George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Powel, 11 June 1790

From Samuel Powel

Philadelphia 11 June 1790

Dear Sir

The Bearer hereof Mr Robert Parrish, an Inhabitant of this City, informs me that his Journey to New York is undertaken with a View to obtain Subscriptions to a Work of Mr William Bartram’s, containing an account of his Travels thro’ Florida &ca & also to obtain Permission to dedicate the Work to you.1

From Mr Bartram’s character as a Botanist and as a Man, I have no Doubt that his Work is an interesting one & such as will do him Credit. I have seen, tho’ I have not had an opportunity of perusing it, The extreme Bashfulness of it’s author⟨,⟩ and his little Intercourse with the World, may, possibly have made him choose rather to sollicit the Honor of dedicating it to you thro’ the Intervention of a Friend than by a direct Application. This is only Conjecture upon my Part as I am not ascertained of the Fact. Should his present Work meet with Success, I am informed that it will be followed by a second or more volumes.

Mr Parrish, who has requested of me to give him this Introduction to you, is a plain, and I believe, a worthy Citizen possessed of much usefull Information, & who has interested himself deeply in promoting Mr Bartram’s Publication.

It gives sincere Pleasure to Mrs Powel & myself to hear that you are likely to be soon restored to Health. Our best good Wishes ever attend you & Mrs Washington.2 I have the Honor to be dear Sir your most obedt humble Servt

Samuel Powel


1Parrish may be the Robert Parrish who is listed in the 1790 census as a shopkeeper living on Race Street in Philadelphia (Heads of Families [Pennsylvania], description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1970. description ends 228). Powel is referring to William Bartram’s Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws; Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. The volume was published by James & Johnson in Philadelphia in 1791.

2GW replied to Powel’s letter on 20 June: “Your letter of the 11th Inst. was handed to me by Mr Parish, together with proposals for publishing the travels of Mr William Bartram, and requesting permission to dedicate them to me. This request I declined, as I have done many others of a similar nature; not with a view to discourage a work of this kind, which I am pursuaded, if executed by an able hand, may be very useful among us; but to avoid, with propriety, future applications of this nature, unless where some particular circumstances might induce a compliance.

“If affixing my name as a subscriber to this work can promote the Authors good intentions, I am happy in having done it; and I sincerely wish it all the success which its merits may demand. Mrs Washington joins me in compliments to yourself and Mrs Powel” (LS, ViMtvL). A copy of the volume, with GW’s signature on the title page, was in his library at the time of his death (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 19–20).

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