George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Powel, 25 April 1785

From Samuel Powel

Philadelphia 25 April 1785

Dear Sir

Tho’ I am apprehensive that you may be fatigued with Letters of Recommendation, yet I cannot suffer the Bearer hereof, Dr Moyes, to leave this City on his intended Tour to the southern States, without requesting Permission to introduce him to your Notice. To General Greene I am indebted for an Introduction to this Gentleman, & hold myself his Debtor for remembering me on the Drs Subject, from whose interesting Conversation I have derived both Amusement & Instruction. His Lectures, on the Philosophy of chemistry & natural History, in this City, have been much frequented & greatly approved; & he is, I believe, universally esteemed to be both a rational & agreeable Companion, by those who have had the Opportunities of knowing him best.1

Mrs Powel begs Leave to join her best Wishes, for Mrs Washington & yourself, to those of Dear Sir Your most obedt humble Servt

Samuel Powel


1On 20 Mar. 1785 Francis Hopkinson wrote Thomas Jefferson in Paris about having recently had at his house in Philadelphia “Dr. Moyse the blind philosopher.” He went on to say: “I have mentioned Dr. Moyse. I will now tell you who he is. He is a Scotchman by Birth and a Philosopher by Profession. He came to America from England with the famous Mrs. Haley. He arrived I believe about a Year ago at Boston and has come from thence to this City, giving public Lectures in Natural philosophy all the way. He spent the beginning of this Winter at New York, where he became very popular and a great favourite of the Ladies in particular who crowded to his Lectures, and happy was she who [could] get him to dine or drink Tea at her House. Having gone thro’ his Course there and reaped no small Honour and Profit, he is now performing with us. But the Rage for philosophy at New York, is not to be compared with that of Philadelphia. He exhibits three Evenings in a Week in the College Hall, he has already given 10 or a Dozen Lectures to an Audience of not less than 10 and most commonly 1200 Persons. The Ladies are ready to break their Necks after him. They throng to the Hall at 5 o’Clock for places, altho’ his Lecture does not begin till 7. He has been blind from his Infancy, has made Philosophy his Study and is well acquainted with the present admitted Systems, adding sometimes Theories of his own, which he does however, with rather too much Arrogance” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 8:50–52). Nancy Shippen in Philadelphia wrote in her diary on 9 March: “Heard Dr Moyse again this Eveng upon trade winds & he gave us an account of the formation of the earth” (Nancy Shippen Journal, description begins Ethel Armes, ed. Nancy Shippen, Her Journal Book: The International Romance of a Young Lady of Fashion of Colonial Philadelphia with Letters to Her and about Her. Philadelphia, 1935. description ends 228). For further reference to Henry Moyes (Moyse) and his lectures, see Powel to GW, 24 June. The heat of the weather forced Dr. Moyes to beat a retreat before he reached Mount Vernon (Powel to GW, 5 July).

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