George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Macpherson, 8 October 1789

From John Macpherson

N. York Ocr 8th 1789

Much Respect’d and Sincerely Esteemed Sir

As I propose seting of for Philadelphia Tomorrow or next day, I did myself the honor to wait upon the Vice President; to take a dutiful leave of him and family.

As Mr John Adams has long honor’d me with sincere friendship; I communicated to him, some Improvements of my Own; in the Art of war, he was pleased to reply he was a perfect Stranger to war, but thought it wou’d be proper I Shou’d wait upon your Exellen’y before I left New york; as you are ajudge of those Matters; and the only person in North America that Cou’d direct or permit these Operations.1

If your Excellency will be pleased to appoint any hour, when I can have the honor of a few Minuts Conversation with you, Genl Knox to whom I have Communicated part of my Plans; and who is pleased to approve all that I have Communicated to him will wait upon you. I am Sincerely Esteem’d Sir Your faithful Subject and most Hble Servant

John Macpherson

LS, DNA:PCC, item 78.

John Macpherson (1726–1792), a native of Edinburgh, was a successful privateer during the French and Indian War, losing an arm in the course of his maritime activities. After the war Macpherson settled in Philadelphia, where in 1785 he published the city directory. Pursuing an active interest in scientific affairs, he attempted in 1787 to interest Congress in his discovery of “a concise, plain and easily practicable mode of ascertaining the Longitude” (petition to Congress, 17 July 1787, DNA:PCC, item 41; JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 32:382).

1Macpherson is probably referring to some aspect of a plan he developed in the late 1780s for the construction of “a Fort, that One thousand Men, can with ease, and safety, defend against all the other men on earth, All the Cannon and Mortars in the World cannot Injure it, It is impossible to Injure it by Mining; nor is it possible to Starve the Garrison” (Macpherson’s petition to Congress, undated but read in Congress 29 May 1788, DNA:PCC, item 41).

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