George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Rhode Island Legislature, 20 November 1790

To the Rhode Island Legislature

[Mount Vernon, 20 November 1790]1


While I acknowledge, with grateful sincerity, my personal obligations to the Legislature of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, for the very flattering manner in which they convey their congratulations on my election to the Chief-magistracy of our confederated republic, and for the approbation they are pleased to express of my public conduct2—it affords me peculiar pleasure to observe that the completion of our union, by the accession of your State, gives a strong assurance of permanent political happiness to the people of America.

A change in the national constitution, conformed to experience and the circumstances of our country, has been most happily effected by the influence of reason alone—In this change the liberty of the citizen continues unimpaired, while the energy of government is so encreased as to promise full protection to all the pursuits of science and industry—together with the firm establishment of public credit, and the vindication of our national character. It remains with the people themselves to preserve and promote the great advantages of their political and natural situation—nor ought a doubt to be entertained that men, who so well understand the value of social happiness, will ever cease to appreciate the blessings of a free, equal, and efficient government.

In expressing my sensibility for the interest you take in the restoration of my health, I recall, with pleasure, the remembrance of those civilities which I experienced in my late visit to your State.3

My best wishes are offered, Gentlemen, for the prosperity of your Constituents, and for your individual happiness.

Go: Washington


1GW sent the above undated document under a 20 Nov. 1790 cover letter from Mount Vernon to Rhode Island governor Arthur Fenner, which reads, “I take the liberty of committing the enclosed paper to your Excellency’s care—requesting that it may be presented on the first proper occasion.” GW’s reply to the legislative address was laid before the general assembly on 28 Feb. 1791 (LS, RHi; Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 10:410).

2The undated “Address of the Legislature of the State of Rhode Island, and Providence-Plantations,” signed by Fenner and speaker of the lower house Welcome Arnold, reads: “At this earliest stated Meeting of the Legislature, since the Accession of this State completed the Federal Union, we cannot omit to express our Congratulations on your Election, by the free Suffrages of the Citizens of this great confederated Republic, to the Office of Chief Magistrate thereof.

“The Citizens of this State, be assured Sir, participate largely in the general Joy that the United States, in Time of Peace, still remain under the fostering Hand that lead them successfully thro’ a long and arduous War.

“Attached as we have been to the Rights and Liberties of Mankind, from the First Settlement made on the Shores, we cannot fail to co-operate in all just Measures to secure them to the People of these Countries, now happily united under an efficient and well balanced Federal Government.

“In promoting to Places of Trust and Emolument, in the Executive Department, the wisest and best Men, you have pursued the Example of the People in the Election of the National Legislature.

“Under such a Constitution, & such an Administration, we cannot but flatter ourselves with the Hope of Prosperity in our Commerce, Agrigulture, and Manufactures, and of the Establishment of our public Credit, and National Character.

“With a grateful Warmth of Affection, permit us to recognize our Sensibility of the particular Honor of your late Visit to this State: While at the same Time we offer up our Prayer to Almighty God of whose kind Providence you had been then recently restored to Health. That he may still have you under his Holy Keeping, and after a very long and useful Life, confer on you the Rewards of Virtue, is our fervent Prayer” (DLC:GW [filed under August 1790]). The Rhode Island legislature was not sitting at the time of GW’s visit to the state. At the next session of the general assembly, commencing 6 Sept. 1790, a committee apparently was appointed to prepare an address to the president, and reported at the subsequent session that began on 25 Oct. 1790. The committee’s address was duly considered, voted on, and approved on 30 Oct. 1790. The assembly also resolved, “That the secretary cause a fair copy thereof to be made; that His Excellency the Governor, and the Honorable speaker of the lower house, be requested to sign it, in behalf of this legislature; and that His Excellency be requested to transmit the same, as soon as may be” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends 31:94n.; Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 10:388, 393, 398; see also Rhode Island Legislature to GW, 30 Oct. 1790, R-Ar).

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