To Maryland Masons
[Baltimore] November 8th 1798
Gentlemen & Brothers,
Your obliging and affectionate letter, together with a Copy of the constitutions of Masonary, has been put into my hands by your Grand Master; for which I pray you to accept my best thanks.1
So far as I am acquainted with the principles and doctrines of Free Masonary, I conceive it to be founded in benevolence, and to be exercised only for the good of Mankind; I cannot, therefore, upon this ground, withhold my approbation of it.
While I offer my grateful acknowledgements for your congratulations on my late appointment, and for the favorable sentiments you are pleased to express of my conduct, permit me to observe, that, at this important and critical moment, when high and repeated indignities have been offered to the Government of our Country, and when the property of our Citizens is plundered without a prospect of redress, I conceive it to be the indispensable duty of every American, let his situation and circumstances in life be what they may, to come forward in support of the Government of his choice, and to give all the aid in his power towards mantaining that Independence which we have so dearly purchased; and, under this impression, I did not hesitate to lay aside all personal considerations and accept my appointment.
I pray you to be assured that I receive with gratitude your kind wishes for my health and happiness, and reciprocate them with sincerity. I am, Gentlemen & Brothers, very respectfully your most Obedt Servt
LS, MdHi; Df, DLC:GW. Both are in Tobias Lear’s hand.
1. GW left Mount Vernon with Tobias Lear for Philadelphia on the morning of 5 November. On 7 Nov. he was met by “the Baltimore horse & escorted in and out by the same.” He had breakfast in the town and “viewed a Brigade of Militia” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:322). He also received an address signed by William Belton, grand master of the Maryland Masons, and Peter Little, the general secretary, which reads: “Sir & Brother, The Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free Masons for the State of Maryland, wishing to testify the respect in which the whole fraternity in this State, hold the Man who is at once the Ornament of the Society and of his Country; voted a Copy of the Constitutions of Masonry lately printed under it’s Authority, to be presented to You. Accept, Sir and Brother from our hands, this small token of veneration of Men, who consider it as the greatest boast of their Society, that a Washington openly avows himself a Member of it, and thinks it worthy of his approbation; with it accept also, our warmest congratulations, in the name of the body which we represent, on the re-appointment to that elevated station in which you formerly wrought the Salvation of your Country; and on your restoration to the inestimable blessings of health; which that the Almighty disposer of events may continue to You uninterruptedly, is the most earnest Prayer of Your most respectfully affectionate Brethren” (DLC:GW).