George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Delegates of the State Societies of the Cincinnati, May 1790

To the Delegates of the State Societies of the Cincinnati

[May 1790]

To the Delegates of the State Societies of the Cincinnati assembled at their triennial Meeting.


Although it is easier for you to conceive, than for me to explain the pleasing sensations which have been excited in my breast, by your congratulations on my appointment to the head of this rising Republic: yet I must take the liberty to thank you sincerely for the polite manner in which you felicitate our Countrymen, and testify your regard to me on this occasion.1

In addition to that reward for your Sufferings & Services which arises from the consciousness of having done your duty; you have erected monuments more expressive of your merits than even the universal applause of your Country, in the establishment of its Independence and Sovereignty. Nor should any possible circumstances of poverty or adversity compel you to give up that sweet satisfaction for the part you have acted, which ought to attend you as well through the vicissitudes of life as in the moment of dissolution.

The candour of your fellow-citizens acknowledges the patriotism of your conduct in peace, as their gratitude has declared their obligations for your fortitude and perseverence in war. A knowledge that they now do justice to the purity of your intentions ought to be your highest consolation, as the fact is demonstrative of your greatest glory.

The object for which your gallantry encountered every danger, and your virtue sustained unparalleled difficulties, has happily been attained. A Government, promising protection and prosperity to the People of the United States, is established; and its operations hitherto have been such as to justify the most sanguine expectations of further success. It was naturally to be expected, that lives which had long since been devoted on the Altar of Freedom, could never be offered at the Shrines of Anarchy or Despotism. And the offer which you make of the residue of those lives to support the Administration of this Government is not less a proof of its excellence, than an encouragemt for those concerned in its execution to use their best endeavours to make it a source of extensive and permanent blessings to their Country.

Whatever titles my military services may have given me to the regard of my Country, they are principally corroborated by the firm support of my brave and faithful Associates in the field: and, if any consideration is to be attributed to the successful exercise of my civil duties, it proceeds, in a great measure, from the wisdom of the Laws, and the facility which the Disposition of my fellow-citizens has given to their Administration.

To the most affectionate wishes for your temporal happiness, I add a fervent prayer for your eternal felicity.

Go: Washington


1The fourth general meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati was held in Philadelphia on 3–4 May 1790. On 4 May the meeting adopted the following address to GW: “We the Delegates of the State Societies of the Cincinnati, assembled at our triennial general meeting congratulate you on being unanimously elected the Head of our rising republic.

“As a part of the community we felicitate our countrymen on this happy event, and we embrace the first opportunity of expressing our sentiments with no less zeal than sincerity.

“When we say we love and revere you as a Father we not only speak the language of our own hearts, but we speak the language of all, who have fought, suffered, and conquered under your command. Were poverty and consciousness of duty our only recompense still should we glory in the part we have acted For our motives, as they regarded our country, will afford us satisfaction as well through the vicissitudes of life, as in the moment of dissolution—As members of our Institution, on a former occasion, we appealed to Heaven and our own hearts for the purity of our intentions—Our fellow-citizens will witness that the conduct of the Officers and Soldiers of the late American Armies has not been less patriotic in peace than it was glorious in war.

“A good constitution was the object for which we risked our lives and experienced unparalelled difficulties—We are happy in the conviction that our views are answered in the present government of the United States—While we applaud the wisdom of our countrymen in placing you at the head of it, we pledge ourselves to support its administration with the remnants of lives long since devoted to the public service.

“We need not enumerate your titles to the gratitude of your Country; or echo in the suffrages of our particular Constituents the public sentiment But we may say that we see with exultation our Countrymen beginning to reap the fruits of independence under the auspices of the Person, who was more instrumental than any other in its establishment. May you as a reward for your services enjoy length of days and every temporal blessing, and may such blessings be a prelude to everlasting felicity!” (DLC:GW). The address was signed by Thomas Mifflin, vice-president general.

The meeting appointed a committee of nine, consisting of Gen. Henry Knox, Col. Benjamin Hawkins, Gen. Matthew Clarkson, Capt. Jonathan Dayton, Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth, Col. James Gunn, Col. William S. Smith, and Col. David Humphreys, to present the address to GW and inform him of his election as president general of the Cincinnati for the ensuing three years (Proceedings of the General Society of the Cincinnati, description begins John C. Daves, ed. Proceedings of the General Society of the Cincinnati. Vol. 1, 1784-1884. Baltimore, 1925. description ends 42). GW noted in his diary for 8 May 1790: “Received from Genl. Knox Secretary Genl. of the triennial Genl. Meeting of the Cincinnati held at Philadelphia the first Monday of this Month, the Copy of an Address from that body to me to which I was to return an answer on [ ] next” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:76).

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