George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, 14 June 1798

From Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz

City of Washington 14 Jun[e] 1798


Your hospitability & Kindnes, impress me with stronger sensation than my knowledge of the Language enable me to convey. After quitting the unhapy scenes of my own country, the prosperity & tranquility of this made a most pleasing contrast & I exclaimed with the Poet who expresses the Sentiments of America

O Meliboe Deus [nobis]—haec otia fecit

Namque erit ille mihi semper Deus (Virgil’s Eclogues)

In my youth I was animated with the history of your patriotic Services, & have at length been gratified by beholding the Cause of his Country’s felicity, enjoing in the retirement the noble Work of his hands; as a Pilgrim who has travailed to a far distant shrine wishes to carry away some relick to shew his enquiring friends, permit me to request your Signature, that I may fulfill the wishes of many to have it deposited in our museum, & that I may have the honor of a donation more wellcome than the most precious jewell. With my most grateful acknowledgements to Mistris Washington for her unceasing attention & goodness, & for the present of a Cup marked with her Initials, which when sipping my Coffe will daily remind me of Mount Vernon,1 and to Miss Custis for the Music & painting which her hands conveyed & for other pleasures of Conversation & Harmony, which it would appear too flattering for an old Bachelor to enumerate, I have the Honor to remain with the highest Esteem and respect Sir Your most obedient Humble servent

Julien Niemcewicz

If you are so good Sir as to answer me a line, be pleased to direct it to Mr Law.2

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; copy, DLC: Sprague Collection.

Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz (1758–1841) came from Poland to America with Kościuszko and remained in America until 1802, returning again in 1804 for a stay of two or three years. A patriot and man of letters from a well-to-do noble family, he in 1803 published in Polish a biography of GW. His diaries, translated and edited by Metchie J. E. Budka, were published in 1965 with the title Under Their Vine and Fig Tree: Travels through America in 1797–1799, 1805, with Some

Further Account of Life in New Jersey. The diaries contain Niemcewicz’s extended description of his visit to Mount Vernon from 2 to 14 June and of his hosts (pp. 95–108). See also Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:299, 300, 301.

1Niemcewicz wrote in his diary on 9 June: “Mrs. Washington made me a gift of a china cup with her monogram and the names of the states of the United States” (Niemcewicz, Under Their Vine and Fig Tree, description begins Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. Under Their Vine and Fig Tree: Travels through America in 1797–1799, 1805, with Some Further Account of Life in New Jersey. Translated and edited by Metchie J. E. Budka. Elizabeth, N.J., 1965. description ends 104). This was a piece of the Chinese porcelain service presented to Martha Washington by the Dutchman Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest. It had a border of the linked names of the fifteen states with the initials MW in a sunburst in the center (Detweiler, George Washington’s Chinaware, description begins Susan Gray Detweiler. George Washington’s Chinaware. New York, 1982. description ends 151, 154–58). On 30 May Niemcewicz had written: “Mrs. Washington is one of the most estimable persons that one could know, good, sweet, and extremely polite. She loves to talk and talks very well about times past. She told me she remembered the time when there was only one single carriage in all of Virginia. Ladies invited to an entertainment arrived on horseback. All the trade consisted in the little tobacco that was exported. The correspondents in England did not fail to send to their friends one or two pounds of tea, which was a very great present” (Niemcewicz, op. cit., 103).

2GW responded from Mount Vernon on 18 June: “Sir, The letter with which you were pleased to honor me, dated ‘City of Washington 14th June’ instt was forwarded by Mr Law, and received from the Post Office in Alexandria yesterday.

“The pleasure this family derived from the favour of your Company in our retired Situation, could only be equalled by the regret we felt at parting with you; and by our wishes if you should again visit this part of the United States, that you would not pass the shades of Mount Vernon without participating in the refreshments of them.

“That your country is not as happy as your struggle to make it so was Patriotic and Noble, is a matter which all lovers of rational Liberty and the Rights of Man, have sorely lamented: and if my Vows, during the arduous contest could have availed, you would now, have been as happy in the enjoyment of these desirable blessings under your own Vine and Fig tree, as the People of these United States may be under theirs.

“The flattering expressions of your letter, excites all my Sensibility; and in making a tender of the best wishes of Mrs Washington and Miss Custis for your polite remembrance of them, I do not forget to pray—although I am persuaded, nothing can eradicate from a mind susceptible as yours is, the recollection of those misfortunes which have befallen your Country, that you may experience in this, such attentions, as may have a tendency to alleviate the poignancy of them. With very great esteem I have the honor to be, Sir, Your Obedt Servt Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW).

Index Entries