George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Council of Philadelphia, 20 April 1789

To the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Council of Philadelphia

[Philadelphia, 20 April 1789]

I consider myself particularly obliged to you, Gentlemen, for your congratulatory address on my appointment to the Station of President of the United States.1

Accustomed as I have been to pay a respectful regard to the Opinion of my Countrymen, I did not think myself at liberty to decline the Acceptance of the high Office, to which I had been called by their United suffrage—When I contemplate the Interposition of Providence, as it was visibly Manifested, in guiding us thro’ the Revolution in preparing us for the Reception of a General Government, and in conciliating the Good will of the People of America, towards one another after its Adoption, I feel myself oppressed and almost overwhelmed with a sence of the Divine Munificence—I feel that nothing is due to my personal agency in all these complicated and wonderful Events, except what can simply be attributed to the exertions of an honest Zeal for the Good of my Country.2

I thank you sincerely for your kind wishes that my Administration may be honorable and happy to myself and Country.

I Pray you Gentlemen, will accept on your own behalf, as well as that of the Citizens you represent, my heartfelt acknowledgments for the polite welcome I have received upon my arrival in your City; In tendering these acknowledgments I must also desire it may be fully understood: that I entertain the same reciprocal Sensations of Attachment for the Good People of Philadelphia which they have on all occasions evinced in my favor.

G: Washington

LB, PHi: AM.3570, 37–38; LB, DLC:GW.

1The address reads: “We the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of Philadelphia, have assembled to present you our sincere congratulations on your appointment to the station of President of the United States of America.

“We rejoice, Sir, that the citizens of America so long accustomed to claim your services in every hour of public difficulty, have again given the most affectionate and honorable testimony to your distinguished worth, by calling you, with united suffrage to take the highest seat of power amongst Freemen.

“When the gloom which overcast the cause of liberty at the opening of the late war, occasioned by the alarm of a mighty Nation armed to suppress the voice of freedom in this infant land, for a moment sunk the spirit of its Sons, You Sir, arose! instantaneous confidence possessed the minds of your fellow-citizens—under your auspices they fought, they bled, and through unparalelled distress of war, you led them to freedom, the choicest gift of Heaven.

“Scarce had that solemn scene passed over, when a triumphant Victor returned his sword to the Hands of the civil Rulers of his country—Scarce had you retired to the calm retreat of domestic peace—when the civil rule which we had suddenly established, amidst the busy tumult of war, proved unequal to secure the blessings to be derived from a well digested constitution—You, Sir, were again called forth, and presiding over our wisest councils, have handed to your Country a system of civil policy, happily uniting civil liberty with effective government. What then remained undone is now accomplished—and you are called to preside in dispensing the blessings of that government in the forming of which you took so distinguished a part—may your administration derive blessings to your country, and honor and happiness to yourself.

“In the name of the citizens of Philadelphia, we bid you welcome, and assure you that we and those we represent, have the warmest personal attachment to you, and shall always rejoice to meet you singly, or connected with that august Body, over whom you are going to preside” (DLC:GW).

2At this point in the letter book the following paragraph is inserted: “If I have distressing apprehensions that I shall not be able to justify the too exalted expectations of my countrymen: I am supported under the pressure of such uneasy reflections by a confidence that the most gracious Being, who hath hitherto watched over the interests, and averted the perils, of the United States will never suffer so fair an inheritance to become a prey to anarchy, despotism, or any other species of oppression.”

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