George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Georgia Legislature, 18 March 1790

To the Georgia Legislature

[18 March 1790]


The congratulations presented to me by the different branches of the Legislature of the State of Georgia, upon my having been elected with unanimity to the Presidency of the United States, affect my mind with the most pleasing sensations, and demand my best acknowledgements.1

From the observation that “in the great concerns of mankind, success has not always been attendant on the performance of duty, and that, where it has, the sanction of public approbation has frequently been with held” I am naturally led to reflect on the unlimited gratitude which we owe, as a nation, to the supreme Arbiter of human events for his interposition in our favor—as well as on the singular obligations which are due from me as an individual, for the indulgent sentiments which my fellow-citizens have always had the goodness to entertain of my conduct.

Raised, as I am, to the head of a Government pervading so vast a territory—and possessing, as I flatter myself I do, the confidence of the people in regard to my dispositions—I assure you, Gentlemen, that nothing could be more consonant to my wishes than to be favored with such facts and opinions respecting the condition of the States as may appear proper and necessary—for I am duly sensible that many errors which would result from want of information may be obviated by timely and just representations.

I am not ignorant how much the local situation of your State exposed its inhabitants to suffer the distresses of the late war in a severe manner; nor how manfully they exerted themselves in the common cause during the struggle which established our independence. Wasted as your country was at the return of peace, and exposed as your frontiers have since been to the ravages of the Indians; I cannot but flatter myself that you will ere long realise the blessings which were to be expected from your natural resources, and find a compensation for your sufferings in the benefits of an efficient general government.

It will not be expected I presume, on this occasion, that I should enter into the merits of the delicate subject to which you allude. It may be sufficient to say, that, while I regret extremely the failure of the late negociation for peace with the Creek-Indians:2 I am satisfied that the explanations which have been received through authentic channels will be of eminent service. I am also convinced that nothing will be wanting on your part to concur in the accomplishment of a pacification: and I still hope that under the influence of the general Government that desireable object may be effected—with respect to this subject in general, as well as to the other calamity which you mention as resulting from your being the south frontier of the union, I request you will be persuaded that I shall make such use of the powers vested in me by the constitution as may appear to me best calculated to promote the public good.

I am much pleased, Gentlemen, with the frankness which you have manifested in regard to myself—and return you my hearty thanks for the good wishes you have expressed for my health and happiness, with a sincere prayer that the same blessings may be extended to you and your constituents.

G: Washington


1The address from the Georgia legislature, dated at Augusta, 22 Dec. 1789, and signed by Nathan Brownson, president of the Senate, and Seaborn Jones, Speaker of the House of Representatives, reads: “The federal constitution being adopted it became the wish of the People of this State that you should be elevated to the Presidency of the Union; and the two branches of the Legislature take the first occasion of offering to your acceptance their congratulations on the unanimity of your election.

“In the great concerns of mankind success has not always been attendant on the performance of duty; and where it has, the sanction of public approbation has frequently been withheld; but it was reserved for you, in the midst of the most arduous difficulties, not only to be successful, but to have been so with universal applause.

“Raised by your virtues and services to the head of a government pervading so many independent states, the general confidence is in favor of your justice; and, while the history of Nations informs that the errors of Rulers have often proceeded from the want of information, we shall not hesitate to lay before you such facts and opinion respecting this State, as may appear to us to be incumbent or necessary—In doing this, it shall be our aim to unite plainness with respect, and integrity with truth.

“Sir, In the course of the war which established our independence, our citizens made proportionate exertions with those of any part of the whole, and in point of property, they suffered the most: the peace found the country a waste; with many natural advantages we flattered ourselves with a speedy recovery; when we were attacked by the Indians.

“On this subject we wish to be delicate; much has been already said—we have asserted, and it has been contradicted; removed at a distance from the centre our actions have been liable to misrepresentation; but we trust that by this time, they are better explained—in the meantime while our population has been checked and our agriculture diminished—the blood of our citizens has been spilled, our public resources greatly exhausted; and our frontiers still open to fresh ravages. The failure of the late negociations for a peace with the Creek nation and the circumstances which attended the same, are the best evidence of the necessity of our measures, and a proof of the late hostile dispositions of these People: but under the influence of the government and power of the Union, it is to be hoped and expected that a different conduct will on their part prevail: on our part, nothing shall be wanting to promote so desireable an establishment.

“Another circumstance of additional calamity attendant on our being the south frontier of the Union, is the facility of our black people crossing the Spanish line, from whence we have never been able to reclaim them. This has already been productive of much injury to private persons, and if not speedily restrained, may grow into an evil of national magnitude.

“We take this occasion of bringing this business into view, with a perfect reliance, that you will cause such discussions to be made, as shall be necessary to bring about a remedy.

“We request you will accept our cordial wishes for your health and happiness, and that you may long continue to enjoy that confidence, which has been so eminently placed in you by the people of the United States” (DLC:GW). Senator William Few of Georgia gave GW a copy of the address on 15 March 1790, and the official delivery, with GW’s reply, occurred on 18 March (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:46-48; Daily Advertiser (New York), 19 March).

2For the attempt of the American commissioners to the southern Indians to make peace with the Creek, see David Humphreys to GW, 21, 26, 27 Sept., 13, 28 Oct. 1789, Alexander Hamilton to GW, 20 Oct. 1789, and Henry Knox to GW, 18, 27 Oct., 21 Nov. 1789. See also GW’s Memoranda on Indian Affairs, 1789.

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