George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Smith, 1 November 1780

From William Smith

Philadelphia Novr 1st 1780

May it please your Excellency

I have the Honor herewith to transmit to you the Certificate or Diploma of your Election into the American Philosophical Society; which ought to have been made out at the Time of its Date. As this Business, viz. the preparing the Draft (which was to be a special one) & getting it engross’d, lay upon the then acting Secretary, it is my Duty to make an apology for the Delay; and to assure your Excellency that it proceeded only from a Desire to have it executed in the Manner which might do the greatest Honor to the Society; added to some Engagments of the Person intended to be the Penman.

The Mention of these Circumstances will, I trust, obtain me your Excellency’s Excuse for the Delay abovementioned. The Society have receiv’d your polite & elegant Letter, declaring your Acceptance of Membership; and, to testify how much they think themselves honoured by it, they have ordered it to be recorded among their Proceedings.1 Praying that the Time may soon come, when the Situation of our Country may permit all the Members of the Society to pay a more immediate Attention to the Objects of their Institution, I am, with the utmost Respect, Your Excellency’s most obedt humble Servt

William Smith


GW replied to Smith, secretary of the American Philosophical Society, from head-quarters at Passaic Falls on 15 Nov.: “I am particularly in debted to you for the obliging manner in which you have executed the trust reposed in you by the American Philosophical Society. An excuse for the little delay that attended it, could have only found a motive in your politeness.

“All the circumstances of the election, are too flattering, not to enhance the honor I feel in being distinguished by the fellowship of a Society so eminently respectable.

“I warmly unite with you in the wish, that the happy period may speedily arrive Which will enable all the Members to devote themselves to advancing the objects of this most useful institution” (ALS, PHi: Etting Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; the date is taken from the draft, which is in the writing of GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton).

1For GW’s election to the American Philosophical Society and his membership certificate, see GW to Joseph Reed, 15 Feb., and Fig. 3 accompanying that document.

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