George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John K. Read, 13 April 1791

From John K. Read

[Richmond, Va., 13 April 1791]1


I have taken the freedom, to enclose for your perusal, a Copy of the preface to a work intitled, “the new Ahiman Rezon,[”] assigned to me for publication, by the Grand Lodge of Virginia, which work being now ready for the press (so soon as a competent number of subscribers are procured to defray the expence) I have adventured to sollicit the honour, of dedicating it to you.2

If you should find on perusal of the preface, (which will give you the outlines of the work) that there is utility in the production, I flatter myself the obscurity of my name will not militate against the success of my application—I beg leave to refer you to my friend the honble Mr Lyons, for my caracter as a Man—as an Author my claim to your attention, can only be, in proportion to the merits of the work.3

The Grand secretary, who will deliver you this, will do me the favour, of conveying your Answer,4 I have the honour to be, with the most perfect respect and Esteem Sir yr Most Obdet & devoted Servt

J. K. Read

L, probably in the handwriting of Basil Wood, DLC:GW.

John K. Read (1746–1805) was the son of Benjamin Franklin’s brother-in-law. He became a physician and moved to The Grove in Hanover County, Va., before relocating to Goochland County. During the Revolution Read served as a surgeon with the Virginia militia and afterwards settled in Richmond. An active Mason, he was appointed deputy grand master of Virginia on 28 Oct. 1790.

1GW endorsed the undated letter as “received 13th April 1791.” The Grand Lodge of Virginia held its annual meeting on 13–14 April 1791 at Mason’s Hall in Richmond, but there is no evidence that GW attended it.

2The enclosed three pages was a manuscript copy, apparently in Read’s handwriting, of the draft of a preface to The New Ahiman Rezon: Containing the Laws and Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of Virginia . . . (Richmond, 1791), which Read undertook at the direction of the Grand Lodge of Virginia in consequence of a resolution adopted 29 April 1790. Published at the author’s considerable expense by John Dixon, it received the formal sanction of the Grand Lodge in May 1792. Read petitioned the Grand Lodge in November 1794 that it purchase 250 copies for distribution to Virginia lodges across the state (Dove, Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, description begins John Dove. Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of the State of Virginia, from Its Organization, in 1778, to 1822, Prefaced by an Introduction Setting Forth the Origin and Progress of Masonry in Virginia, from 1733 to 1778. Richmond, 1874. description ends 58, 59, 93–94, 130, 142–43).

3Mr. Lyons was probably Peter Lyons (d. 1809) of Hanover County, Va., who was appointed to the Virginia Court of Appeals in 1789. His second wife, Judith Bassett, was a sister of Burwell Bassett, Sr., who was married to Martha Washington’s sister.

4Basil Wood was the grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Read noted to William Jackson on the letter’s cover that “The grand secretary will wait on the president in the morning for an answer to this letter.” No reply from GW has been found, nor do the published minutes of the Grand Lodge indicate that he made any.

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