George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Vaughan, 25 August 1791

To Samuel Vaughan

Philadelphia, August 25. 1791.

Dear Sir,

At the same time that I acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th of may, I must beg your acceptance of my best thanks for the publications which accompanied it.1

I am glad to learn that the good opinion first entertained of Mr Rumsey and his inventions still continues, and I sincerely hope as well for his own emolument and the benefit of mankind, as for the credit of our country that he may surmount the obstacles thrown in his way, and receive such consideration as his merits demand.2

It is with peculiar satisfaction I can inform you that our public affairs are still in a prosperous train, unclouded by any gloomy prospects of interruption—The convulsed state of Europe at the present moment cannot fail of attaching every American more strongly to his own country—and government; while every heart must be impressed with lively gratitude towards the supreme Ruler of events upon a recollection of the circumstances which have brought us to our present political situation. Wishing that health and uninterrupted tranquillity may attend you to the close of your days.3 I am dear Sir, with great esteem, your most obedient Servant

G. Washington


1London merchant Samuel Vaughan wrote GW on 10 May: “Permit me to present to You some publications respecting the French Revolution & the English partizans of it, &ca &ca I presume they cannot be unacceptable to Your Excellency, as most of them are but just published. The great cause of Liberty goes on rapidly here, which cannot be wondered at considering that even Poland has taken fire, so as to enduce its Nobility to give up their prejudices against an equality with those hitherto not noble. My eldest Son Benjn desires me to say, that he retains his first opinion of Mr Rumsey & his Inventions; that his only difficulty has arrisen from want of capital; & that he is now on a visit to Ireland, to give his opinion respecting a very considerable canal undertaken there, till the termination of some Law disputes allow him to proceed in his operations here” (DLC:GW). The accompanying books and pamphlets, all published in London in 1791, were listed on the verso of the letter: James Mackintosh, Vindiciae Gallicae. Defense of the French Revolution and Its English Admirers, against the Accusations of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke; Thomas Christie, Letters on the Revolution of France, and on the New Constitution Established by the National Assembly: Occasioned by the Publications of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, M.P., and Alexander de Calonne. . . ; George Rous, Thoughts on Government: Occasioned by Mr. Burke’s Reflections, &c., in a Letter to a Friend (4th ed.), and A Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; John Paradise, Serious Enquiries into the Motives and Consequences of Our Present Armament against Russia; John Williams, An Enquiry into the Truth of the Tradition, concerning the Discovery of America by Prince Madod ab Owen Gwynedd, about the Year 1170; Joseph Priestley, The Proper Objects of Education in the Present State of the World, Represented in a Discourse, Delivered on Wednesday, the 27th of April, 1791, . . . , and A Discourse on Occasion of the Death of Dr. Price; and Andrew Kippis, An Address Delivered at the Interment of the Late Rev. Dr. Richard Price on the Twenty-sixth of April 1791. All were in GW’s library 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 passim). Vaughan also sent Unitarian Society (London, 1791), published by the Unitarian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Practice of Virtue. Neither this pamphlet nor “Debates on the 7th May on the Quebeck Bill” and “Ditto [on the] 10[th of May] on the Test Act” that Vaughan also listed as enclosed were found in GW’s library at his death.

2At the urging of his supporters in the American Philosophical Society, who had formed the “Rumseian Society,” James Rumsey had traveled to Britain to obtain patents for his steam-powered inventions and to interest English capitalists in them. Rumsey’s improved steamboat was almost completed when he died in London in December 1792. See David Humphreys to GW, 31 Oct. 1790 and note 11.

3GW asked Thomas Jefferson on 29 Aug. to transmit this letter to Vaughan with diplomatic correspondence.

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