George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Davidson, 20 January 1784

To John Davidson

Mount Vernon 20th Jany 84


The address from the Yankee Club of Stewartstown coming through your hands to me,1 I give you, without an apology for the trouble, the care of transmitting the enclosed answer to the Chairman thereof.2 I am Sir Yr most Obt Humbe Sert

G. Washington

LB, DLC:GW. Parke-Bernet catalog no. 1825 (29–30 April 1958, item 441) quotes from a letter of GW to Otho Holland Williams, 20 Jan. 1784: “The enclosed re [to] major Davidson containing an answer to the Address from the Yankee Club of Stewartstown, requests him to forward it to his brother, the Chairman thereof.”

John Davidson (1754–1807) was appointed naval officer at Annapolis in 1777 and was still in office on 2 July 1789 when he wrote GW asking to be reappointed. From 1783 to 1801 he was a member of the Maryland executive council. His brother Alexander Davidson was the chairman of the Yankee Club of Stewartstown.

1The text of the address, docketed by GW on 7 June 1783 “From the Yankee Club of Stewartstown in the County of Tyrone and Province of Ulster [in] Ireland,” is: “At an early period of the contest in which you have been so gloriously engaged, our sentiments fully met those of the Americans, and tho’ we long doubted the event, our warmest wishes were ever on the side of Freedom. Viewing with regret the oppressive scenes of misery under which our Native Country has long groaned without hopes of redress, & seeing the same direfull principle of Despotic sway pervading all the Courts and Countries of the World; we rejoiced to hear that the spirit of America had risen superior To the proud Menaces of both Regal and Ministerial oppression; had thrown off The galling yoke of slavery & nobly spurned the fetters that were to bind her In all cases whatsoever. Your situation however, compared with that of Great Britain, for a long time damped our hopes & caused many anxious fears. We could not conceive how an infant Country, scarcely known but as an appendage of a great Empire, unconnected among themselves, unprovided for War & without discipline could cope with an Ancient, powerfull & Victorious Nation; nor was it less difficult to imagine, who wou’d lead those unexperienced tho’ zealous Bands to freedom & Independence against the Artfull maneuvres of experienced Commanders & the infernal schemes of the selfish & disaffected.

“But when we were informed that your Excellency, in obedience to your Country’s call, had undertaken the Arduous task, & nobly embarked in the sacred cause of Liberty, rejecting every emolument which you might in justice have claimed for such signal & important services, such a singular and disinterested conduct, as an happy omen of American success, revived our Expectations & filled us with a kind of veneration for such a Character. And when you astonished the World by uniting the jarring interests & opinions of thirteen different States, ingaging by your manly prudence & mild address the affections of foreigners from various nations of Europe & even forcing approbation from the callous hearts of your invetrate enemies; your perseverence thro’ the darkest scenes without despondence or murmuring combating every difficulty which inclement seasons and the wants of a brave but distressed Army could lay in your way, and at last rising victorious over the best appointed troops and Generals of high fame in the military line; we were lost in admiration of that Wisdom, magnanimity & perseverance which by Triumphing over every danger has Established the Liberties of the United States on the most honorable & permanent Basis. Upon this happy Revolution, we have embraced the first opportunity to convince you of our unfeigned Esteem & the particular share we take in whatever tends to the honor and happiness of N. America.

“But your exertions have not only vindicated the freedom of your Country but have also shed their benign influences over the distressed Kingdom of Ireland. To you Sir in the Course of a gracious Providence which in a conspicuous manner has protected your person & blessed your Counsels, do we acknowledge ourselves indebted for our late happy deliverance from as banefull a System of Policy as ever disgraced the rights of mankind.

“With the sincerest pleasure therefore we mention our affectionate congratulations on an event which has crowned America with Sovereignty & Independance, blessings so essential to the safety and happiness of a People, And humbly request that your Excellency will permit us to express the joy we feel on the happy return of peace & the sincerest wishes that your Country may become more & more prosperous, increase in lustre & glory & subsist to the latest ages.

“And that you Sir may long live to enjoy the fruits of your wisdom & magnanimity, to be a terror to Tyrants, & shine forth as a glorious example of disinterested virtue & future Patriotism is and will be the constant prayer of Your much obliged most obedient & most devoted Humble Servants Sign’d in the name of the Society by Alexr Davidson Chairman” (DLC:GW).

2A draft of GW’s response dated at Mount Vernon, 20 Jan. 1784, is in David Humphreys’ hand. It reads: “It is with unfeigned satisfaction I accept your Congratulations on the late happy & glorious Revolution.

“The generous indignation, against the foes to the rights of human nature, with which you seem to be animated; and the exalted sentiments of Liberty, which you appear to entertain; are too consonant to the feelings & principles of the Citizens of the United States of America, not to attract their veneration & esteem—did not the affectionate & anxious concern with which you regarded their struggle for freedom & Independence, entitle you to their more particular acknowledgments.

“If in the course of our successful contest, any good consequences have resulted to the oppressed Kingdom of Ireland, it will afford a real source of felicitation to all who respect the interests of humanity.

“I am now, Gentlemen, to offer you my best thanks for the indulgent sentiments you are pleased to express of my conduct; and for your most benevolent wishes respecting my personal wellfare, as well as with regard to a more interesting object—the prosperity of my Country” (copy, DLC:GW). There is also a letter-book copy in DLC:GW. A Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Thomas Birch of Saintfield, Ireland, sent copies of the exchange between GW and the Yankee Club to the press (see McDowell, Irish Public Opinion, description begins R. B. McDowell. Irish Public Opinion, 1750–1800. London, 1944. description ends 49).

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