George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Buckminster, 27 November 1789

From Joseph Buckminster

Portsmouth [N.H.] November 27: 1789


I should not have presumed to intrude upon a moment of your time, filled as I know it must be with a variety of the most important cares, were it ⟨not⟩ to execute a request made when you were at Portsmouth, To present in the name of Lady Pepperell, Relict of Sr William Pepperell the inclosed discourse.1 Though the connections of her Ladyship have been such as would lead us to suppose that she would have entered into the views and prejudices of the British administration, yet she has invariably been friendly to the american revolution, and wished to give some token of her high esteem and respect for one, who had been so highly honored of God, in effecting it. Her ill health and infirmities forbad her soliciting the honor of a visit when you landed at Kittery, near her mansion: But she wishes you to recieve the inclosed, as a token of her respect, presented by one who begs leave to subscribe himself, with the most fervent prayers for your Prosperity and happiness Your most Obdnt Humble Servt

Joseph Buckminster


Joseph Buckminster (1751–1812) was educated for the ministry at Yale, graduating in 1770 and then remaining at Yale for some years of additional study and as a tutor. In 1779 he became pastor of the North Church in Portsmouth. Buckminster delivered the sermon at a service attended by GW while he was in Portsmouth in November 1789 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:488). The sermon was published as a Discourse, Delivered at Portsmouth New Hampshire, November 1st, 1789. On Occasion of the President of the United States Honoring that Capital with a Visit. By Joseph Buckminster, A.M. Pastor of the First Church in Portsmouth (Portsmouth, 1789). Buckminster’s sermon received mixed reviews, one New England clergyman commenting that “The text selected for the occasion was a passage from the twenty fourth Psalm: ‘Lift up your heads,’ &c. Some thought the selection a great mistake; and some even viewed it as a kind of idolatrous homage to the great man” (Daniel Dana to William B. Sprague, 22 June 1848, in Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, description begins William B. Sprague. Annals of the American Pulpit; or Commemorative Notices of Distinguished American Clergymen of Various Denominations, from the Early Settlement of the Country to the Close of the Year Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-five. 9 vols. New York, 1859-69. description ends 2:118–19). An observer commented that he was informed the president was pleased with his visit to Portsmouth but “if any thing was disgusting to him it was what was said on Sunday, when he was at worship (but this is under the rose at present). Mr Buckminsters sermon or address will be published . . . you may Judge for your Self how far it was Deifying him—Considering he was present” (Jeremiah Libbey to Andrew Belknap, 6 Nov. 1789, MHi: Belknap Papers).

1Lady Pepperell (d. 1789), the widow of Sir William Pepperell (1696–1759), colonial merchant and soldier, was Mary Hirst Pepperell of Massachusetts, the granddaughter of Samuel Sewell. Lady Pepperell had remained at Kittery, Maine, after her husband’s death. The enclosure was a Sermon Occasioned by the Death of the Honourable Sir William Pepperell, Bart. Lieutenant-General in His Majesty’s Service, &c. Who Died at His Seat in Kittery, July 6th, 1759, Aged 63. Preached the Next Lord’s-Day after His Funeral. By Benjamin Stevens, A. M. Pastor of the First Church in Kittery (Boston, 1759). The sermon, dealing in part with the relationship of earthly rulers to God, was in GW’s library at the time of his death (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 193–94). In his reply, 23 Dec., GW asked Buckminster to convey his thanks “to the Revd Author with my approbation of the Doctrine therein inculcated.”

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