George Washington Papers

From George Washington to St. John’s College Faculty, 26 March 1791

To St. John’s College Faculty

[Annapolis, Md., 26 March 1791]


The satisfaction which I have derived from my visit to your infant Seminary is expressed with real pleasure, and my wishes for its progress to perfection are preferred with sincere regard.

The very promising appearance of its infancy must flatter all its friends, (among whom I entreat you to class me,) with the hope of an early, and at the same time a mature manhood.

You will do justice to the sentiments, which your kind regard towards myself inspires, by believing that I reciprocate the good wishes contained in your address—and I sincerely hope the excellence of your seminary will be manifested in the morals and science of the youth, who are favored with your care.1

G. Washington


GW reached Annapolis on 25 Mar. 1791 after spending a wretched night in a boat stuck on a bar within a mile of the city. The president was greeted by Maryland governor John Eager Howard and visited the Maryland State House before proceeding to St. John’s College, where he received a congratulatory address from the faculty of the school. GW remained in Annapolis on 26 Mar., “preparing papers &ca. against my arrival at George Town” for his meeting with the proprietors of land within the federal district. He attended a ball held that evening in his honor and departed the city the next morning, lodging for the night of 27 Mar. at Bladensburg, Md. (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:100–102).

1The address, signed on behalf of the faculty by John McDowell (1751–1820), principal of St. John’s College, who graduated from the College of Philadelphia before serving as a private in Capt. Samuel Patton’s company during the Revolution, reads: “We the faculty of St John’s College beg leave to express the sincere joy, which the honour of your presence in our infant seminary afforded us. In common with all those who superintend the education of youth, we must feel a lively gratitude to the defender of liberty, the guardian of his country’s peace and consequently the great patron of literature. But as this Seminary was begun, since the united voice of free America called you to preside over its most important interests, and ensure to them the continuance of those blessings which your calm foresight and steady fortitude had been the happy means of procuring, it seems in a peculiar manner to look up to you with filial respect. That it dates its birth from this grand Era, which has placed you at the head of fifteen distinct sovereign states, united into one mighty republic, is regarded by its friends as an auspicious circumstance and flattering assurance of its future eminence and usefulness. To the friend of virtue and his country, the rise of Colleges, where the youth of generations yet unborn may be taught to admire and emulate the great and good, must give a heartfelt delight, as they promise perpetuity to the labours and renown of the Patriot and Hero. Our earnest prayer is, that a kind providence may continually watch over you and preserve a life, long indeed already, if measured by deeds of worth and fulness of honours, but too short as yet for your Country” (DLC:GW).

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