George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Carlisle, Pa., Citizens, 6 October 1794

To Carlisle, Pa., Citizens

[6 Oct. 1794]


I thank you sincerely for your affectionate address. I feel as I ought, what is personal to me, and I cannot but be particularly pleased with the enlightened and pa⟨trioti⟩c attachment which is manifested ⟨towa⟩rds our happy constitution and the laws.1

When we look round and behold the universally acknowledged prosperity which blesses every part of the United States facts no less unequivocal than those which are the lamented occasion of our present meeting, were necessary to persuade us; that any portion of our fellow Citizens could be so deficient in discernment or virtue, as to attempt to disturb a situation which, instead of murmers and tumults, calls ⟨for our⟩ warmest gratitude to Heaven, and our earnest endeavours to preserve and prolong so favoured a lot.

Let us hope that the delusion can not be lasting; that reason will speedily regain her empire, and the laws their just authority, where they have lost it. Let the wise and the virtuous unite their efforts to reclai⟨m the⟩ misguided, and to detect & defeat ⟨the⟩ arts of the factious. The union of good men is a basis, on which the security of our internal peace and the stability of our Government may safely rest. It will always prove an adequate rampart against the vicious and disorderly.

In any case in which it may be indispensable to raise the sword of Justice, against obstinate offenders, I shall deprecate the necessity of deviating from a favorite aim ⟨to esta⟩blish the authority of the laws in the affections of all rather than in the fears of any.2

Go: Washington

LS, PPiU; LB, DLC:GW. Where the LS is damaged, the text in angle brackets has been taken from the letter-book copy.

GW arrived at Carlisle, Pa., around 11 o’clock on the morning of 4 October. As he neared the camp, he reviewed a line of troops composed of the detachment of Philadelphia light horse that had escorted him from the Susquehanna River and “a regiment of artillery with 16 pieces,” and “the infantry from various parts of Pennsylvania, amounting in the whole to near three thousand men, beautifully equipped, and all in handsome uniforms.” That evening the courthouse at Carlisle “was illuminated by the federal citizens, and a transparency exhibited with … inscriptions in large illuminated characters”—in front, “WASHINGTON IS EVER TRIUMPHANT”; on one side, “THE REIGN OF THE LAWS”; and on the other side, “WOE TO ANARCHISTS.” After attending a sermon on Sunday, 5 Oct., GW was visited on Monday morning by some inhabitants of Carlisle, who presented the address to which he replies here (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:181–82; Gazette of the United States and Daily Evening Advertiser [Philadelphia], 18 Oct.).

Kline’s Carlisle Weekly Gazette also printed a poem of welcome to GW, probably in their issue of 8 Oct.:

“To his Excellency the PRESIDENT of the United States, on his arrival in Carlisle.

WELCOME, thrice welcome, to our western world,

Columbia’s dearest, and most honoure’d SON.

So says the soldier, who beheld thee oft,

Undaunted face the horrid forms of war;

And, by the great example fir’d rush’d on,

To humble in the dust a guilty foe:

Who saw thee too, with well-earned laurels crown’d,

Retire from battles, to the shade of peace.

Welcome, thrice welcome, to our western world,

Great guide and ruler of these states combin’d.

So says the youth, with love of freedom warm’d

Who only yet has heard of noble deeds,

And pants for glory in the fields of fame:

The youth, who has his armour girded on,

Waiting thy orders in his countries cause,

Proud of the Patriots and the Hero’s praise.

Welcome, thrice welcome, to our smiling vale,

Great friend of Science, virtue and the laws.

So says the Scholar, flying from his school,

And joining in the throng, to see the man,

Whom all his teachers taught him to admire:

‘And is that He, with ev’ry grace adorn’d,

Whose pen and sword are equally sublime!

Flow on, our periods and our lives, like his;

Then we shall enter fame’s high temple too.’

Welcome, great pattern of religion pure,

Relying still on him who rules on high.

So says the preacher of those truths sublime,

Which teach our hopes to soar above the skies;

Who preaches peace and love, and warns his flock,

Of Error’s Seditions dire effects!

Welcome, thrice welcome, to our western world,

And heav’n preserve thee, many years to come.

So says each friend of order, peace and law,

Each foe to anarchy and civil strife;

Whose ardent prayer is, that our dearest rights,

Against the traitor’s dark and deep designs,

And all the malice of external foes,

To latest ages may remain secure.

But why in armes again, O god like man!

Why follow’d by an ardent warlike train,

Of hopeful youths in shining armour clad?

When it was all thy pray’r and pleasing hope,

To see thy brethren gratefully enjoy,

The freedom valour had so nobly won.

Ah! ‘Tell it not in Gath, nor publish it abroad,

In Askelon;’—lest all our foes rejoice!

Beyond those lofty hills, where sets the Sun.

Discord has raised her head, laws are profan’d

The judge and jury bear the rod in vain.

Yet still they cry, ‘For liberty we fight,

For equal rights, we’ve put our armour on’

Deluded men! Those laws which you contemn.—

They are your own, and sanction’d by your voice.

They can be alter’d or they can be borne,

Resistance is the road to shame and death!

Lay down your arms, embrace your truest friends;

For mercy sue, while mercy may be found.

Go on, ye gallant troops, be peace your aim;

Strike terror only into guilty souls!

Protect your friends, and O! protect the fair:

And let no blot disgrace your shining arms.

Order restore,—and still the laws revere,

And O! may heav’n upon your efforts smile,

Ensure success; defend each precious life;

And bring you home with honour, peace, and joy.”

(Centinel of the North-Western Territory [Cincinnati], 15 Nov.).

1The address, signed by William Alexander, John Hughes, James Hamilton, Samuel Tate, Charles Nisbet, Robert Davidson, John Montgomery, John Creigh, Samuel Laird, William Lyon, Samuel A. McCoskry, and George Stevenson, reads: “We, the subscribers, inhabitants of this Borough, on behalf of ourselves and our fellow-citizens, friends to good order, government, and the laws, approach you at this time, to express our sincere admiration of those virtues which have been uniformly exerted with so much success, for the happiness of America; and which, at this critical period of impending foreign and domestic troubles, have been manifested with distinguished lustre.

“Tho’ we deplore the cause which has collected in this Borough all classes of virtuous citizens, yet it affords us the most heart-felt satisfaction, to meet the Father of our country, and brethren in arms, distinguished for their Patriotism, their love of order, & attachment to the constitution and laws; and while, on the one hand, we regret the occasion which has brought from their homes men of all situations, who have made sacrifices, unequalled in any other country, of their private interests to the public good; Yet we are consoled by the consideration, that the citizens of the United States have evinced to our enemies abroad, and the foes of our happy constitution at home, that they not only have the will, but possess the power, to repel all foreign invaders, and to crush all domestic traitors.

“The history of the World affords us too many instances of the destruction of free governments, by factious & unprincipled men. Yet the present Insurrection & opposition to government is exceeded by none, either for its causeless origin, or for the extreme malignity & wickedness with which it has been executed.

“The unexampled clemency of our Councils, in their endeavours to bring to a sense of duty the western Insurgents, and the ungrateful returns which have been made by that deluded people, have united all good men in one common effort, to restore order and obedience to the laws, and to punish those who have neglected to avail themselves of, and have wickedly spurned at, the most tender and humane offers that ever have been made to rebels and traitors.

“We have viewed with pain the great industry, art, & misrepresentations, which have been practised, to delude our fellow-citizens. We trust that the effort of the general government, the combination of the good and virtuous against the vicious and factious, will cover with confusion The malevolent disturbers of the public peace, and afford to the well-disposed the certainty of protection to their persons and property.

“The sword of justice, in the hands of our beloved President, can only be considered as an object of terror by the wicked, and will be looked up to by the good and virtuous, as their safeguard and their protection.

“We bless that Providence which has preserved a life so valuable through so many important scenes; and we pray that he will continue to direct and prosper the measures adopted by you, for the security of our internal peace and the stability of our government; and that after a life of continued usefulness & glory, you may be rewarded with eternal Felicity” (LS, DLC:GW).

2At this point the letter-book copy adds a sentence that is not present in the LS, nor in the newspaper publications of GW’s response: “Accept a reciprocation of good wishes for yourselves and your fellow Citizens.”

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