George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Tobias Lear, 14 May 1791

To Tobias Lear

Savannah May 1[4]th 17911

Dear Sir,

I have not, I believe, written to you since I left Richmond.2 At Charleston, towards the last of my stay there, I received your letters of the 10th & 15th of Apl but the continual hurry into which I was thrown by entertainments—visits—and ceremonies of one kind or another, scarcely allowed me a moment that I could call my own—nor is the case much otherwise here.

No letters North of Virginia will now reach me until I arrive at Fredericksburg in that State, which is the first place at which I shall strike the line of the Post. There are no cross-posts on this side Alexandria, and the chances of letters getting to me by private hands, as my rout back will be very wide of the Post-Road is so unfavourable that I have ordered all letters to be stopped at Charleston and sent back to the Post Office in Fredericksburg to await my arrival there.

The silence of Frauncis is evidence sufficient that nothing is to be expected from him; and if your prospects with the other person (mentioned in your letters) are no better, the plan suggested in your letter of the 15th may be tried as the best expedient that offers. A little experience (and there is time for it before the next meeting of Congress) will prove the utility or inutility of the measure.

I came to this place on Thursday afternoon, and shall leave it tomorrow, after attending the first Church.3 The Roads are abominably sandy & heavy—my horses (especially the two I bought just before I left Philadelphia, & my old white horse) are much worn down—and I have yet 150 or 200 miles of heavy sand to pass before I fairly get into the upper, & firmer roads.4

Offer my best wishes to Mrs Lear I hope she the child & yourself are in good health. I remain your sincere and Affectionate friend

Go: Washington

ALS, MeHi. Besides the docket in Tobias Lear’s hand and the notation “No. 23” in another hand, the following signed note in a third hand appears on the letter’s cover: “This letter was obtained from Mrs [Frances Dandridge Henley] Lear, relict of the Col. Lear to whom it was addressed, by Rev. Professor [Joseph] Packard of the Theological Seminary, Fairfax Co. Va, & by him given to A[lpheus] S[pring] Packard, & by him placed in the archives of Me Hist. Society, A. S. Packard.” For the background to the numerical notation and the dispersal of Tobias Lear’s papers, see GW to Lear, 9 Sept. 1790, source note.

1GW wrote “May 13th 1791” but more likely meant 14 May, as it can be inferred from the statement in the letter’s fourth paragraph, “I came to this place Thursday afternoon, and shall leave it tomorrow, after attending the first Church,” that he was writing on his only Saturday in Savannah, 14 May. According to his diary, GW arrived there on Thursday, 12 May, and left after church on Sunday, 15 May (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:135–40). He seems to have made a similar slip of the pen in his 15 May diary entry: “After morning Service, . . . I set out for Savanna” (ibid., 139). GW set out from Savannah for Augusta (see n.3 below). To add to the confusion of this letter’s dateline, Lear wrote to Alexander Hamilton on 29 May: “In a letter which I received from the President yesterday dated at Savannah May 13th the enclosed from John H. Mitchell respecting a mint was transmitted with directions to hand the same to the Secretary of the Treasury—which I have now the honor of doing” (DLC:GW). The enclosed letter has not been found, and no directions about its transmittal appear in the above letter to Lear (although GW might have written them on the cover of Mitchell’s letter). Finally, Lear also wrote to David Humphreys on 3 June: “I had a letter a few days ago from the President dated Savannah May 14th” (PPRF). This, however, must have been in reference to a second letter, now lost, actually bearing a 14 May dateline, that GW apparently wrote to Lear from Savannah on that day.

2GW wrote Lear from Richmond on 12 April but apparently forgot that he wrote him a brief note on 21 April from New Bern, North Carolina.

3GW attended morning service at Christ Church on Johnson Square in Savannah on Sunday, 15 May 1791, after which he received “a number of visits from the most respectable ladies of the place (as was the case yesterday)” and was escorted beyond the city limits. He then visited Mulberry Grove plantation a final time (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:139–40).

4The “old white horse” was probably GW’s parade horse Prescott, one of two white horses of the president’s Philadelphia stable (Lipscomb, South Carolina in 1791, description begins Terry W. Lipscomb. South Carolina in 1791: George Washington’s Southern Tour. Columbia, S.C., 1993. description ends 3).

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