From Gerard Vogels
Philadelphia 10 March 1784.
Tho’ personally unknown to your Excellency I have the Honor to inclose an Address in Verse sent by a Lady in Holland who never dedicated her Poems but to Virtue and Heroism, & who after having sung the great deeds of the Roman Warrior Germanicus in her Native tongue, thought it just to offer up her last poetical Breath in praise of an Hero who is esteemed by All to have equalled either ancient or modern Ones.1
Wishing the Remainder of your Excellency’s days as well as those of your amiable Consort may be as Happy as the former have been Glorious. I remain with the highest Esteem Your Excellency’s Most Obedient & Most Humble Servant.
Michael Hillegas, a merchant in Philadelphia and treasurer of the United States, wrote GW from Philadelphia on 22 Mar. 1784: “I have the honor herewith of transmitting to you the inclosed Letter. It was delivered me for this purpose by a Mr Vogel a Gentleman from Amsterdam” (ALS, DLC:GW). After giving his letter and Lucretia van Winter’s poem (see note 1) to Hillegas, Gerard Vogels wrote Nicholas van Winter that “Owing to the long winter and the severe frost on the river,” he did not receive the poem enclosed in a letter of 19 Oct. 1783 until 2 Mar. 1784. “I handed it immediately to Mr. Hillegas,” he wrote, “together with an address composed by my wife and myself. It is already on its way to H. Exc.’s country house in the care of a neighbor of the General who happened to be here and who will deliver it in person” (translated and quoted by Reitz in “An Unpublished Correspondence of George Washington,” description begins S. C. Bosch Reitz. “An Unpublished Correspondence of George Washington.” Journal of American History 24 (1930): 48–58. description ends 48–50).
Gerard Vogels was a Dutch businessman who arrived in Philadelphia during the Revolution and fell in love with America and with Elizabeth Moulder, daughter of Col. Joseph Moulder, whom he married in 1784. Though he says here to GW that he was “personally unknown to your Excellency,” Vogels wrote Lucretia van Winter and her husband at great length on 13 Dec. 1783 not only about GW’s activities after his arrival in Philadelphia on 8 Dec. but also about being in his presence and conversing with him: “I saw the greatest man who has ever appeared on the surface of this earth. His Excellency arrived at 6(?) o’clock escorted by light cavalry. He passed the coffee house which is here the exchange. Everybody came to the door when Capt. [Robert] Morris rode up with the officers of the light cavalry. We all waved our hats three times over our heads. Then came the excellent Hero himself, riding an uncommonly beautiful horse which, proud of its burden, appeared to me like the horse of Germanicus. I don’t know if in our delight at seeing the Hero we were more surprised by his simple but grand air or by the kindness of the greatest and best of heroes.
“To morrow we shall be introduced to General Washington, and next week we shall dine at the same table with His Excellency. Thursday by order of Congress is a general Thanksgiving day to be observed throughout all America.
“His Excellency promises to walk daily through the town to give the grateful Americans the pleasure of seeing him. Then he says farewell to all honors and the world’s turmoil, to live quietly in retirement on his estate, his God-fearing C[h]ristian sentiments assuring him immortality here and in the hereafter. . . . This morning, while I was in the Ambassador’s [Peter van Berckel’s] sitting room reporting a certain matter to his Honor, General Washington came in and spoke to me. I said that I was a Dutchman and considered myself fortunate in seeing the Hero who had so gloriously given the Americans their precious liberty. H. Exc. bowed very kindly and said ‘I hope the two Republics will always be of service to each other.’
“I have just come from the concert where the General has been the whole evening. He stayed till the song was going to be sung composed in his honor to Haendel’s music, when His Honor departed. Evidently H. Exc. is above hearing his praise sung and retires before the just acclamations of his people. It was amusing to see how, in a place so crowded with the fair sex, everybody had eyes only for this Hero; indeed we only now and then stole a glance at our girls; H. Exc. drew everyone’s attention. It was the most wonderful sight the world could produce, the noble virtues of the greatest and bravest hero crowned with supreme glory.
“At the end of the concert we sang the following verses, to the choice but very strong music of cymbals, kettle drum, trumpets, violins, oboes, basses, and flutes, in fact all instruments and all together, with deafening strength and feeling, followed by general shouting and clapping of hands. Everybody was in ecstasy.
See the conquering hero comes,
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums,
Sports prepare, the laurel bring
Songs of triumph to him sing. . . .
“... This morning, General Thanksgiving day, I was in Christ Church and General Washington sat down in the pew next to mine. Mr. [William] White, the parson, gave an appropriate sermon. In a sentence of five or six words he gave the Hero well deserved praise and urged the Americans, now free in religion as well as in politics, to make good use of these noble gifts. After church His Honor came after me and addressed me, I thanked him for the short and beautiful sermon. His Honor asked me to dinner for Tuesday next week. ‘You will be at table with General Washington. My brother-in-law Mr. Morris and my sister will come with H. Exc’ I said ‘Your most obedient, Sir, I will.’ Therefore I shall have twice the honor. If now I do not get vain I am not afraid that I ever shall” (ibid.).
1. The “Lady in Holland,” Lucretia Wilhelmina van Winter, the Dutch poet, dated her poem 20 Oct. 1783 and addressed it to “A Son Exelence, Monseigneur le General Washington. Commandant en Chef de leur Hautes Puissances, les Treize Etats unis de l’Amerique Septentrionale, Etc. Etc. Etc.” The poem is composed of twenty stanzas of four lines and ends:
Et que votre Statue, au Conseil etablie,
Soit par le grand Congres de ces nots honoré:
Contemplez Washington, Pere de la Patrie,
Defenseur de la Liberté.
David Stuart, who attempted a literal translation of the poem for GW, translated the stanza: “May your Statue established by Council, be honored by Congress, with these honourable words—Lo! Washington! the Father of his Country, the Protector of Liberty!” (DLC:GW). See the van Winters’ letter to GW of 10 April 1784 and GW to Lucretia van Winter, 30 Mar. 1785.