George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 17 October 1789]

Saturday 17th. A little after Sun-rise we left Fairfield, & passing through Et. Fairfield breakfasted at Stratford, wch. is ten Miles from Fairfield, and is a pretty village on or near Stratford Rivr. The Road between these two places is not on the whole bad (for this Country)—in some places very gd. especially through Et. Fairfield wch. is in a plain, and free from Stone. There are two decent looking Churches in this place—though small—viz.—an Episcopal and Presbeterian, or Congregationalist (as they call themselves). At Stratford there is the same. At this place I was received with an effort of Military parade; and was attended to the Ferry which is near a mile from the Center of the Town, by sevl. Gentlemen on horse back. Doctr. Johnson of the Senate visited me here, being with Mrs. Johnson in this Town (where he formerly resided).1 The Ferry is near half a Mile; and sometimes much incommoded by Winds and cross tides. The Navigation for Vessels of about 75 Tonns extends up to Darby, ten Miles higher, where it is said there is a pretty brisk trade. At Stratford they are establishing a Manufactury of Duck, and have lately turned out about 400 bolts.2 From the Ferry it is abt. 3 Miles to Milford, which is situated in more uneven and Stoney grd. than the 3 last Villages through wch. we passed. In this place there is but one Church, or in other words but one steeple—but there are Grist & saw Mills and a handsome Cascade over the Tumbling dam; but one of the prettiest things of this kind is at Stamford occasioned also by damming the water for their Mills; it is near 100 yds. in width, and the water now being of a proper height, and the Rays of the Sun striking upon it as we passed, had a pretty effect upon the foaming Water as it fell. From Millford we took the lower road through West haven, part of which was good and part rough, and arrived at New haven before two Oclock; We had time to Walk through several parts of the City before Dinner. By taking the lower Road, we missed a Committee of the assembly, who had been appointed to wait upon, and escort me into town—to prepare an Address and to conduct me when I should leave the City as far as they should judge proper.3 The address was presented at 7 Oclock and at Nine I received another address from the Congregational Clergy of the place.4 Between the rect. of the two Addresses I received the Compliment of a Visit from the Govr. Mr. Huntington 5—the Lieutt. Govr. Mr. Wolcot 6 and the Mayor Mr. Roger Shurman.7 The City of Newhaven occupies a good deal of ground, but is thinly, though regularly laid out, & built. The number of Souls in it are said to be about 4000. There is an Episcopal Church and 3 Congregational Meeting Houses and a College in which there are at this time about 120 Students under auspices of Doctr. Styles.8 The Harbour of this place is not good for large Vessels—abt. 16 belongs to it. The Linnen Manufacture does not appear to be of so much importance as I had been led to believe—In a word I could hear but little of it.9 The Exports from this City are much the same as from Fairfield &ca. and flax seed (chiefly to New York). The Road from Kings bridge to this place runs as near the Sound as the Bays and Inlets will allow, but from hence to Hartford it leaves the Sound and runs more to the Northward.

1William Samuel Johnson (1727–1819) was a prominent Connecticut lawyer, who had served in the colony’s legislature in the 1760s and from 1767 to 1771 was colonial agent for Connecticut in London. After the Revolution he served in the Continental Congress 1784–87. One of the ablest proponents of the Constitution in the Constitutional Convention, he was elected United States senator from Connecticut in 1789. At this time he was also president of Columbia College. In 1749 he had married Ann Beach (d. 1796) of Stratford.

2The manufactory at Stratford for the production of duck, a closely woven durable fabric often made of cotton, was still largely a cottage industry (CLARK [4] description begins Victor S. Clark. History of Manufactures in the United States. 3 vols. New York, 1929. description ends , 1:530; HAMILTON [2] description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 9:321).

3The committee of the Connecticut legislature waited for GW at Woodruff’s tavern, about five miles from New Haven (John Chester to GW, 17 Oct. 1789, DLC:GW).

4The assembly’s address and GW’s reply, dated 17 Oct., are in DLC:GW. The address “of six Congregational Ministers” was presented by Ezra Stiles (STILES description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, ed. The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D., President of Yale College. 3 vols. New York, 1901. description ends , 3:369). The address, 17 Oct., is in DLC:GW. GW’s reply is in CtY: U.S. President’s Collection. Both the addresses and GW’s replies are printed in Pa. Packet, 29 Oct. 1789.

5Samuel Huntington (1731–1796) was a native of Windham, Mass. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1758 and served the colony in various judicial capacities and in the legislature in the 1760s and 1770s. Huntington was a member of the Continental Congress 1775–84, serving as president 1779–81, and upon his resignation because of ill health GW had written him a warm letter of appreciation (25 July 1781, DLC:GW). In 1786 he was elected governor of Connecticut, a post he held for 11 years. A firm supporter of the Constitution, he had campaigned vigorously in his state for its adoption.

6Oliver Wolcott, Sr. (1726–1797), a native of Windsor, Conn., and a Yale graduate, had been active in Connecticut politics before and during the Revolution and had led Connecticut militia in the campaign against Burgoyne. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and, except for one term in 1779, served until 1783, although his attendance was interrupted periodically by his military service. He was elected lieutenant governor of Connecticut in 1787 and succeeded Samuel Huntington as governor in 1796. Although GW apparently had relatively little contact with the elder Wolcott, his son Oliver Wolcott, Jr. (1760–1833), was now serving as auditor of the treasury and in 1795 succeeded Hamilton as GW’s second secretary of the treasury.

7Roger Sherman (1721–1793), a native of Newton, Mass., moved to Connecticut in 1743. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1754 but by the 1760s had become a leading merchant in New Haven and Wallingford. Sherman was a conservative during the Revolution but supported the Patriot cause and served in the Continental Congress 1774–81, 1783–84. Although he at first favored strengthening the Confederation, he supported the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention. At this time Sherman represented Connecticut in the federal House of Representatives.

8Ezra Stiles (1727–1795) was born in New Haven, Conn., and educated at Yale. After some years as a tutor at Yale while he studied both law and theology, he was admitted to the bar in 1753 and in 1755 was ordained as a minister in the Congregational Church. A staunch Patriot during the Revolution, he became president of Yale in 1778 and held the post until his death.

9The linen factory at New Haven was under the management of Josiah Burr, and a large portion of the coarse linen produced there was shipped to the southern states and the West Indies. It was probably the same establishment visited in the mid–1790s by the duc de La Rochefoucauld, who described it as “a cotton-work at the distance of two miles from the town. The spinning engine is put in motion by water; but the dereliction of this manufacture may be foretold, as its success is opposed by all the obstacles common in similar cases. Besides the expence upon the buildings has been far too considerable” (HAMILTON [2] description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 9:319, 321; LA ROCHEFOUCAULD description begins Duke de La Rochefoucauld Liancourt. Travels through the United States of North America, the Country of the Iroquois, and Upper Canada, in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797; with an Authentic Account of Lower Canada. 2 vols. London, 1799. description ends , 2:322).

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