George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 24 October 1789]

Saturday 24th. Dressed by Seven Oclock, and set out at eight. At ten we arrived in Cambridge According to appointment; but most of the Militia having a distance to come were not in line till after eleven; they made however an excellent appearance with Genl. Brook at their Head. At this place the Lieutt. Govr. Mr. Saml. Adams, with the Executive Council met me and preceeded my entrance into town—which was in every degree flattering & honorable.1 To pass over the Minutiae of the arrangement for this purpose it may suffice to say that at the entrance I was welcomed by the Select men in a body, Then following the Lieutt. Govr. & Council in the order we came from Cambridge (preceeded by the Town Corps very handsomely dressed) we passed through the Citizens classed in their different professions, and under their own banners, till we came to the State House; from which, across the Street, an Arch was thrown; in the front of which was this Inscription—“To the Man who unites all hearts” and on the other—“To Columbia’s favourite Son” and on one side thereof next the State House, in a pannel decorated with a trophy, composed of the arms of the United States—of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—and our French Allies, crowned with a wreath of Laurel was this Inscription—“Boston relieved March 17th. 1776.” This arch was handsomely ornamented, and over the Center of it a Canopy was erected 20 feet high with the American Eagle perched on the top. After passing through the Arch, and entering the State House at the So. End & [as]cending to the upper floor & returning to a Balcony at the No. end—three cheers was given by a vast concourse of people who by this time had assembled at the Arch. Then followed an ode composed in honor of the President; and well sung by a band of select Singers2—after this three Cheers—followed by the different Professions, and Mechanics in the order they were drawn up with their Colours through a lane of the People which had thronged abt. the Arch under which they passed. The Streets, the Doors, Windows & Tops of the Houses were crouded with well dressed Ladies and Gentlemen. The procession being over I was conducted to my lodgings at a Widow Ingersolls3 (which is a very decent & good house) by the Lieutt. Govr. and Council—accompanied by the Vice-President where they took leave of me. Having engaged yesterday to take an informal dinner with the Govr. to day (but under a full persuation that he would have waited upon me so soon as I should have arrived) I excused myself upon his not doing it, and informing me thro his Secretary that he was too much indisposed to do it, being resolved to receive the visit.4 Dined at my Lodgings, where the Vice-President favoured me with his Company.

1The revolutionary statesman Samuel Adams (1722–1803) served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts 1789–93 and succeeded John Hancock as governor 1794–97.

The Massachusetts Magazine, Oct. 1789, noted that “At one o’clock, the President’s approach was announced by federal discharges from . . . artillery at Roxbury—from the Dorchester artillery posted on the celebrated heights of that town—from . . . artillery at the entrance of the town—and from Castle William; by a royal salute from the Ships of his most Christian Majesty’s squadron, and by the ringing of all the bells.” The Pennsylvania Packet, 18 Nov. 1789, observed that the “President’s dress, on his arrival . . . was the American uniform, with two rich apaulets. His other dress is black velvet.”

2The “Ode to Columbia’s Favorite Son: Great Washington, the Hero’s Come . . .” is printed in Pennsylvania Packet, 4 Nov. 1789. It was sung by the Independent Musical Society. To some observers GW appeared uncomfortable: “A gentleman who was present at his arrival in Boston observed that when he came out of the State House to hear the Ode that was sung on the occasion, every muscle of his face appeared agitated, and he was frequently observed to pass . . . his handkerchief across his eyes” (Hist. Collections of the Essex Institute, 67 [1931], 299–300).

3Tobias Lear had written on 15 Oct. to Christopher Gore, a Boston attorney and member of the Massachusetts legislature, to engage lodgings in Boston for the presidential party. Gore replied, 22 Oct., that he had arranged lodgings at “Mrs. [Joseph] Ingersoll’s house; at the corner of Court & Tremont Streets. . . . In the house are three parlours in the lower floor—three bed chambers on the second—and sufficient on the third to accomodate servants. In the neighborhood is a very good livery stable” (DECATUR description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends , 80).

4After GW had refused Hancock’s offer of lodging while the president was in Boston (see entry for 22 Oct. 1789), the governor had replied, 23 Oct., extending an invitation to GW and “the Gentlemen of your suit” to dine with him “en famille, at any hour that the circumstances of the day will admit” (DLC:GW). On the same day GW replied from Weston accepting the invitation (DNA: RG 59, Misc. Letters). The president had, however, assumed that the governor would make the first call. When it became apparent that Hancock’s illness, real or feigned, would not be an acceptable excuse to the president, he sent GW a note stating that “the Governor will do himself the honor of paying his respects in half an hour. This would have been done much sooner had his health in any degree permitted. He now hazards every thing as it respects his health for the desirable purpose” (26 Oct. 1789, DLC:GW). Hancock’s illness was reported to be gout. For public furor over the incident, see Boston Gaz., 26 Oct., 2 Nov. 1789, and Mass. Centinel, 28 Oct. 1789.

Index Entries