George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Gordon, 20 February 1790

From William Gordon

St Neots [England] Feby 20. 1790

My dear Sir

Though I anticipated the pleasure of hearing you would be chosen President; yet it was confirmed & increased by the actual news of an event, which expressed the gratitude & wisdom of the United States, in conferring their executive power & confidence on the person, who had never deceived nor abused it—no; not when he was tempted to it. The knowledge of this remains to be known by them in some future period. I wished for liberty to have divulged it, in a way that might have prevented all harm, & promoted real good by attaching the public voice still more to your Excellency. For though you may plead—your being conscious of only having done your duty; & may from thence with a profusion of modesty infer—that no particular credit is due to you, I am persuaded the world of mankind will join me in rejecting the inference. There are circumstances, wherein the discharge of duty deserves the greatest credit, excites astonishment, & is entitled to the heartiest commendations: or why does the general praise the valor, the fidelity, & the patient hardiness of his troops. As it is to be hoped, that you being the younger may survive me, you may restrain me, much against my inclination, from a publication that would shew—there are scarce any among the moderns or ancients who can compare with yourself in genuine patriotism: but I have taken care (as far as I can) that when you have made your exit, your reputation shall be exalted. However when that period arrives, may you hear the plaudit of our final judge in a—well done, good & faithful servant enter into the joy of thy Lord.

Your very obliging letter of Decr 23, dated 1789 instead of 1788, was recd the 16th of the following April, while I was at Ringwood in Hampshire. Immediately on my publishing the History,1 I withdrew with Mrs Gordon from London to her brothers country house at that place for the winter season & to notice whether any opening offered for my settling again in the ministry.2 On the 27th of that month we set off on our return for the capital, where I was busily & constantly employed in attending to the affairs of a London Annuity Society (for the benefit of wives when we leave them widows) of which I was a director. This detained me in town till the 3d of June. While thus detained⟨,⟩ I had an unexpected invitation to preach in this place as a candidate, & with a view of settling, if agreeable to all parties. The time for my preaching not being till the first Lord’s day in July, we went upon a visit to Ipswich where we settled after marriage & lived for thirteen years. Such were the regards of my former people, that when I returned from America, had they been vacant, they would have urged me to a renewal of my connexion. When the time came for my preaching, I proved acceptable, & an invitation followed, with which I thought my duty to comply. In August we crossed the country thro’ Bury & Cambridge (from the last we are 18 miles) to St Neots. The getting a house, the procuring furniture, making alterations & public services, have kept me so employed as to have almost worn me down. After the fatigue I had undergone, spirits & strength were well nigh exhausted. But we are now pritty well settled, tho’ far from having finished, & I find myself capable of recommencing my epistolary correspondence. I trust your Excellency’s goodness will admit of this account of myself as an apology, for my not writing sooner & hope the length of it will not offend. Your avocations being so many, & important, I cannot in reason expect that your answers will be either regular or lengthy; but when you have a leisure moment, I shall rejoice to hear in a few words, of the health & happiness of self & family, & that my letters are acceptable to you. Last year I sent a quantity of the seed of the true Turkey Rhubarb to Mr Hazard with directions for the cultivation of it. If he recd it safe doubt not his having mentioned it. I apprehended it might be raised with advantage in some parts of the United States.

I have charmed many of your admirers male & female, by shewing them your letter of Decr 23. Yours of Feby 23. 1789 was recd in May, & afforded me real pleasure among other particulars, by informing me of the then tranquil state of the country. I congratulate you on its continuance, & the prospect of its doing so; & hope that France will establish their revolution shortly on so solid & liberal a basis, as to enjoy similar tranquility. The marquis de la Fayette must feel himself extremely happy on the occasion. On the 16th of Feby I wrote you a letter from Ringwood, which I suppose Mr Field carefully forwarded by the ship Eleanor Capt. Magruder for Alexandria; who had the care of a case marked GW No. 1. Mount Vernon, containing forty two sets of the History for the several subscribers. The freight was paid. Mr Field was directed to send a set of the best wove paper, most elegantly bound, of which I begged your acceptance as a token of genuine affection; & to enclose in the letter the bill of lading. Your absence, engagements with Congress, & tour to Hampshire State, has prevented, I apprehend, my hearing of their arrival. It will give me peculiar pleasure to learn, that the History meets with your approbation for the impartiality of the writer, & the goodness of the materials communicated to the public. Lest I should trespass too much upon your time⟨,⟩ shall close with mentioning that Mrs Gordon joins me in most sincere wishes for the present & future happiness of your Excellency & Lady, & for your being spared & enabled long to preside in the chair of Congress, to your own growing credit, the increasing advantage of the United States (among whom I rejoice to find North Carolina is now included) & as an instructive pattern to European princes. I remain Your Excellency’s most hearty friend & humble servant

William Gordon

⟨Be⟩ pleased to direct as before ⟨to⟩ Mr Thomas Field’s No. 11 Cornhill.


1For information on William Gordon, his History, and GW’s involvement with the Virginia subscriptions for it, see Gordon’s letters to GW, 24 Sept. 1788, and notes, and 16 Feb. 1789, n.7.

2Elizabeth Field Gordon’s brother was John Field, a prominent London apothecary.

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