George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Officials of Wilmington, Delaware, 19–20 April 1789

To the Officials of Wilmington, Delaware

[Wilmington, Del., 19–20 April 1789]


In the respectful address of the Burgesses and common council of the Borough of Wilmington, I recognise the friendly dispositions towards myself, and the patriotic sentiments for the Community at large which have always distinguished the Citizens of Delaware.

When on a former occasion you intimated to me your expectation, that, if any event should again render my services necessary, I would not withhold them from the public, I did not conceive that such an event could exist.1 I have however been persuaded of the expediency of once more entering on the stage of public affairs. Heaven and my own heart are witnesses for me with how much reluctance I have yielded to that persuasion: But a sense of duty, in my conception, ought to supersede every personal consideration—and the promises of support which I am daily receiving from my fellow-citizens, together with a reliance upon that gracious Providence, which sustained us through our struggle for Liberty, encourage me, (notwithstanding a diffidence in my own abilities) to hope for a happy issue from my present arduous undertaking.

In the meantime, I am extremely obliged to you, Gentlemen, for your kind wishes respecting my individual felicity, as well as for your fervent supplications in behalf of the public prosperity.

G. Washington.


GW left Baltimore at about five-thirty on Saturday morning, 18 April, accompanied for some seven miles by his Baltimore escort (Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 21 April 1789). It is not known where he spent the night, but it was probably in the neighborhood of Havre-de-Grace. He reached Wilmington late in the evening on Sunday, 19 April. Either that night or early the next morning the burgesses and common council of Wilmington presented him with an address congratulating him upon his election. The address reads in part: “The disadvantages we have long experienced for want of a good and efficient general government, have now turned the eyes of United America on your Excellency, and we contemplate with the highest satisfaction the approaching happiness and prosperity the citizens of this country will enjoy under a government so wisely planned, and which we flatter ourselves will be so well administered under your direction. In full confidence that your great examples of magnanimity, disinterestedness, and moderation will so diffuse itself thro’ every branch of the general government, and the several public departments, as to defeat all ambitious or interested schemes, and restrain that baneful influence of expence not proportionate to the circumstances of an infant nation, which has so long deranged the public weal” (DLC:GW).

1The citizens of Wilmington delivered an address to GW on 16 Dec. 1783, congratulating him on the successful outcome of the Revolution and wishing him well in his retirement (DLC:GW).

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