George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Richard Champion, 19 July 1791

To Richard Champion

Philadelphia July 19th 1791


While I was on my Journey through the Southern States it was not in my power to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 24th of May,1 which was put into my hands at Camden,2 and to make a proper return of my thanks for the Manuscript reflections upon our present situation &c.3—and the printed Volume of your Observations on the Commercial Connexion between Great Britain and the United States, which accompanied your letter.4 You will therefore, Sir, be pleased now to accept my acknowledgements for these, as well as for the very polite terms in which you express yourself towards me in your letter. To endeavour to diffuse a knowledge of the true interests of our Country in a commercial or political view is certainly a meritorious attempt, and in this age of free inquiry every one has a right to submit to the consideration of his fellow-citizens such sentiments or information as he thinks may conduce to their interest or happiness. I am, Sir, Your most Obedt Servt

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LS, Sheffield City Library, Great Britain; LB, DLC:GW.

Bristol-born ceramist Richard Champion (1743–1791) was the chief competitor of Josiah Wedgwood’s manufacturing enterprises in the 1770s and early 1780s. Champion was a staunch Whig and supported the American cause during the Revolution, often sending political intelligence to his brother-in-law John Lloyd, an agent in Charleston since 1777. After the war disrupted his business ventures Champion accepted an appointment as a deputy paymaster, which office he resigned under suspicion of embezzlement in 1784. That October he sailed for America with his wife and children and settled on land purchased for him by Lloyd about ten miles north of Camden, S.C., on Rocky Branch, a tributary of Grannys Quarter Creek, where Champion had discovered fine-quality clays. Champion was appointed clerk to the Camden Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions in 1786, served in the South Carolina general assembly from 1789 to 1790, and was a delegate to the state constitutional convention of 1790. From March 1791 until his death that October, he was commissioner in equity and register of the court of equity in Cheraw, Camden, and Orangeburg districts (see G. H. Guttridge, ed., The American Correspondence of a Bristol Merchant, 1766–1776: Letters of Richard Champion [Berkeley, Calif, 1934], 1–8).

1Champion’s letter to GW, dated Rocky Branch, S.C., 24 May, reads: “Although your Fellow Citizens felt the full force of the invigorating Hand which first secured to them their Liberty and their Peace, and which has since, by its wise Administration, supported their Rank amidst the Nations of the Earth, there still remained, amongst many of them, an unsatisfied Desire, an anxious Wish to behold the face of their Benefactor, to whom, as the first and best Instrument of a merciful Providence, they are indebted for these Blessings. It was an Event which seemed necessary to the Consummation of their Happiness. They have now obtained the Gratification of their Wishes. For this auspicious Day has brought with it its full accomplishment. Amidst the Congratulations which surround you on this happy Occasion, suffer me, Sir, a Sharer in the Distress, a partaker in the Joys of my Country, to pay my humble Tribute of affectionate Duty and respectful Acknowledgment. United, Sir, to this Country by Blood, by Affinity, and by an early and zealous Attachment to Liberty, the most active Exertions within the Compass of my small Power and Ability, and upon the purest principles, was made by me during the War; in the earlier part of it to promote Reconciliation, in the latter Stage, Peace. It was equally Patriotism both in England and America (yet few in England felt the force of this Duty) to oppose Attempts alike tyrannic and unjust, unpolitic and absurd, upon the success or failure of which depended the Ruin or Preservation of their Liberty. The Attempt failed, and the Sovereignty of the United States was acknowledged. This awful Separation of a great Empire, whose united Efforts had equalled the most powerful Exertions of antient or modern Times, made a deep Impression upon the Minds of those, who conceived at least the possibility of converting the antient Affection of Fellow Citizens into the Attachment of faithful Allies. Under this Impression a Work was offered by me to the Public, with a View to point out the true Interests of a People, who had too long unhappily forsaken them. But the offering was fruitless Our Separation appeared to be confirmed. Yet the Distance preserved by Great Britain was not without its Utility to this Country. It demonstrated to us, that from her own Exertions, America should derive her Strength. Of this Work, I beg, Sir, the Honour of your Acceptance. I have since published another, which is in some Measure a Continuation, but unfortunately I have no Copy. Many Years have now elapsed since I became a Citizen of this State. A Period, almost wholly spent in Retirement devoted to literary Pursuits. The Manuscript which accompanies this, and of which I likewise beg Sir, your Acceptance, contains some cursory Reflections upon the Country, which you now honour with your Presence. It is a mere Sketch, written upon a temporary occasion, never published, and is intended for a large work; of which I have many Materials, and which a very perfect Knowledge of the Court of Great Britain, during the reign of its present Monarch, has afforded me. Vanity is said to be, probably with Truth, the ruling Passion of an Author. But, Sir, Vanity on this Occasion almost ceases to be a foible. Affection, Duty, Veneration, and Every Incitement which can warm the Heart of a Man in private Life, at the Sight of his Benefactor, must operate in the highest and most powerful Degree at the Sight of the Benefactor of Millions. The Widow, Sir, will throw in her Mite. And even the feeble Voice of an humble Individual will be heard, when, amidst a whole People, he turns to you, Sir, who, under Providence, was our greatest Benefactor; when in imploring for you all manner of Happiness and Prosperity, and in that Prayer is included the Happiness and Prosperity of the United States, he joins the universal Cry in saluting you, the Father of your Country. History, Sir, is sparing of Characters in which the Virtues of public and of private Life, conspicuously shewn in the various and trying Occasions which you have experienced, have been so fully proved, and so strikingly exerted. You was drawn, Sir, from the Privacy of Retirement by Nations who, differing in Principles and discordant in manners, were unanimous in their Call upon you. The Integrity of your Principles, the Mildness of your Manners, converted their Austerity or their Licentiousness into union of Sentiment, and Liberality of Opinion. And when in an unequal and unexpected Contest, you were devoid of every other Resource, than those which you drew from the greatness of your Abilities, the firmness of your Mind, unappalled in Danger, and prepared for Events, your Caution and Prudence secured our Safety, your Activity and Valour established our Independence. Yet, Sir, whilst the Plaudits of a well-earned Triumph were sounding in your Ears, you lost not the Relish of Retirement, of those solid Satisfactions which your Integrity and your Patriotism had so justly and dearly purchased. Such however was the Situation of your Fellow Citizens, that your Absence from the Administration was incompatible with their Safety. They were constrained, Sir, to do violence to their feelings, in requesting of you the Sacrifice of the Sweets of Retirement; in which at an advanced Period of Life, we can alone be said to live. But the Prosperity of your Country, the fate of future Millions depended upon your Compliance. And you hesitated not, even at the Greatness of this Sacrifice. You, Sir, chearfully obeyed the Call of your fellow Citizens, and assumed the Administration. And now, Sir, tried as you have been in the most critical Situations—in Adversity, whose rugged Brow has only served to illustrate your Virtues; in Prosperity whose swelling sails have not disturbed the Serenity of your Mind, in the Administration of Government, which has proved a Source of Blessings to your Country, what more have we to ask of the most high God, than a Continuance of the Happiness which we enjoy under your Government. And that, when full of Days and full of Honour, it shall please his Providence to remove you into the Regions of Eternity, you may leave the People of these United States, which first formed under your Auspices, and now nurtured by your Care, are rising into a great and powerful Nation, happy in themselves, and happy in the Remembrance of those Virtues, to which they owe these Blessings—In the Remembrance of those Actions which will be faithfully recorded by Posterity, for the Benefit and Instruction of the future Ages of the World. It is for them, Sir, that your Labours have been employed, and by them your Actions will be approved” (DLC:GW).

2Champion’s letter to GW and its enclosures were given to William Jackson at Camden, according to Champion’s 25 May letter to Jackson: “Mr Champion presents his Compliments to Major Jackson, and requests the favour of him to present the Letter, Book and parcel which accompanies this, to the President. Mr Champion has taken the Liberty to intreat the Honour of the President’s acceptance of a Book, and a Manuscript enclosed. And he will trespass on the Indulgence of Major Jackson to beg him to procure the President’s acceptance of the Parcel. It contains two Reliefs in a very fine Porcelain, exquisitely wrought round with flowers. The one of Dr Franklin. The other taken from a Relief, (a good likeness, as he was informed of the President when young,) which Mr Champion directed a Statuary to make. But in the likeness Mr Champion finds himself disappointed. He therefore merely presents it as a Curiosity, made from a beautiful native Porcelain, which is to be found in America. Mr Champion took a similar Liberty during the War, in sending these Reliefs to the President, by way of Paris, but he never knew whether they arrived safe. These were finished, the ornaments having been enamelled with gold, which he laments is not the Case with these. But being two which he had by him he brought them out England with him, and through forgetfulness, or accident Omitted it. Mr Champion begs Major Jackson will pardon the Trouble he has given him, and will do him the Honour to accept one of the Covered creations himself, which accompanies the other. Mr Champion meant to have trespassed further upon Major Jackson’s Indulgence in requesting to know Whether the President had a Levee, but he finds that his Stay will be short, and therefore is unwilling to break in upon the hour before Dinner, as the President must necessarily be fatigued, but will hope at that time to have the Honour of being presented to him” (DLC:GW).

No acknowledgment of GW’s receipt of the relief portraits has been found. High-relief biscuit-porcelain plaques ornamented with delicate flowers and ribbons were a unique product of Champion’s Bristol manufactory from 1774 to 1778. The pieces given to GW in 1791 were hung over the fireplace in Mount Vernon’s “sitting parlor” after GW’s presidency and became Martha Washington’s property at his death. The GW plaque, which may have been modeled after Alexander Campbell’s fictitious mezzotint of GW published in London in September 1775 or an undated engraving by Justus Chevillet or other early French engravings based on Charles Willson Peale’s 1776 portrait of GW, was acquired by Martha’s granddaughter Martha Parke Custis Peter and descended to W G. Peter, who loaned it to the National Art Gallery in 1923. It was owned by her descendants in 1982 and returned to Mount Vernon in 1995 on loan from an anonymous donor (see frontispiece; Kirkland and Kennedy, Historic Camden, description begins Thomas J. Kirkland and Robert M. Kennedy. Historic Camden: Part One, Colonial and Revolutionary. Columbia, S.C., 1905. description ends 363; Detweiler, George Washington’s Chinaware, description begins Susan Gray Detweiler. George Washington’s Chinaware. New York, 1982. description ends 147–49, 195 nn.275, 279, 280; Prussing, Estate of George Washington description begins Eugene E. Prussing. The Estate of George Washington, Deceased. Boston, 1927. description ends , 106, 107 n.5; Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Annual Report, 1995 [Mount Vernon, Va., 1996], 39).

3The draft of Champion’s 17–page “Manuscript reflections” to which GW referred is in DLC:GW. The text of the piece, entitled “Cursory Reflections upon our present Situation, together with the probable relative Consequences of the Federal Government to the Municipal Privileges of the several States,” appears in CD-ROM:GW

4The volume that Champion presented to the president, which GW autographed on the title page and which was part of the Mount Vernon library at his death, was actually entitled Considerations on the Present Situation of Great Britain and the United States of America, with a View to Their Future Commercial Connexions . . . (2d ed., London, 1784). Champion’s earlier edition of the book, which argued for American free trade with the West Indies, was published anonymously in England in 1784. He also published Comparative Reflections on the Past and Present Political, Commercial and Civil State of Great Britain: with Some Thoughts concerning Emigration (London, 1787), which is probably the volume Champion referred to in his letter of 24 May to GW (see 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 42–43).

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