George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 21 December 1788

From Henry Knox

New York 21 December 1788

It is a long time my dear Sir since I have had the pleasure of addressing you, owing to my having been into Massachusetts and the province of main,1 during the period of the last four months.

I have received your favor enclosing some foreign applications for admission into the Cincinnati—These papers are placed on the files of the society but cannot be acted on, untill the next general meeting to be held in 1792.2

In the states of New Hampshire Massachusetts and Connecticut, the great object of organizing the new constitution, engrosses the attention of the people—It is with sincere satisfaction that I can assert from personal observation that the affection for the new system is encreasing in those states and that it is dayly becoming highly popular.

The senators of those states are characters calculated to inspire confidence in the new government, and are all highly federal—I am persuaded the representatives will generally if not entirely be of the same description.

As to Rhode Island, the Majority are in such a train that nothing good can at present be expected from them—their paper money system, and tender-laws, are sufficiently characteristick of their pursuits.

New York are also laboring under errors of Conduct—But from the powerful party in favor of the new system something may be hoped from the ensuing elections.

New Jersey, Pennsylvania Delaware and Maryland are right.

The late choice of representatives in Pennsylvania may be considered as a new and fair appeal to the people as it respects their approbation of the new government—Although the party in favor of their local constitution have been brought to operate against the general constitution, yet it appears the majority of the people are its firm supporters.

Mr John Adams will probably have the plurality of votes for vice President From his principles of government—as well as his professions of regard to the Character universally decided on for The President he will probably make a good vice President.

Major Haskell who is going to Europe is very solicitous to obtain your Excellencys certificate of his services3—He sustained the Character of a brave and good officer—and at present he supports the reputation of a good Citizen—It is with diffidence I ask this certificate but the request is made under such auspices that I cannot avoid it.

Our three youngest Children have lately had the measles, and are we hope safely through the disorder—Our Eldest children Lucy and Harry are about sickning with it.

Mrs Knox presents her respects to you and unites with me in presenting your Respects to Mrs Washington. I am my Dear Sir your affectionate friend and Humble Servant

H. Knox

If Colo. Humphreys is with you, I pray that my love may be given him.

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NNGL: Knox Papers.

Henry Knox (1750–1806) returned to Boston after the Revolution and in 1785 was appointed secretary at war for the Confederation government, a post he retained until the institution of the new government. During these years he was a founder and first secretary general of the Society of the Cincinnati and remained a frequent correspondent of GW on affairs of the society and on political matters. In 1789 GW appointed him secretary of war.

1In the 1780s Knox became increasingly interested in land speculation, lending his support to the founders of the Ohio and Scioto companies when the bills establishing them were pending before Congress. Knox’s wife, Lucy Flucker Knox, inherited from her grandfather Samuel Waldo a fifth of the Waldo Patent in Maine, a tract consisting of approximately one hundred and seventy thousand acres near Thomaston, Maine. At the time this letter was written Knox had just returned from an inspection of the land. In 1791 he, William Duer, and William Constable formed the Eastern Land Associates to purchase extensive tracts in Maine from the state of Massachusetts.

2No recent letter from GW to Knox concerning foreign applications for the Society of the Cincinnati has been found. However on 14 Aug. during Knox’s absence, his brother William, a clerk in the War Department, wrote to Knox: “I enclose you a letter recd yesterday from Mr St John enclosed to him by Genl Washington from the Marquis la Fayette, it accompanys other papers relative to Cincinnatti affairs which I do not send on as I suppose you cannot attend to them at present” (NNGL: Knox Papers).

3Elnathan Haskell of Massachusetts served in the Continental army from 1776 to 1783, acting as aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Robert Howe and ending the war as a major. He was retained in Jackson’s Continental Regiment until June 1784. For GW’s certificate on Haskell, see his letter to Knox, 1 Jan. 1789, n.1.

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