George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Charles Fenton Mercer, 25 July 1798

To Charles Fenton Mercer

Mount Vernon 25th July 1798


Your letter with its enclosures have been received; whether in the ordinary course of the Mail I am unable to inform you, as you have omitted to give it a date. From the copies of yours to Doctr Smith, and his to the President, which are dated the 9th & 10th of June, It is to be feared that there has been much delay in the case.1

From the very sincere regard I entertained for your deceased Uncles and father, while living; but more especially from the favourable character given of yourself by Doctr Smith, I feel every disposition to second your wish to enter into the Army of the United States, in defence of those rights which have been, & continue to be, so outrageously attacked, by a Power which disregards all Law, & all Treaties which are found inconvenient for them to observe and, accordingly, have made your desires known to the Secretary of War, in a letter of this date, and wish, if not too late, that it may have the desired effect.

A close study of Law, would be incompatible with the Military duties you would have to perform as an Officers—but a considerable portion of your time might be devoted to the reading of it; and be more eligibly spent than in the dissipations which are but too common in a Camp or Quarters. I am Sir Your Very Hble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS, PWacD; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW. The right margin of the first page of the PWacD copy is frayed; the letterpress copy was used to confirm the reading given here. The letter is addressed to Mercer at “Princeton College New Jersey.”

Charles Fenton Mercer (1778–1858), son of James Mercer (1736–1793) and Eleanor Dick Mercer of Fredericksburg, was a graduate of the college at Princeton, and from 1797 to 1802 he read law at Princeton and in Richmond. Although offered a commission, Mercer did not enter the army but went on to have a very distinguished career in politics and business.

1GW forwarded Mercer’s letters and its enclosures to James McHenry on this day; they have not been found. Dr. Smith may be Samuel Stanhope Smith, president of Princeton. In March 1799 GW expressed his disapproval of Charles Mercer’s proposed promotion from lieutenant to the rank of captain in the Light Dragoons, citing his youth. He was pleased to learn shortly thereafter of Mercer’s declining the appointment (see GW to James McHenry, 25 Mar., 23 April, 5 May 1799 [second letter], and McHenry to GW, 29 April 1799).

Index Entries