George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Francis Peyton, Jr., 20 March 1797

From Francis Peyton, Jr.

Alexandria 20th March 1797


I am directed by the Council of this Town, to solicit the honor of your company, with the Gentlemen of your family, to dine with the Citizens of Alexandria, at Gadsby’s tavern on thursday next at two oclock.1

If the time proposed should not meet your convenience I should be happy to know at what time you can favour us with your presence. I am Sir with respect Yr Ob. Servt

Francis Peyton


Francis Peyton, Jr. (d. 1836), nephew of Col. Francis Peyton (c.1748–c.1808)of Loudoun County, was a merchant in Alexandria living on King Street. He was a trustee of Alexandria and a justice of the Fairfax County court.

1An account of the dinner given at Gadsby’s Tavern on Thursday, 22 Mar., along with the text of the address to GW from the citizens of Alexandria and GW’s response, appeared in the Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette on 25 March. “The General arrived in town about noon,” the paper reported, “escorted by a troop of horse that had gone out to meet him, and on his entrance was received by 15 discharges of cannon. Between one and two the Corporation waited on him in a body, when the Mayor [Francis Peyton] delivered a cordial and affectionate address, the sentiments of which were reciprocated in his reply. In reciting the reply, he appeared much affected, and the countenances of the company present expressed their participation, particularly those, to quote an expression of his own, ‘who had been the companions of his juvenile years.’ A splendid and plentiful dinner was provided at Mr. [John] Gadsby’s tavern, at which there was as large a company to partake as ever we have seen in this town on any occasion. At the end of the room opposite to that at which they had seated their distinguished guest, a painting was suspended, descriptive of Mount Vernon: at the foot of which was a female figure, emblematical of gratitude, and at the top a scroll supported by three cherubs, on which was inscribed the following pertinent motto—’Applauding nations here centre their benedictions.’ ” At the dinner sixteen formal toasts were given. The first four toasts—to the Constitution, the president, the vice-president, and the Congress—were followed by one to “Our Illustrious Neighbour—May he enjoy uninterrupted felicity in Retirement; and may the hearts of his cotemporaries, as well as those of succeeding ages, never cease to be grateful for his Past Services.” The paper noted: “We give this toast in the order it stood in the manuscript from which they were copied—It should, however, be noted, that it was not drank before General Washington retired.” Before leaving GW gave a toast: “Prosperity to the Town and Citizens of Alexandria.”

The text of Peyton’s address reads: “The period is now expired for which you have been twice called by the Unanimous voice of your Countrymen, to the chief Majestracy of our Nation, and now declining any longer, to occupy a station, which the confidence of your fellow Citizens would gladly have again conferred on you, you seek to enjoy in the repose of private life, and in the character of a private Citizen, the blessings and protection of that Government, which you have been so instrumental in establishing, and which has in so great a degree, contributed to our general prosperity. While we witness the solicitude which is expressed by our fellow Citizens at large, on your declining any longer, to offer your services to your Country, we cannot but acknowledge the justice of those pretensions by which you claim a future exemption from the inquietudes of public life, for it would be unreasonable to expect, that no period should be permitted for repose, and for the endearments of domestic enjoyment, to a life so long, and so eminently distinguished, for public services. We are persuaded that independent of those considerations, which result from the warm effusions, of the most disinterested patriotism, the possession of the office of the chief Majestracy of the Union could never have offered any temptation to you, for by you Sir, the summit of human glory had long since been attained, and altho’ this office was perhaps in itself, the most honorable that has been known among Mankind, as it was the homage offered to unusual worth, by the unanimous and voluntary suffrages of a free and grateful people, it could reflect no additional lustre on that character, by which it has been hitherto filled. Under the influence of these impressions, we beg leave to assure you that with hearts filled with love, gratitude and respect, and with the mingled emotions of joy and regret, we now address you, the latter results from recollecting that we are no longer to recognize you as a public majestrate, presiding at the helm of our political concerns—the former from a due knowledge, and just appretiation, of your past services, and from reflecting how highly it behoves us, to felicitate ourselves, on our singular good fortune, that by your return to Mount Vernon, you again restore to us, an old, a beloved, and a revered neighbour, whose conduct in private life, and in the exercise of every domestic and social virtue, is as well calculated to form by example the good Citizen, and virtuous man, as the splendour of your public life, is calculated to excite our admiration. We anticipate with inexpressible satisfaction, that it is scarce within the reach of human vecissitudes, but that the evening of your life, in the shades of retirement, will be as tranquil and happy as its commencement and meredian have been unusually glorious, for to a mind like yours, fraught with the love of Virtue, and passionately devoted to the promotion of your Countrys felicity, that review which solitude will frequently prompt you to take, of the past incidents of your life will furnish an inexhaustable fund for the purest enjoyment. And your fellow Citizens and neighbours of the Town of Alexandria, most humbly implore the Supreme ruler of the Universe, that you may long continue, to enjoy this, and every other human happiness” (DLC:GW).

GW replied: “Gentlemen, In the character of a private Citizen, I have the honor to receive your address—and I do it with all the sensibility that gratitude, friendship, and affection can excite.

“Having obeyed the calls of my country, and spent the prime of my life in rendering it the best services of which my abilities were capable; and finding that the infirmities of age were creeping upon me, it became as necessary as it was congenial to my feelings, to seek, in the shades of retirement, the repose I had always contemplated.

“To have finished my public career to the satisfaction of my fellow citizens, will, to my latest moments, be matter of pleasing reflection; and to find an evidence of this approbation among my neighbours and friends (some of whom have been the companions of my Juvenile years) will contribute not a little to highten the enjoyment.

“No wish in my retirement can exceed that of seeing our country happy; and I can entertain no doubt of its being so, if all of us act the part of good Citizens; contributing our best endeavours to maintain the Constitution, support the laws, and guard our Independence against all assaults from whatsoever quarter they may come—clouds may and doubtless often will in the vicissitude of events, hover over our political concerns, but a steady adherence to these principles will not only dispel them, but render our prospects the brighter by such temporary obscurities.

“For the affectionate, and flattering manner in which you have been pleased to express your regrets on the occasion of my relinquishing public employment; and for your congratulations on my return to my long forsaken residence at Mt Vernon, I pray you to accept my warmest acknowledgments, and the assurances of the additional pleasure I shall derive from the prospect of spending the remainder of my days in ease and tranquility among you; employed in rural pursuits, and in the exercise of Domestic and other duties. For the prosperity of the Town and neighbourhood, and for your individual happiness, I offer my best vows. G. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW; ADf, RPJCB).

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