George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 2 February 1785]

Wednesday 2d. Mercury at 28 in the Morning 32 at Noon and [ ] at Night.

The Snow this morning is about 9 Inches deep & pretty well compressed.

Wind at No. West and very cold.

Mr. Scott went away after Breakfast. Employed myself (as there could be no stirring without) in writing Letters by the Post and in Signing 83 Diplomas for the members of the Society of the Cincinnati and sent them to the care of Colo. Fitzgerald in Alexandria—to be forwarded to General Williams of Baltimore the Assistant Secretary of the Society.

The Society of the Cincinnati, founded in 1783, was open to American officers who had served for three years in the army, or were in the army at the end of the Revolution, and to French officers of the rank of colonel and above. Later, naval officers were also included. The hereditary nature of the new society in particular aroused much bitter opposition. It was usual practice for GW to sign blank diplomas and send them to the state secretaries to be completed and issued to members (HUME description begins Edgar Erskine Hume, ed. General Washington’s Correspondence concerning the Society of the Cincinnati. Baltimore, 1941. description ends , xi—xvii).

Otho Holland Williams (1749–1794) was born in Prince George’s County, Md., the son of Joseph and Priscilla Holland Williams. He was secretary of the Maryland chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati and the first assistant secretary general of the national society. Williams had joined the army as a lieutenant in 1775 and retired as a brigadier general in 1783. After the war, he was appointed naval officer of Baltimore and, under the new Constitution, collector of customs for the port of Baltimore, a post he retained until his death.

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