To the President and Faculty of the University of Pennsylvania
[Philadelphia, 20 April 1789]
I accept with peculiar pleasure the address of the university of the State of Pennsylvania upon my appointment to the first office in the union.1
Notwithstanding I had most seriously determined never more to take any part in transactions of a public nature; yet a conviction of duty would not suffer me, on the present occasion, to refuse a compliance with the unanimous call of my country—nor could I remain insensible to the honor that was conferred upon me by this fresh and distinguished proof of it’s approbation.
Probably my fellow-citizens anticipate too many and too great advantages from the appointment—It will however be an object, indeed near to my heart, to verify as far as may be in my power, those favorable presentiments, by endeavoring to secure the liberty and promote the happiness of the american People.
I am not a little flattered by being considered by the Patrons of literature as one in their number—Fully apprized of the influence which sound learning has on religion and manners, on government, liberty, and laws, I shall only lament my want of abilities to make it still more extensive. I conceive hopes, however, that we are at the eve of a very enlightened Era. The same unremitting exertions, which, under all the blasting storms of war, caused the arts and sciences to flourish in America, will doubtless bring them nearer to maturity, when they shall have been sufficiently invigorated by the milder rays of peace.
I return you my hearty thanks for your devout intercession at the Throne of Grace for my felicity both here and hereafter.
May you also, Gentlemen, after having been the happy instruments of diffusing the blessings of literature and the comforts of religion, receive the just compensation for your virtuous deeds.
1. The address, signed by Thomas McKean on behalf of the university’s officials, reads: “Permit, Sir, the University of the State of Pennsylvania, to join in the general joy, occasioned by your accession to the first office in the federal Empire. It is by this honor, (the highest that America can bestow) that a grateful People express the affection which your eminent services have kindled in their bosoms. It is this that has given them but one voice in their delegation of this important trust, and that unites the homage of the heart with the duty of the Citizen. To be the first Magistrate of a great Empire, is a situation that many have attained: but to acquire it by the unanimous voice of a free people, is an event as rare in the history of the world as those illustrious virtues of which it is the just reward.
“We rejoice in an event so auspicious to our country—and we confidently hope that your endeavors to extend the blessings of good government will be crowned with success as brilliant as that which distinguished your exertions in the defence of our freedom.
“As guardians of this University (which boasts the honor of enrolling the name of Your Excellency among those of her Sons) we anticipate the encouragement which such Institutions will receive under your administration. The influence of sound learning on religion and manners, on government, liberty, and laws, will make it a favorite object in every civilized society: and the sciences, having experienced your protection amidst the convulsions of war, reasonably expect a distinguished patronage in the calm of peace.
“We devoutly pray the almighty Ruler of the Universe that you may long enjoy the felicity of that country, which you have rescued from tyranny, and established in the blessings of freedom and independence: and that finally you may meet the reward which awaits his good and faithful servants” (DLC:GW).
GW received an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania on 4 July 1783 (DLC:GW).