George Washington Papers

Certificate for James Rumsey, 7 September 1784

Certificate for James Rumsey

[Bath, Va., 7 September 1784]

I have seen the model of Mr Rumsey’s Boats constructed to work against stream; have examined the power upon which it acts; have been an eye witness to an actual experiment in running water of some rapidity; & do give it as my opinion (altho’ I had little faith before) that he has discovered the art of propelling Boats, by mechanism & small manual assistance, against rapid currents: that the discovery is of vast importance—may be of the greatest usefulness in our inland navigation—&, if it succeeds, of which I have no doubt, that the value of it is greatly enhanced by the simplicity of the works; which when seen & explained to, might be executed by the most common Mechanic’s.1

Given under my hand at the town of Bath, county of Berkeley in the State of Virga this 7th day of September 1784.

G: Washington

LB, DLC:GW. Another copy of GW’s original certificate, which Rumsey sent to Gov. Benjamin Harrison, is in Governor’s Letter Book no. 5, Nc-Ar. A contemporary copy, now in MdAN, was printed on 9 Oct. 1784 in the Virginia Gazette or, American Advertiser (Richmond) with these words of introduction: “By the following Certificate it will appear, that our beloved General, in his retreat from the Glories of the Field, still continues to encourage, and pay attention to, such undertakings as are pregnant with great utility to his country.”

1In his journal on 6 Sept., GW describes at some length viewing the operation of James Rumsey’s model at Bath in Frederick County (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:9–10). A sketch of the mechanical boat that “walked on the bottom of shallow streams” is reproduced there on page 9. See also GW’s correspondence with Rumsey in 1785 [1] [2] [3] [4].

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