To the Officials of Fredericksburg, Virginia
[Fredericksburg, Va., 9 April 1791]
At all times flattered by the esteem, and grateful for the good wishes of my fellow citizens I am particularly so when to my respect for their public worth is united the endearment of private acquaintance—in this regard I have the pleasure to receive your congratulatory address on my arrival in Fredericksburg, and, thanking you with sincerity for the sentiments it expresses, I desire to assure you of the affectionate gratitude which they inspire.1
After leaving Mount Vernon early on 7 April, GW had an accident crossing Occoquan Creek at Colchester, Virginia. Fifty yards from shore one of his four coach horses bolted off the ferry, leading the rest of the team into the water, where they were saved only “with the utmost difficulty” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:107). For GW’s trip to Fredericksburg, his first visit there since the death of his mother, Mary Ball Washington, see ibid., 107–8.
1. After a dinner in GW’s honor on 9 April, town officials presented him an address signed by Fredericksburg mayor William Harvey (d. 1798): “We the Mayor, Aldermen and common council of the Corporation of Fredericksburg are happy in this opportunity of tendering you the sincere and unanimous congratulations of the Citizens on your arrival in this Town, The Inhabitants of Fredericksburg Sir! as they can boast the first acquaintance with your Virtues claim a peculiar pleasure in testifying to the world your exalted Merit and in Joining with the rest of America to express their entire Approbation of your conduct thro life which has been so productive of blessings to its citizens. The long and fatiguing Journey you have undertaken will further manifest your Unremitted Attachment to that Country whose obligations to you can be better felt than described and we trust will not only influence the present generation to admire public and private Virtues from your example, but teach your Successors how to watch over the welfare of this extensive Union. We have the fullest confidence in divine Benevolence that the disposer of all good will be graciously pleased long to continue you in health and reward you both here and hereafter with blessings adequate to your Merit which he alone can give” (DLC:GW).
The protocol of the Southern Tour addresses to GW, of which this was the first, seems to have been the prior delivery of a written address to William Jackson, who usually made a copy and drafted a reply, which the president would verbally approve (none of the extant drafts in DLC:GW have any emendations in GW’s hand). Jackson would then make a fair copy of the president’s reply, which GW would sign, and then return the original address to the local officials. At a mutually agreed time the officers would read aloud their original address and present it to the president with due ceremony, and then GW would read his official reply and likewise deliver it to the officials. Editor Benjamin Franklin Bache wrote disapprovingly in the General Advertiser and Political, Commercial and Literary Journal (Philadelphia) on 23 April: “We find by the southern papers that the President, on his journey, is still perfumed with the incense of addresses. However highly we may consider the character of the Chief Magistrate of the Union, yet we cannot but think the fashionable mode of expressing our attachment to the defender of the Liberty of his country, favors too much of Monarchy to be used by Republicans, or to be received with pleasure by a President of a Commonwealth.”