George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lansdowne, 7 November 1791

To Lansdowne

Philadelphia Novr 7th 1791.

My Lord,

The letter with which you were pleased to honor me—dated the 4th of July—was presented to me by Lord Wycombe.1 Permit me to thank your Lordship for introducing so worthy and intelligent a young Nobleman to my acquaintance2—and to regret that his stay in this Country is so short as not to have allowed him to investigate it more.3

This Country has a grateful recollection of the agency your Lordship had in settling the dispute between Great Britain and it; and fixing the boundary between them.4 It is to be wished that the same liberal policy was pursued, and every germe of discontent removed that they might be reciprocally benificial to each other; their Laws, Language, and Customs being much assimilated.

I pray your Lordship to be assured of the great respect and consideration, with which I have the honor to be Your Lordship’s most obedient, and most humble servant

Go: Washington

ALS, sold by Christie, Manson & Woods, Ltd., 12 Oct. 1994, item 86; LB, DLC:GW.

Former British prime minister William Petty (1737–1805) inherited his father’s titles, earl of Shelburne and baron of Chipping Wycombe, in the early 1760s and was made Viscount Calne and Calstone and marquis of Lansdowne in December 1784. Although he held no ministerial office at this time, he continued to serve in the House of Lords and was well known as a patron of the arts, letters, and sciences. His friend William Bingham in 1796 commissioned Gilbert Stuart to paint from life a full-length portrait of GW to be presented to Lansdowne as a present from Anne Willing Bingham. Bingham wrote to Rufus King on 29 Nov. 1796: “As a warm Friend of the United States and a great admirer of the President, it [the portrait] cannot have a better Destination” (King, Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, description begins Charles R. King, ed. The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King. 6 vols. New York, 1894–1900. description ends 2:112–13).

1Lansdowne’s letter to GW of 4 July from Bowood Park in Wiltshire reads: “I cannot possibly suffer my Son to go to America without solicting your Protection of him during his Stay within the United States. He goes upon no Political Errand whatever, but singly from the desire natural to his Age of seeing all he can, and I cannot but approve his Plan, as he can meet with no conversation which will not confirm him in those Principles of Freedom, which have constituted my Happiness thro’ Life. I shall always look upon that as the happiest moment of it, when I had the good Fortune to have it in my power to be of some little use in fixing the Boundary between the respective Dominions in a manner, which tho’ not desir’d by the Alliance must I trust and hope in the end lay the Foundation of cordial Friendship and good understanding. . . . P. S. If I err in any point of Etiquette I flatter myself you will excuse me as nothing can be farther from my Intention” (PHi: Gratz Collection).

2John Henry Petty (1765–1809), Viscount FitzMaurice until 1784 when he was created Earl Wycombe, was the eldest child of Lansdowne and his first wife, Sophia Carteret Petty, daughter of Earl Granville. He became the marquis of Lansdowne and earl of Shelburne upon his father’s death. Wycombe, who had traveled widely in Europe, embarked for the United States in mid-July 1791 (see Jefferson to Benjamin Vaughan, 2 July 1787, Vaughan to Jefferson, 5 April 1788, Jefferson to Wycombe, 25 July 1789, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 11:532–33, 13:36–38, 15:306–7; Vaughan to John Adams, 4 July 1791, MHi: Adams Papers). Before his arrival at New York on 20–21 Aug., his fellow passenger Gen. John Maunsell entrusted him with a “pretty large” book to be delivered to GW, apparently from the Spanish ambassador to Britain, Bernardo, marquis del Campo (see Maunsell to Henry Knox, 22 Aug., NNGL: Knox Papers; Daily Advertiser [New York], 22 Aug.; and Namier and Brooke, History of Parliament: House of Commons, 1754–1790, description begins Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke. The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1754–1790. 3 vols. New York, 1964. description ends 3:270–71). Maunsell wrote to Knox on 3 Sept.: “Earl Wycombe, who came with me from England, intends visiting Philadelphia, on his return from Boston. As I suppose either you, or Mr Jefferson, will present him to the President, he will deliver the book put into my hands in London” (NNGL: Knox Papers). Wycombe was in New Haven, on 14 Sept., and he had returned to New York by 3 Oct., when John Jay wrote a letter of introduction for him to GW (DLC:GW). Wycombe apparently reached Philadelphia later that week and planned to visit GW at Mount Vernon (see William Jackson to GW, 9 Oct., at GW to Jackson, 14 Oct., n.1). Alexander Hamilton introduced him to GW on 11 Oct.: “Lord Wycomb having mentioned to me his intention to pay you his respects at Mount Vernon, I beg your permission to present him to you. The personal acquirements and merits of his Lordship conspire with a consideration for the friendly dispositions, and liberal policy of his father, the Marquis of Lansdown, towards this country, to constitute a claim in his favour to cordial notice” (DLC:GW). Wycombe evidently met GW at Mount Vernon before the president’s departure early on 17 Oct., and he then continued his travels to coastal Virginia, as Thomas Newton, Jr., wrote GW from Norfolk on 26 Oct. that “I Received your favor by Lord Wycombe, and am exceedingly obliged to you for the introduction. I shall ever be happy in rendering my best services to any one you may recommend” (DLC:GW). Wycombe returned to Philadelphia before sailing to Charleston, S.C., and GW provided him with letters of introduction to prominent South Carolinians (see GW to William Moultrie, 8 Nov., n.1, and to Charles Pinckney, 8 Nov. [second letter]). Jefferson also asked Wycombe to deliver his letter of 6 Nov. to Thomas Pinckney to the postmaster at Charleston (see Jefferson to GW, 6 Nov., n.2; Jefferson to Wycombe, 9 Nov., Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 22:289). Before leaving Philadelphia, Wycombe wrote GW on 9 Nov.: “Lord Wycombe presents his hommage to the President of the United States, and takes this method of once more expressing his acknowledgments, as well for the protection which he has experienced at his hands, as for his flattering good wishes relating to his voyages. He thinks himself much honoured by being the bearer of the letters he has sent him” (NN: Sabin Collection). Nathaniel Hazard commented to Hamilton on 11 Oct. that the three chief “Curiosities” of Wycombe’s American tour were “to see New England, the President, & Premier” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 9:365–68).

3The following sentence appears after this point only in the letter-book copy: “We flatter ourselves however that the impression it has made on him is not unfavorable, and we should have hoped a better knowledge of it would not have weakened the first impressions.”

4As British prime minister following the death of Charles Watson-Wentworth, second marquis of Rockingham, on 1 July 1782, Lansdowne concluded the preliminary peace treaty with the United States on liberal principles, including a western boundary for the independent colonies on the Mississippi River and a northern one along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River (Alvord, Mississippi Valley in British Politics, description begins Clarence Walworth Alvord. The Mississippi Valley in British Politics: A Study of the Trade, Land Speculation, and Experiments in Imperialism Culminating in the American Revolution. 2 vols. Cleveland, 1917. description ends 1:343–47, and “Lord Shelburne and British-American Goodwill,” description begins Clarence Walworth Alvord. “Lord Shelburne and the Founding of British-American Goodwill.” Proceedings of the British Academy 11 (1924–25): 369–93. description ends 369–93; Morris, Peacemakers, description begins Richard B. Morris. The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence. 1965. Reprint. New York, 1970. description ends 258–61).

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