George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Gordon, 9 April 1786

From William Gordon

Boston Apr. 9. 1786

My Dear Sir

This will probably be the last letter, you will receive from me till I have crossed the Atlantic. Should I get safe to London, through the kind orderings of Providence, shall take the first opportunity of writing to you. Expect to sail next Wednesday wind & weather permitting. Shall take your present with me, to remind me of your friendship.1 The honour your Excellency has done me in confiding in my prudence not to abuse the information received from your papers, binds me to yourself & will oblige me to answer your expectations. The abuse with which I have been loaded by the public prints shall only make me the more cautious in answering the character of a faithful Historian.2 If I can, will contrive that you may have the Chronicle as usual.3 Mrs Gordon joins in most affectionate regards to Your Excellency, Your Lady, & the rest of your worthy family. Your Excellencys sincere friend & humble servant

William Gordon


1As a matter of fact Gordon wrote one more letter from Boston, on 15 April, to report: “The ship not sailing so soon as expected, gives me the opportunity of forwarding another paper. I have engaged the Revd Mr [Joseph] Eckley of this place to send you it from week to week. He will have pleasure in doing it; & it will be no expence to him as he takes it in weekly. We are now waiting only for a wind” (DLC:GW). See Joseph Eckley to GW, 20 April. GW had sent Gordon flowering trees (see GW to Gordon, 6 Dec. 1785).

2After Gordon published his prospectus, dated 1 Dec. 1785, announcing the intended publication of his history of the American Revolution and inviting subscribers to remit one-half the price of the work (see GW to James Mercer, 20 Jan. 1786), he was attacked in the Boston press, for being British, for his plans to have his work printed in Britain, and for demanding immediate payment by subscribers. One correspondent to the Massachusetts Centinel (Boston) suggested that before paying, subscribers should inquire “whether their MONEY, together with the MANUSCRIPT, are to be carried by the AUTHOR to Britain, for the sole benefit and advantage of the typical gentry of LONDON” (8 Feb. 1786). Another correspondent returned Gordon’s prospectus “without one subscriber, our people in this quarter say that they hear he is going to England to print it, and observe that our country must be in a dangerous situation, for . . . when a Ship is to be cast away, the Rats leave her before she sails” (18 Feb. 1786). A third complained of Gordon’s pompous advertisement and of his failure to show his manuscript “even to his most intimate friends” (22 Feb. 1786). On 1 Mar. the Centinel printed under the headline “Anti-American HISTORY!!” an attack on the proposed “History of the American Revolution, by WILLIAM WHACKUM, D.D.,” which ends: “Whose expectation can be so high raised by the proposals of a certain Compiler, as to expect any other than a dirty performance, as all the merit this mealy-mouthed writer lays claim to, is his having been permitted to view the secrets of Congress, and look into the privies of the American Generals.”

3See note 1.

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