George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nicolas Pike, 1 January 1788

From Nicolas Pike

Newbury Port [Mass.]
Jany 1st 1788

May it please your Excellency

Although a Permission to dedicate my Book to your Excellency, the honor of which, however, I had no right to claim, would have afforded me the highest gratification, yet your Excellency’s declining to grant it, though in the most obliging and condescending terms, was mortifying to a Breast glowing with Affection and Esteem.1

you will undoubtedly observe, Sir, that the date of my Dedication is prior to that of the Letter with which your Excellency was pleased to honor me:2 The reason of which is, that, although Mr Bowdoin is undoubtedly the first, and one of the best Characters in this State, yet, so unreasonable, cruel & unjust are the popular prejudices, that had I not fixed the date to a time antecedent to the existence of those Prejudices, which are the Offspring of Falshood & Ingnorance, I have great reason to believe it would have ruined the sale of my Book, so far as respects the common People.

Although your Excellency’s Library does not admit any useless Books, yet as that, which accompanies this, is the first fruit of my Labors, I hope your Excellency will ⟨mutilated⟩ the honor to accept it3 as a small token of the unfeigned Gratitude and Esteem, of your Excellency’s much obliged, and most obedient & hble Servant

Nicolas Pike

Please, Sir, to make my Respects acceptable to Mr Lear.

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW.

1See Pike to GW, 25 Mar. 1786, and note 1 of that document.

2GW wrote Pike on 20 June 1786 declining to give permission for Pike to dedicate his book to him.

3GW replied from Mount Vernon on 20 June 1788: “Sir, I request you will accept my best thanks for your polite letter of Jany 1st (which did not get to my hand till yesterday) and also for the copy of your ‘System of Arithmetic’ which you were pleased to present to me. The handsome manner in which that Work is printed and the elegant manner in which it is bound, are pleasing proofs of the progress which the Arts are making in this Country. But I should do violence to my own feelings, if I suppressed an acknowledgment of the belief that the work itself is calculated to be equally useful and honorable to the United States.

“It is but right, however, to apprise you, that, deffedent of my own decision, the favorable opinion I entertain of your performance is founded rather on the explicit and ample testimonies of gentlemen confessedly possessed of great mathematical knowledge, than on the partial and incompetent attention I have been able to pay to it myself. But I must be permitted to remark that the subject, in my opinion, holds a higher rank in the literary scale than you are disposed to allow. The science of figures, to a certain degree, is not only indispensably requisite in every walk of civilised life; but the investigation of mathematical truths accustoms the mind to method and correctness in reasoning, and is an employment peculiarly worthy of rational beings. In a clouded state of existence, when so many things appear precarious to the bewildered research, it is here that the rational faculties find a firm foundation to rest upon. From the high ground of mathematical and philosophical demonstration, we are insensibly led to far nobler speculations and subblimer meditations.

“I hope and trust that the Work will ultimately prove not less profitable than reputable to yourself. It seems to have been conceded, on all hands, that such a System was much wanted. Its merits being established by the approbation of competent Judges, I flatter myself that the idea of its being an American production, and the first of the kind which has appeared, will induce every patriotic and liberal character to give it all the countenance and patronage in his power—In all events, you may rest assured, that, as no person takes more i[n]terest in the encouragement of American Genius, so no one will be more highly gratified with the success of your inginious, arduous and useful undertaking than he, who has the unfeigned pleasure to subscribe himself Yrs &c. Go. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW).

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