George Washington Papers

To George Washington from A. Hammond, 8 July 1791

From A. Hammond

Saturday Morng July 8th 1791.

Respected Sir,

The knowledge of the benevolence of your heart has prompted me to trespass a little on your time; for which I can plead no other excuse than my hope that your Excellencys indulgence will extend to the Gratification of not only my wish but the wish of many who justly entertain a great veneration for your virtues.

Could your Excellency be prevail’d on to honor the Theatre with your presence on Monday Evening, the writer of this (who respectfully waits your determination) would esteem it as a pleasing satisfaction and an essential piece of service as the Play was announced for his Benefit.1

It may probably be an inducement to your Excellency to honor my request with your particular attention when I inform you I am Grandson to an old Gentleman (Mr Christopher Ludwick) whom you have often distinguish’d with your notice and favord with marks of your esteem & approbation.2 Real necessity, combin’d w’th an inclination for the stage were the causes of my embracing my present profession; and being but young in the Theatrical world is one reason for my earnestly soliciting your Excellency’s Patronage as an introduction to that of the Public. But, I fear I intrude on your patience and will therefore conclude.

Should I be fortunate enough to merit a compliance with my request, It shall ever be rememberd with heartfelt Gratitude by your very humble Servant3

A. Hammond.


A. Hammond’s name appears in neither the 1791 Philadelphia city directory nor the 1790 U.S. Census, but he might have been a resident of his grandfather’s German town, Pa., household, which included two white males over age fifteen (Heads of Families [Pennsylvania], 196). Hammond probably joined Lewis Hallam (c.1740-1808) and John Henry’s Old American Company in late 1790 or early 1791. GW attended its performances at Philadelphia’s Southwark Theater in January and February 1791, and the company held a benefit for Hammond on 9 June, before GW returned to the capital (William Dunlap, A History of the American Theatre [New York, 1832], 88, 91; Seilhamer, American Theatre, description begins George O. Seilhamer. History of the American Theatre. 3 vols. 1888–91. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 2:316–18, 320–21, 325). One critic of Hammond’s performance as “Don Pedro” in Recess in April and May noted that “with application he will improve. There is room” (General Advertiser and Political, Commercial and Literary Journal [Philadelphia], 2 May). In July Hammond was playing “The Fop” in The Birth of Harlequin; or, The Witches Frolic at Sadler’s Wells (General Advertiser and Political, Commercial and Literary Journal [Philadelphia], 11 July). He later accompanied Hallam and Henry’s troupe to New York, where it opened in the John Street Theater on 10 Oct., and he closed the season with another benefit on 14 May 1792. He appeared in neither of the two plays that GW attended at the Southwark Theater on 14 Nov. 1792. Hammond played several minor roles after the company was reorganized and before it ended its last Philadelphia season in November 1794. His name does not appear on any of the company’s play lists after it came under new management in 1795 (Seilhamer, American Theatre, description begins George O. Seilhamer. History of the American Theatre. 3 vols. 1888–91. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 2:340, 3:104; Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, 17 Nov. 1792).

1“(Mr. Hammond’s Night.) At the Theatre in Southwark” was announced in the General Advertiser and Political, Commercial and Literary Journal (Philadelphia), 11 July. The evening’s main performance was a comedy, The Clandestine Marriage, after which Hammond presented “An occasional ADDRESS,” which was followed by a new two-act “Pantomine Entertainment.” The evening’s performances closed the season for the company (Seilhamer, American Theatre, description begins George O. Seilhamer. History of the American Theatre. 3 vols. 1888–91. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 2:322).

2GW had met Christopher Ludwick (Ludwig, Lodwick, Lodowick; 1720–1801) during the Revolutionary War, when the German immigrant undertook a secret mission to Staten Island, attempted to persuade Hessian prisoners of war to defect to the American cause, and served as the superintendent of bakers and director of baking for the Continental army. Ludwick framed and hung on the parlor wall of his farmhouse near Germantown the certificate that GW wrote in April 1785 in support of Ludwick’s memorial to Congress of March 1785 (Hugh Mercer to GW, 19 Aug. 1776, n.1; Ludwick to GW, 29 Mar. 1785 and note 1). See also “Christopher Ludwig, Baker-General in the Army of the United States during the Revolutionary War,” Pa. Mag., description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 138 vols. to date. 1877—. description ends 16 [1892], 343–48.

3GW apparently did not reply to Hammond’s letter, and no evidence has been found suggesting that he attended the Southwark Theatre on 11 July. According to the General Advertiser and Political, Commercial and Literary Journal[Philadelphia], 7 July, GW arrived in Philadelphia on 6 July “in good health.” Sometime between 6 and 24 July, probably closer to the latter date, a tumor appeared on GW’s thigh similar to the one that was removed in mid-June 1789 (see James McHenry to GW, 28 June 1789, source note), after which his activities were generally confined to his residence. Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison from the capital on 24 July: “The President is indisposed with the same blind tumour, & in the same place, which he had the year before last in New York. As yet it does not promise either to suppurate or be discussed [dissipated]. He is obliged to lye constantly on his side, & has at times a little fever.” Three days later Jefferson reported that GW “is much better. An incision has been made, & a kind suppuration is brought on.” Henry Lee wrote to Madison on 29 July that GW had nearly recovered, and Jefferson added on 3 Aug. that “The President is got well” (Madison Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends , 14:55–56 and note 1, 58, 59, 62). GW himself reported to William Moultrie on 9 Aug.: “I am now recovered.” The following month Frances Bassett Washington reported from Mount Vernon to her father: “the President looks better than I expected to see him, but still there be traces in his countenance of his two last severe illnesses, which I fear will never wear off” (Frances B. Washington to John Bassett, 21 Sept., ViMtvL).

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