George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James McHenry, 8 April 1794

To James McHenry


Dear Sir,Philadelphia 8th April 1794

Your private letters of the 31st of March & 3d instt have been duly received.

Although it is a rare, if not an entire new thing with me, to answer letters applying for appointments, yet from motives of esteem & regard, & our former connexion in public life,1 I shall acknowledge the receipt of yours on this head; although I can say nothing more on the subject than to explain the motives which have imposed silence upon me on these occasions.

They are.

1st because letters of this sort are so numerous, that to give them a civil answer woud employ too much of my time. 2d. because civil answers might be construed to mean more than was intended; and 3d because, coeval with my inauguration, I resolved—firmly—that no man should ever charge me justly with deception. Abundant reason I have had to rejoice at this determination; for I have experienced the necessity in a variety of instances of hardening my heart against indulgences of my warmest inclinations & friendships; and from a combination of causes, as well as mere fitness of character, to depart from first impressions, & first intentions with regard to nominations: which has proved, most unequivocally, the propriety of the maxim I had adopted, of never committing myself until the moment the appointment is to be made, when, from the best information I can obtain, & a full view of circumstances my judgment is formed.

With respect to your second letter of the 3d of April, I have only to add—and this in confidence—that every thing which friendship requires, and which I could do without committing my public character or involving this Country in embarrassment is, and has been for sometime in train, though the result is, as yet, unknown.

I am very sorry to hear of your bad state of health, but hope the approaching pleasant season & warm weather will restore you.2 With very great Esteem I am—Dr Sir—Yr Affect⟨e⟩

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW.

1This probably is a reference to McHenry’s service during the Revolutionary War as one of GW’s secretaries, from May 1778 to August 1780.

2Although McHenry did not receive the desired diplomatic appointment, GW nominated him to be secretary of war on 26 Jan. 1796 (Senate Executive Journal description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends , 198).

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