George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Ewing, 26 February 1799

To James Ewing

Mount Vernon 26th Feby 1799


The Columbian Alphabet which you were so polite as to send me, came safe, and for which I pray you to accept my thanks. It is curious, and if it could be introduced, might be useful for the purposes proposed; but it will be a work of time, it is to be feared, before it shall be adopted, generally.1 I am Sir Your most Obedt Hble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), NN: Washington Papers; LB, in hand of Albin Rawlins, owned (1976) by Miss Penissa Wills and Mr. L.J. Wills, Halesowen, England.

James Ewing (1744–1824), the U.S. commissioner of loans in New Jersey from 1786 to 1789, applied to GWin 1790 and 1791 for office under the new government without success. See Ewing to GW, 15 Jan. 1790, and note.

1Ewing gave The Columbian Alphabet, his 28–page pamphlet published in Trenton in 1798, this descriptive subtitle: Being an Attempt to New Model the English Alphabet, in Such Manner as to Mark Every Simple Sound by an Appropriate Character, Thereby Rendering the Spelling and Pronunciation More Determinate and Correct, and the Art of Reading and Writing More Easily Attainable. When Ewing sent a copy to GW he inscribed the flyleaf: “To George Washington to whose name no titles are any Addition this attempt to call the attention of his Countrymen to a very important improvement in their Language, is respectfully presented by his Very humble Servant THE AUTHOR” (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 77–78).

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