George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 2 November 1789]

Monday 2d. Having made previous preparations for it—About 8 Oclock attended by the President, Mr. Langden & some other Gentlemen, I went in a boat to view the harbour of Portsmouth; which is well secured against all Winds; and from its narrow entrance from the Sea, and passage up to the Town, may be perfectly guarded against any approach by water. The anchorage is also good & the Shipping may lay close to the Docks &ca. when at the Town. In my way to the Mouth of the Harbour, I stopped at a place called Kittery in the Provence of Main, the River Piscataqua being the boundary between New Hampshire and it. From hence I went by the Old Fort (formerly built while under the English government) on an Island which is at the Entrance of the Harbour and where the Light House stands.1 As we passed this Fort we were saluted by 13 Guns. Having Lines we proceeded to the Fishing banks a little with out the Harbour and fished for Cod—but it not being a proper time of tide we only caught two—with wch. about 1 Oclock we returned to Town.2 Dined at Col. Langdons, and drank Tea there with a large Circle of Ladies and retired a little after Seven O’clock. Before dinner I recd. an address from the Town—presented by the Vice-President and returned an answer in the Evening to one I had recd. from Marblehead and an other from the Presbiterian Clergy of the State of Massachusetts & New Hampshire delivered at Newbury Port; both of which I had been unable to answer before.3

1Fort William and Mary, later called Fort Constitution, was on Newcastle Island in Portsmouth harbor.

2According to tradition in Tobias Lear’s family, “On the trip down the Piscataqua River, Washington landed for a few minutes on the opposite bank at Kittery, or rather Kittery Point, Maine, and made a short call on the Reverend Dr. Stevens, the pastor of the old Kittery Church. The President landed on the old stone dock.” Rev. Dr. Benjamin Stevens (1720–1791) had been pastor of the First Church in Kittery, Maine, since 1751. His daughter Sally was married to Rev. Joseph Buckminster whose church GW had attended on 1 Nov. GW’s first attempt at deep-sea fishing was apparently even less successful than he intimates. One of the two cod “was hooked by a fisherman named Zebulon Willey, who was trying his luck in a neighboring boat. Getting a bite, he handed his line to the President, who landed the fish and rewarded Zebulon with a silver dollar. When returning to town, the President saw an old acquaintance. This was Captain John Blunt, the helmsman of the boat during the famous crossing of the Delaware” (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 , 84; DEXTER description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, ed. Extracts from the Itineraries and other Miscellanies of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D., 1755–1794, with a Selection from His Correspondence. New Haven, 1916. description ends , 562).

3These addresses and replies are in DLC:GW.

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