George Washington Papers

Franco Petrus Van Berckel to Tobias Lear, 6 July 1790

Franco Petrus Van Berckel to Tobias Lear

Hanover Sq. [New York] July 6th 1790


Coming to Town last Evening in my Phaeton I overtook one of the Presidents Carriages, which as I was about to pass (not Conceiving any impropriety in doing so) the Presidents Postilion drove his horses intentionaly across the road, so as to prevent my passing, altho’ he might have facilitated it, without any inconvenience to himself; & where by taking a different road from the other Carriages, I happen’d afterwards to have the lead, this same Carriage Came up with me, & drove so furiously against my horses, as to bring me in an iminent danger, altho’ the road was fully wide enough (it being in the Fields) to admit of its passing without pushing me out of the road, which the Postillion actually did notwithstanding what I understood, he was ordered to the Contrary by some person in the Carriage.1 This behavior of the Presidents servant discovering a premeditated design to bring me into danger. I have thought it my duty to make the President acquainted with ⟨this⟩ Circumstance, as I request you will do, lest His servants presuming on the respect paid to the Livery they wear should suppose themselves warranted in their rude Conduct which might lead to disagreable and dangerous Consequences.2 I have the honor to be very respectfully, Sir, Your most humble & very Obedt Servant

F.P. Van Berckel


1The unidentified passengers in GW’s coach may have been on their way to the Society of the Cincinnati’s dinner at Edward Bardin’s city tavern on Broadway (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:86; Gazette of the United States [New York], 7 July 1790).

2Lear’s reply of the same date “by direction of the President” to Van Berckel, the minister to the United States from the Netherlands, reads: “I have delayed answering your note which I had the honor to receive this morning, until I could get information respecting the subject of it. I have now learnt from the Gentlemen who were yesterday in the Presidents Carriage, that they gave orders to the Postillion to keep in the rear of General Knox’s carriage; which he accordingly obeyed” (DLC:GW).

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