George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Theodore Foster, 26 June 1790

From Theodore Foster

New York June 26th 1790


I have the Honor to inform your Excellency that on the Twelfth Day of the present Month, I was appointed by the Legislature of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations One of the Senators to represent that State, in the National Government. That on the Evening before last I arrived in this City and yesterday had the Honor of being admitted and sworn as a Member of the Senate of the United States.1

Be pleased, Sir, to permit Me on the present Occasion to assure you of my most sincere Disposition to promote your personal Honor and private Happiness and to establish the Credit Glory and Prosperity of the Nation at large over which you preside. Your Excellency will ever find Me anxious to render you all the Aid and Support due to the Chief Magistrate in the Administration of the National Government.

Accept my most Sincere Thanks for your Goodness in my Appointment to the Naval office in the District of Providence.2 At the Time I took the Liberty to write to Your Excellency respecting that office I had no Expectation of the Senatorial Trust I now hold. I undertook the latter not knowing that the former would be confided to Me. As they are incompatible if it would not be deemed presumptuous I would beg leave to request that the Honble Ebenezer Thompson Esqr. of Providence may be appointed to that office. I will pledge myself for his Abilities, his Integrity and for his Fidelity in the Discharge of the Duties of the Office, and I am well assured that his Appointment will give more general Satisfaction to all Parties in the State than that of any other Person.3

The Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers consisting of about Two Hundred of the Reputable Citizens of that Town have honored Me with the Care of an Address to your Excellency from their Corporation, a Copy of which I herewith inclose. If it be agreeable to your Excellency to receive it I will do myself the Honor to present it, at such Time as you will be pleased to appoint.4

The Honorable Joseph Stanton Esqr. is my Colleague in the Senatorial Representation of Rhode Island. He has Communications which he wishes to make. If your Excellency will be pleased to admit us to an Interview we will wait on you to make our personal Respects, and gratefully acknowledge the Honor done us.5 I have the Honor to be very respectfully Your Excellency’s most obedient and humble Servant.

Theodore Foster.

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1For Theodore Foster, see Foster to GW, 18 Feb. 1790. Foster served as a Federalist in the Rhode Island Ratifying Convention and was elected to the U.S. Senate through the influence of his brother-in-law, Arthur Fenner. “Mr Foster will do all in his power to promote the Interest of the Union,” Henry Sherburne wrote to Henry Knox, “with a proviso, that he does not deviate from any of the determined plans of his Brother Fenner, our present Governor, by whoes Influence he obtained his appointment. This Gentleman possesses a good heart, has genuine Federal Sentiments, a full share of sensibility, and is a man of Liberal Education” (Henry Sherburne to Henry Knox, 17 June 1790, NNGL). Foster and Joseph Stanton were elected to the Senate on 12 June and took their seats on 25 June (Jensen and DenBoer, First Federal Elections description begins Merrill Jensen and Gordon DenBoer et al., eds. The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections, 1788–1790. 4 vols. Madison, Wis., 1976–89. description ends , 4:413–35; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 1:371).

2Foster’s election to the Senate left vacant the post of naval officer at Providence, to which he had only recently been appointed (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 14 June 1790).

3Foster and his Senate colleague Joseph Stanton jointly recommended Ebenezer Thompson for naval officer at Providence in a letter to GW of 29 June (see Stanton and Foster to GW, 29 June 1790). GW appointed Thompson to the post on 2 July 1790 (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 2 July 1790).

4Foster enclosed the address of the Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers, dated 4 June 1790, and signed by its president, Charles Keen: “The happy period has at length arrived when we can with propriety join our fellow-citizens of the other States, in congratulating you, as Chief Magistrate of United America. Although, the progress of this State to our present situation has been slow and timid, it is some consolation that our accession has compleated the federal-Union.

“Pleased with the establishment of a firm government we are happy in thus having it in our power to express our sentiments of regard and attachment to the President of the Union, and our determination, as far as in us lies, to support the constitution and laws of the United States.

“The mechanics and manufacturers of this Town feel a confidence in the wisdom and patriotism of the Legislature of the United States, that they will do all in their power to promote the manufactures as well as the agriculture and commerce of our Country; this confidence is greatly strengthened by the consideration that you, Sir, are at the head of it.

“In full expectation that under a mild and beneficent administration of the Government, we shall be enabled to lead quiet and peaceable lives, and enjoy the fruits of our honest industry—with grateful hearts for past favors, we join the millions of America in fervent prayers to the Disposer of all events for your health and happiness, and that your important life may long be spared to rule a free, virtuous, and happy nation” (DLC:GW).

Foster probably made a formal presentation of the address when he dined with GW on 1 July. In his undated reply, which may have been presented to Foster at that time, GW wrote: “The accession of the State of Rhode Island to the general Government, which has again completed our union, is indeed, an event that affords me singular satisfaction. For your favorable sentiments respecting myself, as well as for your determination to support the Constitution and Laws of the United States, I return my thanks.

“In full expectation that your confidence in the wisdom and patriotism of the national legislature will not be disappointed; and that they will do all in their power to promote the Manufactures, Agriculture and Commerce of this Country; I assure you, Gentlemen, I shall always heartily concur in all such judicious measures as may seem calculated to enable the good people of the United America to lead quiet and peacable lives, in the enjoyment of the fruits of their honest Industry” (GW to the Providence, R.I., Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers, c.1 July 1790, LS, RHi).

5Joseph Stanton, Jr. (1739–1807), a farmer from Charlestown, R.I., fought in the French and Indian War and served in the Rhode Island general assembly almost continuously from 1768 to 1790. He was colonel of the Rhode Island state regiment in 1776–77. After the war he became a leader of the Rhode Island country party and was a prominent Antifederalist delegate in the ratifying convention. In 1790 he was also speaker of the general assembly. Federalist William Ellery described Stanton as “a violent paper-money man” and “an obstinate Anti to the last” (Ellery to Benjamin Huntington, 12 June 1790, R-Ar). GW entertained Stanton and Foster at dinner on 1 July (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:80).

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