George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 8 January 1790]

Friday 8th. According to appointment, at 11 Oclock I set out for the City Hall in my Coach—preceeded by Colonel Humphreys and Majr. Jackson in Uniform (on my two White Horses) & followed by Mesr. Lear & Nelson in my Chariot & Mr. Lewis on Horse back following them. In their rear was the Chief Justice of the United States & Secretaries of the Treasury and War Departments in their respective Carriages and in the order they are named. At the outer door of the Hall I was met by the Doorkeepers of the Senate and House and conducted to the Door of the Senate Chamber; and passing from thence to the Chair through the Senate on the right, & House of representatives on the left, I took my Seat. The Gentlemen who attended me followed & took their stand behind the Senators; the whole rising as I entered. After being seated, at which time the members of both Houses also sat, I rose (as they also did) and made my Speech; delivering one Copy to the President of the Senate & another to the Speaker of the House of Representatives—after which, and being a few moments seated, I retired, bowing on each side to the Assembly (who stood) as I passed, and dessending to the lower Hall attended as before, I returned with them to my House.

In the Evening, a great number of Ladies, and many Gentlemen visited Mrs. Washington.

On this occasion I was dressed in a suit of Clothes made at the Woolen Manufactury at Hartford as the Buttons also were.

Robert Lewis was the son of Fielding Lewis and GW’s sister Betty Washington Lewis. He was brought up at Kenmore, the Lewis home in Fredericksburg, and educated at the academy there. In Mar. 1789 GW wrote his sister: “Since you were speaking to me concerning your Son Bob, I have thought it probable that I may have occasion for a young person in my family of a good disposition, who writes a good hand. . . . If Bob is of opinion that this employment will suit his inclination, and he will take his chance for the allowance that will be made (which cannot be great) as there are hundreds who would be glad to come in, I should be very glad to give him the preference.” The 19–year-old Robert accepted eagerly (GW to Betty Lewis, 15 Mar. 1789, DLC:GW; Robert Lewis to GW, 18 Mar. 1789, Scribner’s Monthly Mag., 14 [1877], 73). Since Mrs. Washington did not leave Mount Vernon for New York City until mid-May, Robert was instructed by his uncle to accompany her on her journey to the capital (GW to Lewis, 24 Mar. 1789, NN: Washington Collection; Robert Lewis’s diary, “A Journey from Fredericksburg Virginia to New York,” 13–20 May 1789, ViMtvL). Lewis remained with GW as one of his secretaries until 1791 when he resigned to return to Fredericksburg and marry Judith Walker Browne (1773–1830), daughter of William Burnet and Judith Carter Browne of Elsing Green, King William County (Lewis to GW, 10 Jan. 1791, ViHi). After his return to Virginia he acted as GW’s agent in the management of portions of GW’s western lands and served several terms as mayor of Fredericksburg (GW to Robert Lewis, 15 Oct. 1791, DLC:GW; SORLEY description begins Merrow Egerton Sorley, comp. Lewis of Warner Hall: The History of a Family . . .. 1935. Reprint. Baltimore, 1979. description ends , 229–33).

A letterbook copy of GW’s first annual address to Congress is in DLC:GW. See also WRITINGS description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 30:491–95. William Maclay, who was present in the Senate chamber, noted: “All this morning nothing but bustle about the Senate chamber in hauling chairs and removing tables. The President was dressed in a second mourning, and read his speech well. The Senate, headed by their Vice-President, were on his right. The House of Representatives, with their Speaker, were on his left. His family with the heads of departments attended. The business was soon over and the Senate were left alone. The speech was committed rather too hastily, as Mr. [Pierce] Butler thought, who made some remarks on it, and was called to order by the Chair. He resented the call, and some altercation ensued” (MACLAY description begins Charles A. Beard, ed. The Journal of William Maclay: United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789–1791. 1927. Reprint. New York, 1965. description ends , 170). The Pennsylvania Packet, 13 Jan. 1790, noted that “the doors of the Senate Chamber were open, and many citizens admitted.” suit of clothes: The Pennsylvania Packet for 14 Jan. 1790 noted: “The President of the United States, when he addressed the two Houses of Congress yesterday, was dressed in a crow-coloured suit of clothes, of American manufacture: The cloth appeared to be of the finest texture—the colour of that beautiful changeable blue, remarked in shades not quite black. This elegant fabric was from the manufactory in Hartford.”

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