George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William McWhir, 24 December 1787

From William McWhir

Alexandria Decr 24th [1787]

Your Excellencie’s

Patronage and Bounty has so very essentially contributed to the growth and respectability of our school, that it would be highly blamable and imprudent in me, who am supported by it, to think of undertaking any thing which might have the smallest probability of injuring it, without taking the liberty of consulting you. Especially as your approbation or disapprobation of the measure, would render it injurious or the contrary. And upon this principle shall either put my design in execution or not, as Your Excellency shall think proper to advise.

From several letter[s] which I have lately had from my Father it appears to be highly necessary both to my interest and happiness that I should visit my Native country in the course of the ensuing year. The nature of my present employment however is such that I should scarcely have thought it practicable had I not receiyed a letter a few weeks ago from a Young Gentleman who informs me that he will be in Alexandria next Spring. He is a young man of liberal education, and unexceptionable Moral Character and would no doubt give satisfaction to the Trustees, if I can persuade him to supply my place for a few months. I should not propose being absent more than six, or at most, eight months; during which time I design to visit some of the principal towns both in Ireland and Scotland and should make it my business to enquire particularly after a Good Mathematician (a person much wanted in our School), A good Writer is also much wanted. I should also establish a connection by which I could have a constant supply of such books as we want, which at present cannot be got in N. York, Baltimore, or Philada. The People whom I have consulted upon this matter willingly agree to my going if I will promise to come back. This I am fully determined to do. And if I can only meet with Your Excellencies approbation I shall go with a cheerful heart looking upon my interest as secure.1 Please to pardon the liberty I take in troubling you with my private affairs and believe me to be Your Excellencies Most Obedt Hble Servt

W. McWhir


1GW responded from Mount Vernon the next day: “Sir, I have recd your letter of yesterday & in answer to it must observe that however desireous I may be to comply with your request and gratifying your wishes I do not consider myself at liberty to give an opinion on the subject, for altho’ I was appointed a visitor or Trustee yet having never acted in that capacity or taken any part in the management of the Acadamy I should not wish to interfere on this occasion, but will readily and cheerfully agree to whatever may be done by the Trustees on the subject.

“I am very glad to find that you have agreed to take my Nephews to board with you—I shall feel myself under less apprehension of any irregular and improper conduct on their parts while they are under your immediate inspection, than if they were to be placed with a person to whose advice or direction they would not consider themselves obliged to pay any attention. I am Sir—Yr Most Obedt Hbl. Servant G. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). The Rev. William McWhir (1759–1851) did not return to Alexandria in 1788 from a visit to his native northern Ireland.

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