George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heth, 13 July 1798

From William Heth

Shillelah 13th July 1798

Dear Sir

Permit me with great sincerity of heart to congratulate the United States, on your being once more appointed Commander in Chief of their armies. This, in the event of a war, to support that Independence so nobly acquired under your auspices, was what all America looked for. It must be so. And may you continue to be the favorite of Heaven, as you have been the pride, the glory, and the defender of your Country.

The latter part of the pamphlet which you will receive herewith, and which is now presented to you by the Author (but this in confidence) will inform you that I had no difficulty in making up my mind, never to withdraw from tempestuous scenes, when my Country shall be in danger.1 And should my services be deemd necessary in the field, before the present gathering storm shall be dispel’d, it would be the pride and glory of my Heart, to be placed by your side as an aid-de-camp, with a rank proportion’d to my former rank, experience, and service, so that I might be able to take command on any emergency.2

You have also herewith a Richmond paper containing an oration deliverd on the 4th Inst. by a Presbyterian clergyman, who, not many months ago, leaned very much to the Democratic side, and a slip from Davis’s paper of the 10th will shew you, that the friends of Government are determin’d—at least in this quarter—not to remain any longer silent spectators to E. R.’s subtle machinations behind the curtain. These papers are now handed to you, lest they may not be among those, which you regularly receive.3

May you long, very long enjoy animated Health, and strength of constitution. and when calld hence, to sup with our fathers, may you receive that never fading glory, wch is held up, as the reward of the Great—the Just—and the Good. So prays, your most affectionate friend, and faithful old fellow soldier

Will. Heth


William Heth (1750–1807), colonel of the 3d Virginia Regiment during the Revolution with whom GW dealt in the 1780s in the Society of the Cincinnati as its state treasurer, had received from GW in August 1789 the appointment of collector of the customs at Bermuda Hundred on the James River. His house Shillelah was in Henrico County.

1An inscribed copy with Heth’s corrections of An Infallible Cure, for Political Blindness, If Administered to Patients Possessing Sound Minds, Honest Hearts, and Independent Circumstances, which Heth published anonymously in Richmond in July, was in GW’s library at his death (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 100).

2Heth corresponded with GW during the next month (GW to Heth, 18 July, 5 Aug.; Heth to GW, 30 July, 14 August). As GW made clear to Heth and others, he was determined not to commit himself with regard to aides until the time came for appointing them. For a statement of the qualities he would require in his aides, see GW to James McHenry, 29 July 1798.

3Augustine Davis’s paper was the Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser. E. R. presumably is Edmund Randolph, who lived in Richmond.

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