George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Madison, 30 March 1789

To James Madison

Mount Vernon March 30th 1789

My dear Sir,

I have been favored with your Letter of the 19th by which it appears that a quoram of Congress was hardly to be expected until the beginning of the past week. As this delay must be very irksome to the attending members, and every days continuance of it (before the Government is in operation) will be more sensibly felt, I am resolved, no interruption shall proceed from me that can well be avoided (after notice of the Election is announced); and therefore take the liberty of requesting the favor of you to engage Lodgings for me previous to my arrival. Colo. Humphreys, I presume will be of my party; and Mr Lear who has already lived three years with me as a private Secretary, will accompany, or preceed me in the Stage.

On the subject of lodgings I will frankly declare, I mean to go into none but hired ones. If these cannot be had tolerably convenient (I am not very nice) I would take rooms in the most decent Tavern, till a house can be provided for the more permanent reception of the President. I have already declined a very polite & pressing offer from the Governer, to lodge at his house till a place could be prepared for me; after which should any other of a similar nature be made, there would be no propriety in the acceptance.1

But as you are fully acquainted with sentiments on this subject, I shall only add, that as I mean to avoid private families on the one hand, so on another, I am not desirous of being placed early in a Situation for entertaining. Therefore, hired (private) lodging would not only be more agreeable to my own wishes, but, possibly, more consistent with the dictates of sound policy. For, as it is my wish & intention to conform to the public desire and expectation, with respect to the style proper for the Chief Magistrate to live in, it might be well to know (as far as the nature of the case will admit) what these are before he enters upon it.

After all, something may perhaps have been decided upon, with respect to the accommodations of the President, before this letter wd have reached you that may render this application nugatory.2 If otherwise, I will sum up all my wishes in one word, and that is to be placed in an independent situation, with the prospect I have alluded to, before me. With strong, and affectionate friendship I am ever Yours

Go: Washington

ALS (facsimile), New York Times, 22 Feb. 1926; ADf, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW; ALS, sold in 1926 by the Rosenbach Company, A Catalogue of Autograph Letters Relating to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War, item 211.

1For George Clinton’s offer of hospitality and GW’s response, see Clinton to GW, 10 Mar. and GW to Clinton, 25 Mar. 1789.

2On 15 April the joint committee of the House and Senate appointed to consider ceremonies for the reception of the president and vice president reported that “Mr. Osgood, the proprietor of the house lately occupied by the President of Congress, be requested to put the same, and the furniture thereof, in proper condition for the residence and use of the President of the United States, and otherwise, at the expense of the United States, to provide for his temporary accommodation” (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 1st Cong., 1st sess., 19–20). Samuel Osgood (1748–1813), who had served in the Continental Congress 1781 to 1784 and on the Board of Treasury from 1785 to 1789, married Maria Bowne Franklin, widow of New York merchant Walter Franklin, in 1786 and came into possession of the handsome house—“square, five windows wide, and three stories high”—that Franklin had erected facing Franklin Square (Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends 117). Much of the furniture in the house had been purchased by the Continental Congress for the use of its president and was left for GW. Pennsylvania senator William Maclay noted disapprovingly that in September Osgood presented a bill to Congress for $8,000 for his repairs to the house (Maclay, Journal, description begins Charles A. Beard, ed. The Journal of William Maclay: United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789–1791. 1927. Reprint. New York, 1965. description ends 162).

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