George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Elizabethtown, Md., Citizens, 20 October 1790

To Elizabethtown, Md., Citizens

[Elizabethtown, Md., c.20 October 1790]


The cordial welcome which you give me to Elizabeth-Town, and the very flattering expressions of regard, contained in your address, claim and receive my grateful and sincere acknowledgements.1

Estimating, as I do, the affection and esteem of my fellowcitizens, and conscious that my best pretension to their approbation is founded in an earnest endeavor faithfully to discharge the duties which have been assigned me, I cannot better reply to their confidence than by assuring them that the same impartiality, which has heretofore directed, will continue to govern my conduct in the execution of public trusts.

I offer sincere wishes for your temporal happiness and future felicity.

G. Washington


GW left Mount Vernon on 15 Oct. 1790 with his secretary William Jackson to examine possible sites for the federal district. He stopped the same day at Georgetown, Md., and probably received the proposals of local landowners for establishing the federal district in that vicinity. The following day he rode around the Georgetown neighborhood and on 17 Oct. proceeded upriver, passing the Great Falls of the Potomac on his way to the mouth of the Monocacy River, which was urged on him as an ideal site for the federal district by local landowners (see Agreement of Georgetown, Md., Property Owners, 13 Oct. 1790 and source note, William Deakins, Jr., to GW, 3 and 18 Nov. 1790, and Francis Deakins to GW, 12 Nov. 1790; Times, and Patowmack Packet [Georgetown], 20 Oct. 1790).

GW’s subsequent route becomes less certain. He may have retraced the steps of his 1–2 June 1788 trip up the Potomac, passing through Leesburg and Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He probably visited the Shepherdstown-Sharpsburg area on 19–20 Oct. 1790, before arriving on 20 Oct. at Elizabethtown (later Hagerstown), Maryland. The president was escorted into town by the local militia, presented with a welcome address, and honored with a public dinner, followed by the usual thirteen toasts. One, in particular, expressed the tenuous nature of the Residence Act: “May the residence law be perpetuated, and Potomac view the Federal City.” GW is said to have lodged at Beltzhoover’s Tavern, more formally known as the Globe Inn, and proceeded up the Potomac the following morning. He visited Williamsport at the mouth of Conococheague Creek later on 21 Oct. and returned to Mount Vernon on 24 Oct. 1790 (see GW to William T. Franklin, 25 Oct. 1790, Otho H. Williams to GW, 1 Nov. 1790, Henry Bedinger and William Good to GW, 1 Dec. 1790; Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:335; Scharf, History of Western Maryland, description begins J. Thomas Scharf. History of Western Maryland. Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day; Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. 2 vols. 1882. Reprint. Baltimore, 1968. description ends 2:1059–60, 1065; Williams, History of Washington County, Md., description begins Thomas J. C. Williams. A History of Washington County, Maryland, from the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time. 2 vols. 1906. Reprint. Baltimore, 1968. description ends 1:90–91).

1The address, dated 20 Oct. 1790 and signed by Thomas Sprigg, Henry Shryock, and William Lee, reads: “We the Inhabitants of Elizabeth Town, and its vicinity: being deeply impress’d with your Illustrious Character; and sensibly awake to your resplendent, and innumerable virtues—hail you a hearty welcome.

“We are happy to find that, notwithstanding your perils, toils, and incessant care and guardianship you are still able to grant us this first, this greatest of all favours, your presence.

“We felicitate ourselves on your exploring our County—And as you already reign in our hearts, so we should think ourselves doubly blessed, could we have the honor, to be included within your more espescial command, and jurisdiction—within the grand centre of Virtues.

“Our beloved Chief! be pleased to accept Our most grateful thanks for this honor, conferr’d on us. And may the disposer of all things, lengthen out your days, so that you may behold with satisfaction, the Virtue, and prosperity of the people whom you have made free; and when you come to close the last volume, of your Illustrious actions, may you be crowned with a crown, not made with hands. We are; in behalf of the Citizens With the utmost deference and respect your faithful and devoted Servants” (DLC:GW).

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