From Mason Locke Weems
[6 July 1792]1
Sensible that it ever affords a heartfelt pleasure to your Excellency to promote the happiness of Mankind, and knowing how eminently Almighty God has put it into your power to Advance the Welfare of the Citizens of these States, I take the liberty of Solicting Your excellency’s Patronage to a Work which is evidently and most happily calculated to enlarge the Reign of Piety and Virtue among that Class of Citizens (I mean the Great) whose Examples have the weightiest Influence on the Manners of the Community. I am endeavoring to give the Public, a large Edition of the Celebrated Doctor Blair’s Sermons, in which, Just Sentiments, a Glowing Piety, and Amiable Affections are set forth in such Elegant & harmonious Language as to be read with considerable Avidity by those very Persons who woud reject Other Discourses of equal Piety but unhappily destitute of their external Grace and Ornament.2 It was suggested to me that were your excellency & Some Other Leading Characters in Philadelphia to Shew a good will to this Work it might greatly Augment & Accelerate its Progress. I brought Letters to his Excellency the Governor,3 to Mr Morris Mr Barclay &c. &c. Some I have presented. Mr Morris not only patroniz’d by Subscription, but Voluntarily Offerd his Interest with his Friends—had Doctor Wm Smith or the British Consul4 been at home, Shd perhaps been introduced to your Excellency, as I happen to be related to those Gentlemen. Tho’ I was once introduced to your Excellency by Doctor Craik. Shoud your Excellency think well to patronize & encourage this extensively Diffusive way of propogating these Valuable Discourses You will find that Mr Morris has left a Chasm Just above his Signature and for that purpose, I told Mr Morris that Doctor Craik had introduced me to your Excellency some Years ago at M. Vernon.5 he Observd “it was unnecessary to get any further introduction.” With Sentiments of the highest Veneration I remain Your excellency’s Friend & Well Wisher
Mason L. Weems.
ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; ALS (photocopy), DLC:GW.
Mason Locke Weems (1759–1825) was born in Anne Arundel County, Md., raised in England, and ordained an Anglican priest in 1784. He returned to the United States in that year to serve as rector of All Hallows Parish at South River in Anne Arundel County. In later years Weems supported his wife and ten children by serving as a preacher and bookseller and as the author of numerous moral essays and biographies. His 1800 biography of GW was one of the earliest to be written.
1. This letter is docketed in part, “6th July 1792.”
2. In 1795 Weems sent GW a copy of Hugh Blair’s Sermons. To Which Is Pre-fixed That Admired Tract, On the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion (Baltimore, reprinted for Weems, 1792–93), which “you were so good as to patronize; and for which you paid” (DLC:GW). It was in GW’s library at the time of his death (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 503).
3. Thomas Mifflin (1744–1800), who had served as a member of the Continental Congress 1774–75 and 1782–84, major general in the Continental army during the Revolutionary War, Speaker of the Pennsylvania house of representatives 1785–88, and president of the state’s supreme executive council 1788–90, was governor of Pennsylvania 1790–99.
4. Phineas Bond (1749–1815), who had graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1766 and had worked as a lawyer before having his property seized and his professional life disrupted during the American Revolution because of his Loyalist sympathies, was appointed British consul at Philadelphia and commissary for commercial affairs in North America in April 1786. He served in that capacity until the beginning of the War of 1812.
5. GW noted in his diary entry for 3 Mar. 1787 that “Revd. Mr. Weems, and yg. Doctr. Craik who came here [to Mount Vernon] yesterday in the afternoon left this about Noon” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:112).