George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 8 September 1791

To Henry Knox

Philadelphia September 8. 1791.

My dear Sir.

I have heard of the death of your promising Son with great concern, and sincerely condole with you and Mrs Knox on the melancholy occasion.1

Parental feelings are too much alive in the moment of these misfortunes to admit the consolations of religion or philosophy; but I am persuaded reason will call one or both of them to your aid as soon as the keenness of your anguish is abated.

He that gave you know has a right to take away—his ways are wise—they are inscrutable, and irresistable.2 I am ever Your sincere and affectionate friend

G. Washington


1Henry and Lucy Flucker Knox commissioned Joseph Wright to paint a portrait of Marcus Camillus Knox (1783–1791), their second son to have survived infancy, after the boy’s death on 8 September. His funeral procession to St. Peter’s Church the next day was attended by “the Professors and Preceptors of the College and Academy” of Philadelphia “and a numerous train of mourning friends,” including his schoolmates at the academy (Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 10 Sept.; Monroe H. Fsbian, Joseph Wright: American Artist, 1756–1793 [Washington, D.C., 1985], 71, 132).

2Knox replied this day to GW: “The arrow with which we are stricken is indeed barbed with the Keenest anguish. In this moment neither reason Philosophy or religion have their proper effect. Perhaps the lenient hand of time, may reconcile us to this strong handed event, which we alass could not controul. Wounded and shorn to the quick as we are, we feel most sensibly the Kindness of your sympathy” (DLC:GW).

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