George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Erskine, 15 March 1797

From Thomas Erskine

London March 15th 1797


I have taken the liberty to introduce your August & immortal name in a short sentence (see Page 58) which is to be found in the Book I send to you.1 I have a large acquaintance amongst the most valuable & exalted classes of men; but you are the only Human being for whome I ever felt an aweful reverence. I sincerely pray God to grant a long and serene evening to a life so gloriously devoted to the universal happiness of the world.

T. Erskine

ALS (photocopy), DLC:GW.

Thomas Erskine (1750–1823), brother of David Steuart Erskine, eleventh earl of Buchan (1742–1829), with whom GW had been corresponding since 1790, was the leading trial lawyer in London before he was 40. His pamphlet Causes and Consequences of the War in France (London, 1797) ran through forty-eight editions. He was a member of the House of Commons until 1806 when he became lord chancellor and took the title first Baron Erskine.

1GW replied from Mount Vernon on 7 July: “Sir, Your ‘View of the Causes and consequences of the present War with France’ which you was pleased to send me through the medium of Mr Bond of Philadelphia, has been duly received; and I pray you to accept my best acknowledgments of this mark of your polite attention, particularly for the exalted compliment which accompanied it. To have so conducted my steps in the intricate walks of public life and through a long course, as to have met the approbation of my Country & the esteem of good men, is, next to the consciousness of having acted in all things from my best judgment, the highest gratification of which my mind is susceptible; and will, during the remainder of a life which is hastening to an end, and in moments of retirement better adapted to calm reflection than I have hitherto experienced, alleviate pain, & soften any cares wch are yet to be encountered, though hid from me at present. For me to express any sentiment with respect to the Administration of the concerns of another government, might incur a charge of stepping beyond the line of prudence; but the principles of humanity will justify an avowal of my regret, and I do regret exceedingly—that any causes whatever, should have produced, & continued until this time a war more bloody more expensive more calamitous, & more pregnant of events, than modern or perhaps any other time, can furnish an example—and I most sincerely & devoutly wish that your exertions, & those of others having the same object in view, may effect what human nature cries aloud for, a General Peace—I have the honor to be Sir, Your most Obedient and Very Hble Servant Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW).

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