George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati, 2 January 1790

To the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati

New-York, January 2nd 1790.


From a conviction that the dispositions of the Society of the Cincinnati, established in the State of South Carolina are peculiarly friendly to me, I cannot receive their congratulations on the occasion, which gave birth to their address, without emotions of peculiar satisfaction.1

The interest that my fellow-citizens so kindly took in the happiness which they saw me enjoy in my retirement after the war, is rather to be attributed to their great partiality in my favor than to any singular title I had to their gratitude and affection.

Notwithstanding I was conscious that my abilities had been too highly appreciated, yet I felt, that, whatever they were, my Country had a just claim upon me, whenever the exercise of them should be deemed conducive to its welfare. With such feelings I could not refuse to obey that voice which I had always been accustomed to respect, nor hesitate to forego a resolution which I had formed of passing the remainder of my days in retirement. And so far am I from having reason to respect the decided measure I took in the crisis of organising a new general government, that I ought rather perhaps to felicitate myself upon having met the wishes and experienced the assistance of a patriotic and enlightened People, in my arduous undertakings.

Always satisfied that I should be supported in the administration of my office by the friends of good government in general; I counted upon the favorable sentiment and conduct of the Officers of the late army in particular—nor has my expectation been deceived. As they were formerly distinguished by their eminent fortitude and patriotism in their military service, during the most trying occasions; so are the same men, now mingled in the mass of citizens, conspicuous for a disinterested love of order, and a jealous attention to the preservation of the rights of mankind. Nor is it conceivable that any Members of the community should be more worthy of the enjoyments of liberty, or more zealous to perpetuate its duration, than those who have so nobly and so successfully defended its standard in the new World.

I sincerely thank you, Gentlemen, for your expression of attachment to my person; and wish for my happiness and honor. On my part I only dare to engage it shall be my incessant study that you may happily experience, and long enjoy the fruits of a government, which has for its basis, the good of the American People.

Go. Washington


1The address from the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati, dated 19 Nov. 1789, at Charleston, reads: “Possessed of every feeling that can act on grateful hearts, the Society of the Cincinnati, established in the State of South Carolina, beg leave to congratulate you on the happy occasion which has once again placed you in the situation of rendering general good to their country.

“Retired from the busy scenes of life to reap the rewards of your virtuous acts, and to enjoy the glory you had already obtained—Your fellow-citizens viewed you with exulting happiness—They saw in you the Patriot-Hero, the Friend, and Saviour of their Country! and, with hearts filled with gratitude and affection, they invoked the omniscient Disposer of human events to render that retirement happy!

“The Period however arrived when the abilities of the virtuous Patriot were again to be called forth to assume a public character.

“A general political Government was formed by which the happiness of the Country, for whose liberty you had fought, was to be established. To preside at the head of this new-Government—to establish it with permanency—the People sought in the great Washington the virtues on which they could rely with safety, and from which they might expect to receive every benefit without alloy—They had experienced his abilities, they had experienced his integrity, and his inviolable love for his country—Nor did they seek in vain. The same noble spirit which actuated you in the beginning of our late contest with Great Britain now operated. You received and obeyed the summons—and, although you should make a sacrifice, yet you nobly determined. It was the voice of your Country, and in whose service every inferior consideration of ease and retirement must give place.

“As Citizens, Sir, we congratulate you on this additional proof of your country’s confidence. As Soldiers who partook with you in many of the dangers and hardships which attended the general Army under your Command—We beg leave to express our warmest attachment to your Person, and sincerest wish for your happiness and honor—and that we may, under your rule, supported by your amiable virtues, happily experience and long enjoy the fruits of a government, which has for its basis, the Good of the People of America” (DLC:GW).

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