George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Charles Pinckney, 29 March 1791

To Charles Pinckney

George Town, Maryland, March 29th 1791.

Dear Sir,

I had the pleasure to receive your Excellency’s obliging letter of the 8th instant last evening.

I am thus far on my tour through the southern States—but, as I travel with only one sett of horses, and must make occasional halts, the progress of my journey is exposed to such uncertainty as admits not of fixing a day for my arrival at Charleston.1

While I express the grateful sense which I entertain of your Excellency’s polite offer to accommodate me at your house during my stay in Charleston, your goodness will permit me to deny myself that pleasure.

Having, with a view to avoid giving inconvenience to private families, early prescribed to myself the rule of declining all invitations to quarters on my journies, I have been repeatedly under a similar necessity with the present of refusing those offers of hospitality, which would otherwise have been both pleasing and acceptable.2

I beg your Excellency to be persuaded of the sincere esteem and regard with which I am, dear Sir, Your affectionate and obedient Servant

G. Washington


For GW’s decision to undertake a tour of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia in the spring of 1791 to complement his earlier presidential visits to the New England states, see GW to William Washington, 8 Jan. 1791, source note, and Itinerary for the Southern Tour, February 1791, editorial note. The Southern Tour gave GW an opportunity to observe firsthand political, socioeconomic, demographic, and agricultural conditions of the southern states, to judge the mood of the citizenry toward the federal government and his administration’s measures, and to lend his prestige to Federalist politicians, particularly in North Carolina, which had ratified the federal Constitution in November 1789. On a more personal level, GW probably welcomed the two-month-long trip as an extended period of physical exercise, as he earlier had sought such escape from a sedentary lifestyle that he felt was contributing to a decline in his health. See William Jackson to Clement Biddle, 12 May, editorial note, GW to Biddle, 20 July, and to the Clergy of Newport, R.I., 18 Aug. 1790, source note. The Southern Tour also enabled GW to renew his acquaintance with old comrades, meet other former Revolutionary War officers, and tour southern battlefields.

1GW left Philadelphia on 20 Mar. 1791 with eleven horses: four for his coach, four for his outriders, two to pull the baggage wagon, and one mount for himself. During the Southern Tour, GW rode Prescott, his parade horse, one of two white horses of his Philadelphia stable, chiefly when the presidential party was greeted ceremoniously by mounted dignitaries. GW’s usual practice upon approaching a town seems to have been to alight from his carriage and mount his steed before being welcomed by any official escorts. The president bought three new horses before his departure from Philadelphia: two bays purchased from William Davidson’s stables on 7 Mar. 1791 for $213.34 and a bay mare for which he paid $93.34 to Isaac Clark on 18 Mar., and which remained in Philadelphia. See GW to Tobias Lear, 21 April, and Lear to GW, 15 May 1791, Lipscomb, South Carolina in 1791, description begins Terry W. Lipscomb. South Carolina in 1791: George Washington’s Southern Tour. Columbia, S.C., 1993. description ends 3, and Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends 207, 209. GW left Mount Vernon on 7 April “with Horses apparently well refreshed and in good spirits” but almost lost his four carriage horses the same day when they fell off the Colchester ferry (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:107). He engaged two more horses after leaving Petersburg, Va., to rest those pulling the wagon, as they were “rather too light for the draught; and, (one of them especially) losing his flesh fast” (ibid., 112).

2GW had intended to observe the same policy of utilizing only public accommodations on his Southern Tour as he had during his presidential visits to the New England states. Travel conditions in the South, however, occasionally forced the president to accept the overnight hospitality of private Carolinian families. See GW to William Washington, 8 Jan. 1791 and source note, to Edward Rutledge, 16 Jan. 1791, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:115, 116, 121–22, 122–23.

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