George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Eliphalet Fitch, 10 May 1790

From Eliphalet Fitch

Kingston Jamaica May 10th 1790


The Respect which the World shews to your eminent Virtues and exalted Rank, has induced me to forward the inclosed Papers, relative to the Slave-Trade; which I beg Liave to present to you, thro’ the Indulgence of the Vice-President, to whom I have the Honour to be known.1 I am with the most perfect Respect and Esteem, Sir, Yr most Obedient and Most Humble Servt

Elipht Fitch


Eliphalet Fitch (born c.1740) was a grandson of Dr. Thomas Boylston and a distant cousin of John Adams (John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 12 June 1783, MHi: Adams Family Papers). A native of Boston, he moved to Jamaica where he owned a sugar plantation, engaged in mercantile activities, and held the post of receiver general. In 1781 he was involved with Francisco de Miranda in supplying the Spanish with naval stores (Robertson, “Miranda and the Revolutionizing of Spanish America,” description begins William Spence Robertson. Francisco de Miranda and the Revolutionizing of Spanish America. Washington, D.C., 1908. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1907, vol. 1:189-539. description ends 235–37; see Alexander Hamilton to GW, [c.15–22 July 1790]). John Adams apparently met Fitch in Paris in 1783 and noted in his diary that Fitch was “said to be very rich.” Fitch socialized with both John and John Quincy Adams in Paris, Delft, and London in 1783 (Butterfield, Diary of John Adams description begins L. H. Butterfield, ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. 4 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. description ends , 3:128, 134; Allen, Diary of John Quincy Adams, description begins David Grayson Allen et al., eds. Diary of John Quincy Adams. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1981. description ends 1:175, 204). He wrote to John Adams on 7 May 1790, renewing their acquaintance, and in a separate letter of 10 May he informed Adams that he was shipping him a barrel of sugar, a dozen bottles of rum, and two dozen bottles of madeira, adding: “I have requested my Mother to send you a Packet with some Papers relative to the Slave-Trade; and if you approve of sending Copies to the President I would avail myself of your kind Attention to them; as you will see by the inclosed Copy of my Letter.” Fitch enclosed a copy of his letter to GW of 10 May (Fitch to John Adams, 7 and 10 May 1790, MHi: Adams Family Papers). The original of Fitch’s letter to GW, along with the pamphlets, apparently was transmitted to Adams by Fitch’s mother, who lived in the United States. No letter from her to Adams has been found.

1Among the enclosed pamphlets was almost certainly Bryan Edwards, A Speech Delivered at a Free Conference between the Honourable the Council and Assembly of Jamaica Held the 19th of November, 1789 on the Subject of Mr. Wilberforce’s Propositions in the House of Commons, concerning the Slave Trade (Kingston, Jamaica, 1790). What other pamphlets Fitch may have enclosed is not known. GW had the Edwards pamphlet bound with five others under the title “Tracts on Slavery.” Now in the collection of the Boston Athenaeum, this volume includes five other pamphlets. One of these, Debates in the British House of Commons, Wednesday, May 13th 1789 (Philadelphia, 1789) may have been sent by Fitch. Of the remaining four, one is not about slavery, one was published in 1791, and two others were American imprints, unlikely to have come to Fitch’s attention in Jamaica (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 66, 179, 561). Tobias Lear replied to Fitch on 28 Aug.: “the Pamphlets relative to the Slave trade which you have been so obliging as to present to [GW] thro’ the hands of the Vice President have been received, and he requests you to accept his best thanks” (DLC:GW).

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