George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 3 September 1790

From Tobias Lear

New York September 3d 1790


I have the honor to enclose such letters and papers as have come to hand since my last.1

The British Packet arrived here last evening; but brings no decided accounts as to the War between Great Britain and Spain.2 She left Falmouth on the 12th of July, at which time the English fleet was lying in Torbay. This contradicts a report in the Philadelphia and Alexandria papers of an engagement having taken place between the British and Spanish Fleets off Cape St Vincent’s.3 A Vessel4 which arrived here on the 1st Inst. from Ferrol in Spain, after a passage of 53 days, brings no account of such engagement, which she must have done had it taken place at the time mentioned.

Colo. Humphreys will embark today; the Vessel in which he sails having been detained two days by a contrary wind.5 He requests me to send his most respectful and affectionate Adieu. Mrs Lear joins me in sentiments of respect and gratitude for yourself and Mrs Washington, and love to the Children.6 With the hiqhest respect & most sincere attachment I am Sir Your obliged and very humble Servant

Tobias Lear


1The enclosures have not been identified.

2The British packet Portland arrived in New York in the evening of 2 Sept. 1790. Captain Sinclair and the brig Leeds out of Hull had just landed the previous day and reported that either that packet or the Grantham had arrived earlier in Halifax (New-York Daily Gazette, 2 and 4 Sept. 1790). The Gazette of the United States (New York) reported on 4 Sept. 1790 that the Grantham had arrived two days previously after a forty-nine-day voyage from Falmouth. Capt. John Bull was to take it out again on 7 Oct. 1790 for Falmouth by way of Halifax (New-York Daily Gazette, 18 Sept. 1790).

3See, for instance, the report in the 1 Sept. 1790 Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser reprinted, and labeled “(Doubtful),” from the 4 Aug. 1790 issue of the St. Christopher’s Royal Gazette. It printed an extract of a July letter from a London gentleman to a friend at St. Christopher telling of a 28 June 1790 engagement off Cape St. Vincent between seventeen British ships of the line and eighteen Spanish ones. By the end of the day the British were said to have captured or sunk four battleships and crippled another four but were prevented by damaged masts and rigging from pursuing the rest of the Spanish fleet retreating to Cadiz.

4The brig Robert arrived in New York from El Ferrol del Caudillo on Ferrol Bay in northwestern Spain on 1 Sept. 1790 (Daily Advertiser [New York], 2 Sept. 1790).

6GW wrote from Philadelphia on 5 Sept. 1790 that he had received Lear’s letter of 3 Sept. 1790.

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