George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Congregational Ministers of New Haven, 17 October 1789

To the Congregational Ministers of New Haven

Seventeen Miles east of Camden [Conn.]

Gentlemen,October 17th 1789.

The Kind congratulations, contained in your address, claim and receive my grateful and affectionate thanks—respecting, as I do, the favorable opinions of Men distinguished for science and piety, it would be false delicacy to disavow the satisfaction, which I derive from their approbation of my public services, and private conduct.1

Regarding that deportment, which consists with true religion, as the best security of temporal peace, and the sure mean of attaining eternal felicity, it will be my earnest endeavor (as far as human fraility can resolve) to inculcate the belief and practice of opinions, which lead to the consummation of those desireable objects.

The tender interest which you have taken in my personal happiness, and the obliging manner in which you express yourselves on the restoration of my health, are so forcibly impressed on my mind as to render language inadequate to the utterance of my feelings.

If it shall please the Great Disposer of events to listen to the pious supplication, which you have preferred in my behalf, I trust that the remainder of my days will evince the gratitude of a heart devoted to the advancement of those objects, which receive the approbation of Heaven, and promote the happiness of our fellow men.

My best prayers are offered to the Throne of Grace for your happiness, and that of the Congregations committed to your care.2

Go: Washington


1After leaving New York on his tour of New England (see GW to Betty Lewis, 12 Oct. 1789, n.3), GW traveled to Stamford, Ct., and, passing through Norwalk, spent the night of 16 Oct. at Fairfield. Leaving Fairfield early on the morning of 17 Oct., he breakfasted in Stratford, visited Milford, and arrived in New Haven “before two Oclock.” Along the way he “missed a Committee of the assembly, who had been appointed to wait upon, and escort me into town” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:464). According to a brief note from John Chester to GW, 17 Oct. 1789, the committee had waited for GW at Woodruffs Tavern, about five miles from New Haven (DLC:GW). The committee had been appointed by the legislature “to prepare an Address and to conduct me when I should leave the City as far as they should judge proper. The address was presented at 7 Oclock and at Nine I received another address from the Congregational Clergy of the place. Between the rect. of the two Addresses I received the Compliment of a Visit from the Govr. Mr [Samuel] Huntington—the Lieutt. Govr. Mr [Oliver] Wolcott and the Mayor Mr. Roger Shurman” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:464). For GW’s comments on New Haven, see ibid., 464–66. According to GW’s diary account there were “3 Congregational Meeting Houses and a College in which there are at this time about 120 Students under auspices of Doctr. [Ezra] Styles” (ibid., 463–64).

The address from the Congregational ministers, 17 Oct. 1789, was signed by Stiles, James Dana, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Wales, and Samuel Austin, Jr.: “We presume that we join with the whole collective Body of the Congregational Pastors and Presbyterian Ministers throughout these States in the most heartfelt joy, and the most cordial congratulations of themselves, of their Country, and of Mankind, on your elevation to the head of the combined American Republic. As Ministers of the blessed Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we rejoice and have inexpressible pleasure in the demonstrations you have given of your sincere affection towards that holy religion, which is the glory of Christian States, and will become the glory of the world itself, at that happy period, when Liberty, public right, and the veneration of the most High, who presides in the Universe with the most holy and benevolent sovereignty, shall triumph among all the Nations, Kingdoms, Empires, and Republics on earth.

“We most sincerely rejoice in the kind and gracious Providence of almighty God, who hath been pleased to preserve your life during your late dangerous sickness, and to restore you to such a degree of health as gives us this opportunity to express our joy, and affords us the most pleasing hopes that your health may be firmly established.

“We pray the Lord of Hosts by whose counsel and wisdom you have been carried triumphantly and gloriously thro’ the late war, terminating in the establishment of American Liberty, and perhaps in the liberty of all nations, that he would be pleased ever to have you under his holy protection, continue to render you a blessing to Church and State, support you under your arduous cares, and perpetuate that estimation and honor, which you have justly acquired of your country. And may this new rising republic become under your auspices, the most glorious for Population, Perfection of policy, and happy administration that ever appeared on earth. And, may you, Sire, having finished a course of distinguished usefulness, receive the rewards of public virtue in the Kingdom of eternal glory” (DLC:GW).

2GW left New Haven at 6:00 A.M. on 19 October. Passing through East Haven, he breakfasted at Wallingford. Traveling on through Durham, Middletown, and Wethersfield, the party arrived at Hartford at the end of the day (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:467–68).

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