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To George Washington from Joseph Leech, 19 April 1796

From Joseph Leech

Newbern North Carolina 19th April 1796


The Inhabitants of the Town of Newbern hope they may stand excused for any forwardness, or indiscretion which may appear in this address, if the[y] convey to you expressions of gratitude and approbation, as the only return your fellow Citizens have the power of making for the hard and in some instances, vexatious burden, which their affections and confidence have placed upon you.1

We consider, Sir, that your having refused to comply with the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 24th March, upon the ground you have taken, among the most signal acts of service which your eminent Virtues & Talents have rendered your Country;2 as the influence of your examples, may prolong the date of the Constitution, many ages beyond what might have been the short period of its’ existence, had you admitted the principle, and yielded to the requisition of the House—It is the pride and the boast of every enlightened American, that the principles which have been associated in the composition of our most excellent Constitution, have eminently qualified it to extend the most perfect liberty, security and protection, to every rank and condition of life, and they, who know how to appreciate such a blessing, cannot see any act, that may have the most remote tendency to rob them of it, without alarm, nor behold any exertion to preserve it, but with emotions of gratitude.

In addition, suffer us to express the warmest wishes which grateful hearts can feel for your welfare, that it may be the happiness of America, long to experience the Wisdom of your influence in the management of affairs; and that you may long enjoy that satisfaction which the confidence and gratitude of a happy People is capable of conferring.3 In behalf of the Citizens of the Town of Newbern I have the Honor to be with The most profound Respect Sir Your most obedient and very humble Servant

Joseph Leech Ch[airma]n


Joseph Leech (1720–1803) was a New Bern businessman and a militia officer. Active in politics, he held numerous local and state elected offices. Leech participated in the 1788 and 1789 conventions called to consider the federal constitution.

1Leech enclosed the proceedings of a meeting held on 19 April that passed three resolutions. The first fully approved “the firm and independant temper with which the President of the United States has withstood a compliance with the resolution” of 24 March requesting papers regarding Jay Treaty negotiations. The second called for an address “expressive of the gratitude and admiration with which every Individual present feels himself agitated, on the recollection of the virtues, integrity, and real love of Country, which determined the President to resist the Resolution of the House, in support of our most excellent Constitution, and in preservation of the liberty, tranquillity and happiness, which as long as the harmony of it’s balances remains undisturbed, it is calculated to ensure us.” The third expressed regret “that so much of the public time and Treasure should be consumed in a discussion, which a candid resort to the Constitution in the first instance, might possibly have prevented” (DS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW).

2Leech is referring to GW’s message to the U.S. House dated 30 March. For the resolution adopted on 24 March, see GW to the Cabinet, 25 March, n.1.

3GW replied to Leech on 5 May: “I have received from you the address and resolutions of the inhabitants of the town of Newbern, passed at their meeting on the 19th of April, noticing the call of the House of Representatives for the papers relating to the negociation of the treaty with Great-Britain, and my answer to that call.

“A sacred regard to the constitution, and to the best interests of the United States as involved in its preservation, having governed my conduct on that occasion, the consciousness thereof would at all times have furnished me with strong ground of satisfaction: but it gives me real pleasure to find that conduct approved by my fellow-citizens; and the kind and affectionate terms in which the approbation of the inhabitants of Newbern has been conveyed to me, are peculiarly grateful, and demand my cordial acknowledgements. These I beg you to express to them, with my sincere thanks for their earnest wishes for my welfare” (Df, in Timothy Pickering’s writing, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW; GW wrote the dateline and docket on the draft). Secretary of State Timothy Pickering probably supplied the draft to GW on 20 May, and GW chose to backdate the reply (see Pickering’s second letter to GW on that date).

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