George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Henderson, 5 June 1788

From Richard Henderson

Bladensburgh [Md.] June 5th 1788


The impression made upon me by the inclosed letter, has surmounted the hesitation I felt, at the thought of troubling you with it; for the Queries are beyond my capacity of answering, as I was desired to do, and seem worthy of attention from the greatest.

I know not the writer. He lives in the north of Scotland, where the body of the people are useless to society, by the neglect of their rulers; and miserable, by the engrossed state of land, and the expensiveness of landlords, which leaves not a subsistence to their tenants.

It is a pity that a vigorous people, who are easily ruled by humane usage, should remain in misery, as recruits some day to pester us, when they might be improving the soil or navigation of this country, to their own felicity.

The letter has been some time in this country, & deserved no attention, untill the prospect of a good government opened. But now I think it proper to submit it to your observations, hoping that you will bestow a little time, in giving information, that may be transmitted either as coming from you, or not, as you please, to a man who may become an usefull fellow citizen.1

The love you have shewn to our country, produced that sincere respect and regard which have led me to trouble you on this occasion—And this is the only apology which can with truth be made by Sir Your most Obedt Servt

Rd Henderson


Before the Revolution Richard Henderson of Bladensburg, Md., in partnership with his fellow townsman Dr. David Ross and others, owned the Frederick ironworks on the Potomac River at the mouth of Antietam Creek. When on his way to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia in May 1787, GW dined at Henderson’s house after crossing over the river from Mount Vernon on 9 May (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:153).

1In his response of 19 June GW indicates that the enclosed letter, which has not been found, was from someone named St. Clair. It probably was from John Sinclair (1754–1835) of Caithness in Scotland, the first president of Britain’s board of agriculture and author of the influential The Statistical Account of Scotland, the first volume of which appeared in 1791. On 18 May 1792 Sir John sent GW agricultural “Pamphlets & Papers” which GW acknowledged on 20 Oct., beginning a correspondence in which the two men exchanged dozens of letters before GW’s death in 1799. For a listing of pamphlets and other works that Sinclair sent to GW during these years, see Griffin, Boston Athenæum Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 89–95.

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