From Annis Boudinot Stockton
Morven the 13th of March 1789
Will the most revered and most respected of men, Suffer me to pour into his bosom the congratulations with which I felicitate my self on the happy prospects before us. I well know that there is nothing but the love of glory, and the enthusiasm of virtue, that is capable of animating a mind like yours—nothing but the sacred priviledge of serving your Country, and despensing happiness to millions, Could induce you to leave the calm delights of domestic ease and comfort—which you have purchased a right to enjoy with such well earned fame as nothing can enhance—except this one Sacrifice of your Self to the publick good—by becoming the head of a government, that you and you only Seem to be marked out by providence as the point, in which all will center.
Ah! my beloved friend, you have an arduous task to perform, a severe Science to encounter but you are equal to it. I bless my self—I bless posterity—but I feel for you.
Nor will you deny that the Muse is Sometimes prophetic—when you recollect the ardour that almost censured my delicacy—which impelled me to seize your hand and kiss it when you did me the honour to Call on me in Your way to york town1—even in that moment, the very era tho wraped up in clouds, was present to my view, and my heart hailed you as the Sovereign (I will not say for people quibble at names) but the father of the united states[,] and you will smile to see the sensations of that day, which I have never forgotten, thrown in the form of a vision, which I again take the liberty to enclose to you2—it is easy I own to prophecy after events happen—but it is a little different in this case, tho now it is embellished with numbers—I can truly say without fiction—the embryo sentiment— was impressed on my mind on that day of what would probably take place, and I have nourished it in my heart ever since.
Permit me to convey to you my thanks for the goodness you shew to me in Condescending to answer my scribbling—words can not give an Idea of the pleasure I take in recieving a letter from you—I own I wrote my self from a selfish principle—wholly Conscious that I can not Contribute in the smallest degree to amuse you, I anticipate the pleasing repast till I recieve it, and feast on it till I am impatient for another letter, and then I set to write—taking the advantage of your politeness, that will not let a ladies letter remain long unanswered.
But this is the only time I have ever written to General Washington, that I have felt a pensiveness amounting almost to regret at the thought that it is a kind of farewell letter as I must not presume to indulge my self by intruding on your time and patience, when you are surrounded with publick business therefore I was determined to answer your last most acceptable letter before you left Virginia.3 But I shall sometimes see you and my dear Mrs Washington, whom I sincerely love—and that will make up for all. May the choicest of blessings flow on you both—whatever the tenderness of friendship, can dictate for the happiness of those we love, is the constant wish of my heart for you both whatever may be your situation.
My young folks desire their most respectful thanks for the notice Mrs Washington and your self are pleased to take of them in your letters to me. I have the honour to be Dear Sir with the most perfect respect and esteem your most obliged and most affectionate Friend
Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736–1801) was the sister of Elias Boudinot and widow of Richard Stockton, a wealthy New Jersey jurist and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. After their marriage around 1755, Mrs. Stockton and her husband settled at Morven, a handsome estate and mansion at Princeton, N.J., and she remained there after Stockton’s death in 1781. She began writing patriotic poetry during the Revolution, addressing several of her poems to GW. They met several times during the war years.
1. Although GW does not mention it in his diary, he was reported to have visited Morven on the march south to Yorktown. The date usually given is 29 Aug. 1781. See, for example, L. H. Butterfield, “Annis and the General: Mrs. Stockton’s Poetic Eulogies of George Washington,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, 7 (1945), 19–39.
2. The enclosed poem reads:
“T’was in a beauteous verdant shade
Deck’d by the genius of the glade
With natures fragrent stores,
Where fairy elves light trip’d the green
Where Silvan Nymphs were often seen
To Strew the sweetest flow’rs.
“Lethean air from tempes vale
Wafted an aromatic gale
And lull’d my Soul to rest
I saw or musing Seem’d to See The future years of destiny
That brighten’d all the west.
“The muse array’d in heavenly grace
Call’d up each actor in his place
Before my wondering eyes
The Magic of the aonian maid
The world of vision wide display’d
And bid the Scenes arise.
“I Saw great Fabius Come in state
I Saw the british Lions fate
The unicorns despair.
Secur’d in Secrecies divan
The chiefs Contemplated the plan
And york town clos’d the war.
“Nor Could this dazzling triumph charm
The feuds of faction or its rage disarm
Fierce to devide to weaken and subvert
I Saw the imps of discord rise
Intrigue with little arts surprize
Delude alarm and then the state desert.
“My Soul grew Sick of human things
I took my harp and touch’d the strings
Full often set to woe
Conjur’d the gentle muse to take
The power of future knowlege back
No more I wish’d to know.
“Rash mortal Stop, she cried with zeal
One Secret more I must reveal
That will renew your prime
These storms will work the wishd for cure
And for the state will health procure
And last till latest time.
“The freeborn mind will feel the force
That Justice is the only Source
Of Laws Concise and clear
Their native rights they will resign
To men who can those rights define
And every burden bear.
“The Sacred Compact in a band
Of brothers Shall unite each hand
And envys Self be dead
The body one, and one the soul
Virtue shall animate the whole
And Fabius be the head.
“Rous’d from th’ enthusiastic dream
By the soft murmer of the stream
That glided thro the meads
I tun’d my lyre to themes refin’d
While natures gentle voices Join’d
To sing the glorious deeds.
“When lo himself the chief rever’d
In native elegance appear’d
And all things smil’d around
Adorn’d with evry pleasing art
Enthron’d the sovereign of each heart
I Saw the Heroe crownd” (AD, DLC:GW).
3. GW had last written to Mrs. Stockton on 31 Aug. 1788.