To the Earl of Buchan
Philadelphia April 22d 1793
You might, from appearances, suspect me of inattention to the honor of your corrispondence: and if you should, I can assure you it would give me pain. Or you might conceive that, I had rather make excuses than acknowledge, in time, the receipt of your favors, as this is the second instance of considerable lapse between the dates of them and my acknowledgments: this also would hurt me—for the truth is, that your favor of the 22d of last Octobr, under cover of one from Doctr Anderson of the 3d of November, accompanying the 7th, 8, 9, 10 & 11th volumes of the Bee, did not come to my hands until the 18th of the present month.1
Having by me the rough draught of the letter I had the honor of addressing to your Lordship in May, I do agreeably to your request, transmit a copy thereof. It is difficult for me, however, to account for the miscarriage or delay of the original, as it was committed to the care of Mr Robertson at his own request, to be forwarded along with the Portrait of me which (for the reasons therein assigned) a preference had been given of him to take for your Lordship—both of which I expected you had received long since.2
The works of Doctr Anderson do him much credit—and when they ar⟨e⟩ more extensively known will, I am persuaded, meet a very ready sale in this Country. I have taken an occasion to mention his wish to a respectable member of the Philosophical Society of this City, who has promised to bring his name forward at the next meeting: entertaining no doubt of his being readily admitted; as his pretensions are known to stand upon solid ground.3
The favorable wishes which Your Lordship has expressed for the prosperity of this young & rising Country, cannot but be gratefully received by all its citizens, and every lover of it. One mean to the contribution of which, and its happiness, is very judiciously portrayed in the following words of your letter “to be little heard of in the great world of Politics”4 These words I can assure your Lordship are expressive of my sentiments on this head; and I believe it is the sincere wish of United America to have nothing to do with the Political intrigues, or the squabbles of European Nations; but on the contrary, to exchange Commodities & live in peace & amity with all the inhabitants of the earth; and this I am persuaded they will do, if rightfully it can be done. To Administer justice to, and receive it from every Power with whom they are connected will, I hope, be always found the most prominent feature in the Administration of this Country; and I flatter myself that nothing short of imperious necessity can occasion a breach with any of them. Under such a system if we are allowed to pursue it, the Agriculture and Mechanical Arts; the wealth and population of these States will encrease with that degree of rapidity as to baffle all calculation—and must surpass any idea your Lordship can, hitherto, have entertained on the occasion. To evince that our views (whether realised or not) are expanded, I take the liberty of sending you the Plan of a new City, situated about the centre of the Union of these States, which is designed for the permanent Seat of the Government.5 And we are at this moment deeply engaged, and far advanced in extending the inland navigation of the River (Potomac) on which it stands and the branches thereof through a tract of as rich Country—for hundreds of miles—as any in the world. Nor is this a solitary instance of attempts of the kind, although it is the only one which is near completion, & in partial use. Several other very important ones are commenced and little doubt is entertained that in ten years if left undisturbed we shall open a communication by water with all the Lakes Northward & Westward of us with which we have territorial connections; and an inland navigation in a few years more from Rhode Island to Georgia inclusively—partly by cuts between the great Bays & Sounds—& partly between the Islands & Sand banks & the Main from Albemarle sound to the River St Mary’s6—To these, may also be added, the erection of bridges over considerable Rivers, & the commencement of Turn-Pike Roads as further indications of the improvements in hand.
The family of Fairfax’s in Virginia—of whom you speak—are also related to me7 by several intermarriages before it came into this Country (as I am informed) and since; and what remain of the old stock are near neighbours to my estate of Mount Vernon. The late Lord (Thomas) with whom I was perfectly acquainted—lived at the distance of Sixty miles from me after he had removed from Belvoir (the Seat of his kinsman) which adjoins my estate just mentioned; and is going to be inhabited by a young member of the family as soon as the house which some years ago was burnt can be rebuilt.8 With great esteem & respect I have the honor to be Your Lordships Most Obedt Hble Servant
ALS, British Library: Add. MS. 12099; ADfS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW; copy, MHi.
Buchan wrote on the back of the ALS: “On the 18th of June 1793 I wrote to Mr Washington on the happy prospects America might entertain if by any means it could abstain from mingling in European Politics. I laid before him the Vanity & folly of preferring the indulgence of National Pride, Vanity & Resentment to the slow but certain benefits to be permanently obtained by Peace & internal prosperity & I flattered him the view of the Bankruptcy & misery of the old warlike System of Nations leading to a better order of Political policy. I ventured also to rececomend two great objects to the Executive of America Peace & Union with the Red Natives & attention to National Education. To these Sentiments the President alludes in the foll[owin]g letter.” Buchan’s letter to GW of 18 June 1793 has not been found, but he expressed similar thoughts in his letter to GW of 30 June 1793, which was his response to this current letter from GW.
2. GW is referring to his letter to Buchan of 1 May 1792. On Archibald Robertson’s portrait of GW, and for the delay in shipping it to Buchan, see Robertson to GW, 21 April 1792, and note 2. On 26 April 1793 Tobias Lear wrote Robertson: “The President of the United States received a letter a few days ago from the Earl of Buchan, tho’ of an old date (Octobr 1792)—in which he acknowledges the receipt of a letter from the President dated in the month of June; but observes that he had not received that which was written on the 1st of May preceding, & committed to your care, to be forwarded with the Earl’s picture; neither had the picture reached his hands at the time of writing his letter in October. The president directs me to give you this information in order that, if it should be in your power, you may endeavour to find out what has been the fate of the picture (if sent,) & the president’s letter” (DLC:GW).
3. GW followed an apparent verbal request about Anderson’s admission to the American Philosophical Society with a letter to Thomas Jefferson of 31 Dec. 1793, which reads: “I perceive by the Gazettes, that the Philosophical Society of this City, is required to meet on friday next [3 Jan. 1794]. I am reminded by it, to ask if the names of Buchan & Anderson have ever yet been proposed as members?” (ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers). No reply from Jefferson has been identified, but in April 1794 the society admitted Anderson and Buchan (“Early Proceedings,” 220).
5. The enclosed plan of the Federal City probably was the October 1792 Philadelphia engraving by James Thackara and John Vallance. On this map and GW’s wish that it be seen throughout Great Britain, see Lear to Jefferson, 20 Dec. 1792, and note 2.
6. Most of these canal schemes were still in the preliminary stage at best. In Virginia work already had begun on canal systems for the Potomac and James Rivers, and advanced, though faltering, plans for connecting Chesapeake Bay to Albemarle Sound via the Dismal Swamp were also under way (GW to John Fitzgerald and George Gilpin, 27 Jan. 1789, source note, David Stuart to GW, 18 April 1792, and Memorandum for Henry Lee, 18 Feb. 1793, n.3).
8. In 1752 Thomas, Lord Fairfax (1693–1781), established Greenway Court a few miles from Winchester, Va., as his permanent residence. The house at Belvoir was built by his cousin William Fairfax (1691–1757) around 1741. William Fairfax’s son George William Fairfax later occupied it until 1773 when he moved to England, where he remained until his death. The house at Belvoir burned in 1783 and was never rebuilt (GW to George William Fairfax, 10 July 1783, ADfS, DLC:GW, and LB, DLC:GW). Ferdinando Fairfax had inherited the Belvoir estate upon the death of his uncle George William Fairfax in 1787. His father, Bryan Fairfax, lived at his estate of Mount Eagle near Alexandria, Virginia.