George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Winthrop Sargent, 20 February 1784

From Winthrop Sargent

Boston Feby the 20th 1784

Desirous of contributing to the Amusement of your Excellency I do myself the honor to Transmit you a Poem of Eulogy on the Institution of The Society of Cincinnati—I hazard it to your Excellency’s Judgment without more Preface than an Extract from its accompanying Letter.1

If your Excellency & Mrs Washington (to whom I beg Leave to present my Respects) deign to grant the approbating Smile I shall have great Joy in that Felicity which I know it will bestow on the fair Poetess—with Sincere & warm Wishes for your Excellency’s Happiness I have the Honor to be Dear Sir your most obedient Humble Servant

Winthrop Sargent


Winthrop Sargent (1753–1820) of Gloucester, Mass., served in the Continental army throughout the war and was promoted to captain on 1 Jan. 1777. From 1787 to 1798 he was secretary of the Northwest Territory under Gov. Arthur St. Clair, and in 1798 he became the first governor of the Mississippi Territory. Thomas Jefferson’s refusal to reappoint him governor in 1801 ended Sargent’s public career, but he continued to write papers for the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on various natural phenomena that he had observed.

1The poem that Sargent enclosed, which runs to about three hundred lines, was written by his sister, Judith Sargent Stevens (1751-1820), who in 1788 married the Universalist minister John Murray (1741–1815). Sargent also included an extract of Judith’s letter to him, which reads in part: “The proposals for forming the Society are greatly worthy the amiable Character of Patrons of Liberty—May nought impede their Progress. . . . May their Order indeed endure as long as Nature herself shall endure—My Sentiments you will see more fully exprest in the Attempt at Poetry which I take the Liberty to transmit . . . Reading the Institution [of the Cincinnati] over last Evening I could not forbear seizing the Pen.” She begins her poem with the lines:

Hail glorious Period! Hail benignant Peace!

Now dinning Arms their hostile Clamour cease!

And she ends with the promise that the “Goddess Fame”:

Shall own the Cincinnati’s fairer Claim

Its Right undoubted to the Gift of Fame

And while her Plaudit thus bestows Renown

With her own hand affix the blooming Crown.

A transcription of the poem is in CD-ROM:GW.

For the rest of her life Mrs. Murray wrote and published poems, essays, and plays. Both GW and Martha Washington were listed as subscribers to her collection of writings, The Gleaner, published at Boston in 1798 in three volumes under her pseudonym Constantia.

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