George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Boucher, 8 November 1797

From Jonathan Boucher

Epsom [England] 8th Novr 1797.


Having taken the Liberty to dedicate to You a Volume of Political Discourses relating to America, I now have the Honour to entreat your Acceptance of it:1 having ordered a Copy to be sent to Mr Maury of Liverpool, who, I doubt not, will take due Care to forward it to You.2 That You will approve of all that I have written in this Volume is more than I presume to hope for: but You will do Me the Justice to believe, that I have not, to the best of my Knowledge, uttered a single Sentiment which I do not myself believe; & that I publish the Volume with no Motives but the fair Hope of doing some Good. And in no Part of my Work is it possible I can be more sincere than I am in those public Professions of Esteem & Respect with which I have declared Myself to be, Sir Yr mo: obedt & very Humble Servt

Jonan Boucher


Jonathan Boucher (1738–1804) left England in 1759 to become a tutor to the children of a Virginia planter, and after his ordination in 1762, he became rector of Hanover Parish in the colony. GW had extensive dealings with Boucher in the late 1760s and early 1770s when Boucher was John Parke Custis’s schoolmaster, first in Virginia and later in Maryland. Boucher returned to Britain in 1775 and remained a bitter and vocal enemy of the American cause. The confiscation of his American property left him in financial straits, but in 1785 Boucher secured the rectorship of Epsom Parish and this and his later inheritance of the property of a well-to-do second wife had put him by this time in easy circumstances with a young third wife.

1Despite its title, A View of the Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution in Thirteen Discourses. Preached in North America between the Years 1763 and 1775 (London, 1797), Boucher in fact composed this political tract, written in the form of sermons, with a lengthy preface, during the twenty years since his return to England (Zimmer, Boucher, description begins Anne Y. Zimmer. Jonathan Boucher: Loyalist in Exile. Detroit, 1978. description ends 268 passim). When Boucher was at the point of leaving Maryland in 1775, he wrote a letter to GW bitterly denouncing him and the traitorous activities of the Americans (Boucher to GW, 6 Aug. 1775). After the war, Boucher again wrote GW, scolding him in more temperate terms for the destructive effects of the Revolution on the established church in America (Boucher to GW, 25 May 1784). GW seems to have responded to neither of these letters, and there is no evidence of any further communication between the two until this time. Boucher’s dedication of the volume in the form of a letter “To George Washington Esquire, of Mount Vernon, in Fairfax County, Virginia,” from “Epsom, Surrey, 4th Nov. 1797,” reads: “In prefixing your name to a work avowedly hostile to that Revolution in which you bore a distinguished part, I am not conscious that I deserve to be charged with inconsistency. I do not address myself to the General of a Conventional Army; but to the late dignified President of the United States, the friend of rational and sober freedom.

“As a British subject I have observed with pleasure that the form of Government, under which you and your fellow-citizens now hope to find peace and happiness, however defective in many respects, has, in the unity of it’s executive, and the division of it’s legislative, powers, been framed after a British model. That, in the discharge of your duty as head of this Government, you have resisted those anarchical doctrines, which are hardly less dangerous to America than to Europe, is not more an eulogium on the wisdom of our forefathers, than honourable to your individual wisdom and integrity.

“As a Minister of Religion I am equally bound to tender you my respect for having (in your valedictory address to your countrymen) asserted your opinion that ‘the only firm supports of political prosperity are religion and morality;’ and that ‘morality can be maintained only by religion.’ Those best friends of mankind, who, amidst all the din and uproar of Utopian reforms; persist to think that the affairs of this world can never be well administered by men trained to disregard the God who made it, must ever thank you for this decided protest against the fundamental maxim of modern revolutionists, that religion is no concern of the State.

“It is on these grounds, Sir, that I now presume (and I hope not impertinently) to add my name to the list of those who have dedicated their works to you. One of them, not inconsiderable in fame, from having been your fulsome flatterer, has become your foul calumniator: to such dedicators I am willing to persuade myself I have no resemblance. I bring no incense to your shrine even in a Dedication. Having never paid court to you whilst you shone in an exalted station, I am not so weak as to steer my little bark across the Atlantic in search of patronage and preferment; or so vain as to imagine that now, in the evening of my life, I may yet be warmed by your setting sun. My utmost ambition will be abundantly gratified by your condescending, as a private Gentleman in America, to receive with candour and kindness this disinterested testimony of regard from a private Clergyman in England. I was once your neighbour and your friend: the unhappy dispute, which terminated in the disunion of our respective countries, also broke off our personal connexion: but I never was more than your political enemy; and every sentiment even of political animosity has, on my part, long ago subsided. Permit me then to hope, that this tender of renewed amity between us may be received and regarded as giving some promise of that perfect reconciliation between our two countries which it is the sincere aim of this publication to promote. If, on this topic, there be another wish still nearer to my heart, it is that you would not think it beneath you to co-operate with so humble an effort to produce that reconciliation.

“You have shewn great prudence (and, in my estimation, still greater patriotism) in resolving to terminate your days in retirement. To become, however, even at Mount Vernon, a mere private man, by divesting yourself of all public influence, is not in your power. I hope it is not your wish. Unincumbered with the distracting cares of public life, you may now, by the force of a still powerful example, gradually train the people around you to a love of order and subordination; and, above all, to a love of peace. ‘Hæ tibi erunt artes.’ That you possessed talents eminently well adapted for the high post you lately held, friends and foes have concurred in testifying: be it my pleasing task thus publicly to declare that you carry back to your paternal fields virtues equally calculated to bloom in the shade. To resemble Cincinnatus is but small praise: be it yours, Sir, to enjoy the calm repose and holy serenity of a Christian hero; and may ‘the Lord bless your latter end more than your beginning!’ I have the honour to be, Sir, Your very sincere Friend, And most obedient humble Servant, Jonathan Boucher.”

GW wrote Boucher nearly nine months later, on 15 Aug. 1798: “Your favour of the 8th of Novr, last year, is but just received,” and he had had “no leisure to give the ‘view of the causes & consequences of the American Revolution’ written by you . . . a perusal.” GW ended by thanking Boucher “for the honor of its Dedication, and for the friendly & favourable sentimts which are therein expressed.”

2James Maury, Jr., the son and namesake of Boucher’s old friend who until his death in 1769 was rector of Fredericksburg Parish in Albemarle County and a schoolmaster, went to England in 1786 to engage in the Virginia trade. He at this time was U.S. consul at Liverpool.

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