George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati, 20 April 1789

To the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati

[Philadelphia, 20 April 1789]


The Congratulations of my fellow Soldiers & faithful followers in the Military line of this State, on my Election to the Chief Magistracy of the Union, cannot but be exceedingly flattering and pleasing to me; For my mind has been so deeply affected with a grateful sense of the attachment and aid which I have experienced from them, during the Course of our arduous Struggle for Liberty, that the impression will never be effaced.

Heaven alone can foretell whether any, or what, advantages are to be derived by my Countrymen from my holding the Office; which they have done me the Honor of Conferring upon me; not only without my Solicitations, but even Contrary to my inclinations.

I promise nothing but an unremitted attention to the duties of the Office. If by that attention I may be so fortunate as still to Continue to possess the Affectionate regard of my fellow Citizens, and particularly of that Body of which you are the Representatives, it will be no small addition to my happiness. The Support which they and you have promised cannot fail, under the smiles of Providence, to contribute largely to the Accomplishment of my wishes, by promoting the prosperity of our Common Country. In the meantime, I thank you, Gentlemen, for the interest you so kindly take in my personal Comfort and Honor, as well as in the prosperity and Glory of the General Government1

Go: Washington

LS, NN: Harkness Collection; LB, DLC:GW.

GW left Wilmington early on the morning of 20 April with a mounted escort that accompanied him probably as far as the Pennsylvania line. At that point he was joined by a delegation from Philadelphia, many of them veterans of the Revolution. By 7:00 A.M. the party had arrived at Chester where they apparently halted for some two hours and breakfasted at the Washington House. For an account of the reception at Chester, see Monaghan, “Inaugural Journey description begins Frank Monaghan. “Notes on the Inaugural Journey and the Inaugural Ceremonies of George Washington as First President of the United States.” Typescript. Privately distributed, 1939. description ends ,” 23–26. According to Monaghan’s account, the following address was presented to GW: “The inhabitants of the town of Chester, impressed with the liveliest sentiments for your Excellency’s character, congratulate themselves upon this opportunity being afforded them to pay their respects to, and to assure you of the unfeigned joy that swells their bosoms, while they reflect that the united voices of millions have again called you from the bosom of domestic retirement to be once more the public guardian of the liberty, happiness and prosperity of United America. From this event they entertain the most pleasing expectations of the future greatness of the western world; indeed, they cannot but observe to your Excellency that the torpid resources of our country, already discover signs of life and motion from the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Accept, sir, our fervent wish for your welfare—may you be happy; may a life spent in usefulness be crowned with a serene old age; and may your future reward be a habitation not built with hands, eternal in the heavens.” GW “returned his thanks for the courteous reception” and “expressed the hope that he should discharge the trust he was about to assume to the satisfaction of the entire nation” (Monaghan, “Inaugural Journey description begins Frank Monaghan. “Notes on the Inaugural Journey and the Inaugural Ceremonies of George Washington as First President of the United States.” Typescript. Privately distributed, 1939. description ends ,” 25). Upon leaving Chester, GW ordered his coach to the rear and mounted a white horse for his entry into Philadelphia (Independent Gazetteer [Philadelphia], 21 April 1789). Contingents from the Philadelphia and Chester troop of horse accompanied the presidential party, and, probably in the area of the Lower Ferry Bridge across the Schuylkill, another detachment from Philadelphia, led by Arthur St. Clair, joined them. The bridge at Gray’s Ferry was elaborately decorated with flags, evergreens, and laurel. At the western end of the bridge a child, reportedly Angelica Peale, the young daughter of Charles Willson Peale who had designed the decorations, lowered a wreath over GW’s head when he arrived. The path down Market and Second streets to City Tavern led through a cheering throng. A dinner for approximately two hundred and fifty guests, at which GW “captivated every heart,” was served at the tavern at 3:00 P.M. (Federal Gazette [Philadelphia], 22 April 1789). After dinner GW went to the home of Robert Morris where he was to spend the night. In the evening he was entertained by an elaborate display of fireworks.

1During his brief halt in Philadelphia, GW received and answered a number of addresses; among them was the following address, 20 April 1789, from the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati: “The standing committee of the Pennsylvania State Society of the Cincinnati embrace this early opportunity of waiting on your Excellency with their congratulations on your unanimous appointment by the people to the office of first Magistrate of this great Empire, it being the strongest evidence of your unrivalled merit and of their exalted wisdom.

“Permit us to express our peculiar joy and pride upon the occasion, that our beloved General, and the President General of our Society, has received the free suffrage of each of our fellow-citizens of these States. We have now the most perfect assurance, that the inestimable rights and liberties of human nature, for which we have toiled, fought, and bled under your command, will be preserved inviolate; and we felicitate our country, that their national safety and dignity are secure, and that they have the best grounded prospects of all that happiness, which a good Constitution, under a wise and virtuous administration can afford.

“As we have the fullest confidence that our Society, whose basis is Friendship and Charity, will equally with others enjoy those blessings, and partake of your regard, so we beg leave to assure you that we shall never be wanting in our endeavors to contribute all in our power to your personal comfort and honor, and the prosperity and glory of your government” (DLC:GW). The address was signed by Thomas McKean, vice president of the society.

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