firmness of their efforts in the field, they have added the wisdom and liberality of distinguished patriotism in council—appreciating, with judicious discernment, the blessings of that independence, which their efforts contributed to establish, they were unanimously agreed to secure and perpetuate them by adopting a Constitution, which promises equal and efficient protection to the privileges of confederated America.

The assurance now given by your honorable Body, to support the federal system, is a renewed proof of the estimation in which it is held, and a happy indication of the beneficial effects already experienced, and hereafter expected to flow, from its operations—As such it is to me peculiarly grateful, and must be so to every citizen of the Union, whose wish is private prosperity and public honor—Allow me, Gentlemen, to assure you of every endeavor on my part, to promote these desirable objects.

In making my acknowledgements for the favorable opinions you express of my military conduct, as it reflected the observance of civil-rights, it is justice to assign great merit to the temper of those citizens, whose estates were more immediately the scene of warfare—Their personal services were rendered without constraint, and the derangement of their affairs submitted to without dissatisfaction—It was the triumph of patriotism over personal consideration, and our present enjoyment of peace and freedom reward the sacrifice.

Imploring a continuance of these enjoyments to our country, and individual happiness to the citizens, who procured them, I offer up a sincere prayer for you, Gentlemen, and your constituents.

Go: Washington

LS, MHi: William Livingston Papers; LB, DLC:GW.

1The address of the New Jersey legislature, dated 30 Nov.—1 Dec. 1789, reads: “The legislature of New Jersey, altho’ fully sensible of the trouble and interruption occasioned by the numerous addresses of congratulation on your acceptance of the highest office in the commonwealth, would neither forgive themselves, nor expect the pardon of their constituents, should they neglect, in this their first meeting after the organisation of the federal Government, to express their joy on seeing you at the head of the United States.

“New Jersey having been the central Theatre of the late war, and the scene of some of the most important military operations, which distinguished the american armies, and added new honors to their illustrious Commander; we are peculiarly induced to commemorate those brilliant exploits, which while they immortalised your name, afforded peace and security to the Inhabitants of the State.

“Adulation, Sir, we are as much indisposed to offer as you can be disinclined to receive: But while we add our voice to that of the world in celebrating your military achievements we cannot refrain from acknowledging the attention, which you have always paid to the laws of the State, and your inflexible perseverance, amidst all the dire necessities of war, in preferring the rights of the Citizen to the convenience of the Soldier: Thus while equal to the most renowned warriors as a Hero, you have proved yourself superior to them as a Citizen.

“As New Jersey was early, and unanimous in adopting the constitution, under which you rule; as every voice called you forth to the office of Chief-Magistrate, and every Person looks up to it and you, for protection, prosperity, and good government; we may, we trust, assure you that the Citizens of this State will, to the utmost of their abilities, ever strengthen and support you in the discharge of your high and momentous trust.

“We have reason to adore the divine Providence in raising up for us a Leader and Ruler so perfectly suited to our situation and circumstances; and sincerely believe that great and important as your services have been, you will not derive more honor therefrom, than from your humility, and self-denial in modestly ascribing all, as you constantly have done, to the power and wisdom of the most high.

“We earnestly pray that the same kind providence, which hath conducted you with so much honor to yourself, and such unspeakable felicity to the Public, may long continue you a blessing to the United States in your present important office; and at last crown you with that palm of victory, which is promised to those, who by divine assistance, shall finally prove to be more than conquerors” (DLC:GW). New Jersey Governor William Livingston and John Beatty, Speaker of the New Jersey House, presented the address to GW on 4 December. Both the address and GW’s reply were printed in Gazette of the United States (New York) of 5 December. The legislature being in recess, GW’s reply was presented to the next session of the House on 20 May and the Legislative Council on 21 May (Votes and Proceedings of the Fourteenth General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey. At a Session begun at Perth-Amboy on the 27th day of October 1789, and continued by Adjournments, Being the second sitting [New Brunswick, 1790], 9; Journal and Proceedings of the Legislative-Council of the State of New-Jersey, in General Assembly convened at Perth-Amboy on the Twenty-seventh Day of October, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-nine [New Brunswick, 1790], 6-7).

A version of the New Jersey address in Livingston’s writing with somewhat different wording and dated 7 Dec. 1789, is in the Archives Section, Division of Archives and Records, New Jersey Department of State.

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