George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Linn, 18 July 1791 [letter not found]

Letter not found: from William Linn, 18 July 1791. In a letter to William Linn, 21 Oct. 1791, Tobias Lear wrote: “The President likewise desires you will accept his thanks for the sermon which you had the goodness to send to him on the 18th of July.”1

Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed clergyman William Linn (1752–1808) was born in Cumberland County, Pa., and graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1772. Licensed to preach in 1775, he served as a chaplain in the Continental army before resigning and filling the pulpit of Big Spring Church in Cumberland County in 1777. In the mid–1780s Linn was head of Washington Academy in Somerset County, Md., before accepting a call to be associate pastor of the Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church in New York City in 1786. Linn was elected first chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives in May 1789 and was reappointed in 1790. He also acted as president of Queen’s College (Rutgers University) from 1791 to 1794. Linn was invited to deliver the eulogy for GW before the New York Society of the Cincinnati on 22 Feb. 1800 (Princetonians, 1769–1775, description begins James McLachlan et al., eds. Princetonians, 1748–1794: A Biographical Dictionary. 5 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1976–91. description ends 231–35).

1Linn probably sent GW a copy of his The Blessings of America. A Sermon, Preached in the Middle Dutch Church, on the Fourth July, 1791, Being the Anniversary of the Independence of America: at the Request of the Tammany Society, or Columbian Order (New York, 1791) which condemned Edmund Burke and praised the spirit of revolution in Europe. This was bound with other pamphlets in a volume entitled “Cincinnati” in GW’s library at Mount Vernon at his death (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 47, 125). Lear wrote Linn on 21 Oct. that “the multiplicity of business” after GW’s “return from his southern tour” and “his late absence from the seat of government” delayed acknowledgment of Linn’s letter (DLC:GW). The copyist mistakenly addressed this letter to William Lind. Lear also acknowledged in the same letter the volume of sermons Linn sent to Mrs. Washington, probably his Sermons Historical and Characteristical, copyrighted on 1 June 1791 (Evans, American Bibliography, description begins Charles Evans et al. American Bibliography and Supplement. 16 vols. Chicago, Worcester, Mass., and Charlottesville, Va., 1903–71. description ends 8:171).

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