George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Daniel Tillinghast, 20 August 1790

From Daniel Tillinghast

Providence [R.I.] August 20th 1790.


I have taken the Freedom to transmit you the inclosed Letter, which came under Cover to me, from my Brother, who resides in the Commonwealth of Massachussetts, but which unfortunately arrived too late for the Purpose of being presented here.1 With Sentiments of respectful Solicitude for your Health and happy Arrival in New York, I have the Honor, to be, Sir, your most obedt mo. hbl. Servt

Daniel Tillinghast

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1The enclosed letter that Nicholas Tillinghast addressed on 18 Aug. 1790 from Taunton, Mass., to the president “now at Providence,” reads: “Upon hearing of your Excellencys expected arrival at providence, I am emboldened to take liberty of addressing you, though it becomes me to entertain the greatest diffidence and most profound respect, yet permit me to trespass So much on your time as to discharge a duty incumbent on me in acknowledging a very peculiar obligation laid upon me by your beneficent interposition in my behalf, at a time when I considered my self as conscientiously held to be Subject to what appeared to be the then higher powers; accordingly, when the Inhabitants of Providence, the place of my then residence, were paying honour to your Excellency, I refused to join in any Action which I thought Subversive of that Allegiance and thereby drew upon me the resentment of an enraged multitude, which threatned a fatal Issue; but by your Excellency’s kind interference, the resentment of the people was assuaged and no material damage ensued.

“I find myself bound to preserve a grateful remembrance of this Signal instance of kindness & Condescention bestowed upon an undeserved object, and to make this acknowledgment to your Excellency (tho’ at so late a period, yet at the first opportunity that has presented itself at the place where the transaction happened) at the Same time to bear in mind that the hand of God is manifest in the direction of this, as well as all other Events. May your life be precious in his Sight who hath raised you up to preside over this people, and be continued as a blessing to them; and as their united voice has once been expressed, concurring with divine providence in exalting you to that eminent Station you at present fill, So may the Same concurrence continue a Series of years and the prosperity of this nation be thereby advanced.

“Concieving it my duty at that time to be Subject to the ordinance of God, I can wish ⟨mutilated⟩ that the same word binds me now to pay Subjection to the powers ordained of God, vested in your Excellency as President and every Subordinate ruler in this nation and that for conscience Sake.

“And as I have no other end to answer in this liberty I have taken, but to discharge my conscience—So I am encouraged to hope your Excellency will not consider it too assuming thus to lay open my heart, to you” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Nicholas Tillinghast (1726–1797) was a believer of the Sandemanian faith founded by Scottish immigrant Robert Sandeman who established congregations in New England after 1764 devoted to the restoration of primitive Christianity. Nicholas Tillinghast had served as a lieutenant governor and judge in colonial Rhode Island but was temporarily imprisoned during the Revolution as a Loyalist. The incident to which Tillinghast referred probably occurred either in 1776 or in 1781, when GW was in wartime Providence. Tillinghast moved to Taunton, Mass., in March 1789 (NEHGR, description begins New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, 1847—. description ends 13 [1859], 282).

Daniel Tillinghast, merchant, distiller, and son-in-law of Rhode Island politico Stephen Hopkins, addressed his letter to the president at New York, as GW had already left Providence in the afternoon or early evening of 19 Aug. 1790.

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