To Thomas Paine
Philadelphia May 6th 1792.
To my friends, and those who know my occupations, I am sure no apology is necessary for keeping their letters so much longer unanswered than my inclination would lead me to do. I shall therefore offer no excuse for not having sooner acknowledged the Receipt of your letter of the 21st of July. My thanks, however, for the token of your remembrance, in the fifty copies of the “Rights of Man” are offered with no less cordiality than they would have been had I answered your letter in the first moment of receiving it.
The duties of my Office, which at all times (especially during the sitting of Congress) require an unremitting attention naturally become more pressing towards the close of it; and as that body have resolved to rise tomorrow, and as I have determined in case they should, to set out for Mount Vernon on the next day, you will readily conclude that the present is a busy moment with me1—and to that I am persuaded your goodness will impute my not entering into the several points touched upon in your letter. Let it suffice, therefore, at this time to say, that I rejoice in the information of your personal prosperity—and as no one can feel a greater interest in the happiness of mankind than I do, that it is the first wish of my heart that the enlightened policy of the present age may diffuse to all men those blessings to which they are entitled—and lay the foundation of happiness for future generations. With great esteem I am—Dear Sir Your most Obedt Servt,
P.S. Since writing the foregoing I have receivd your letter of the 13th of February with twelve copies of your new Work which accompanied it—and for which you must accept my additional thanks.2
ALS, in private hands; Df, in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DLC:GW.
1. The House of Representatives originally had resolved on 4 May to remain in session until “Thursday the tenth of May” However, after the Senate expressed its desire to adjourn on “Tuesday the eighth,” the House agreed to recess on that date (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 136, 593). GW was not notified officially of that decision by a joint committee until 7 May (ibid., 137). GW set out for Mount Vernon on 10 May.
2. Paine’s letter to GW of 13 Feb. 1792 has not been found. Although GW kept forty-three of the fifty copies of part 1 of Rights of Man that Paine had forwarded to him in July 1791, none of the twelve copies of part 2 sent to him in February 1792 remained in his possession at the time of 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 523).