George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Warner Mifflin, 12 December 1792

From Warner Mifflin

Kent [County, Del.]
the 12th Day of 12 mo. 1792

Respected Friend,

I trust it will not be accepted by thee as flattery, when I mention what may in some respect appear like a repetition tho with some addition to what I communicated to thee both Verbally and in writeing heretofore; when I say from my heart, That I have real sincear respect for thy person and station.1

And that on serious reflection in my mind this day, I tryed the subject fully and found clearly I could in truth from the Heart say, I know of no man in the world, that I could wish to be put in thy place, And if it lay to me entirely to Elect a president, and I took such a matter on me thou art the Man I should Elect.

This revived many feelings, I have at diferent times had respecting thee, and such freedom would arise that I thought if I knew thee to do wrong and I found it my duty I could tell thee of it as soon as any other man, & this felt pleasant to me—Now I will just Venture to hint to thee what revived in my mind on my way from the City I thought of ahabs expression to Jehoshuphat when 400 Prophets had prophecied, King Jehoshuphat asked if there was no other prophet of the Lord they might enquire of Ahab answer’d there is Micajah but I hate him for he doth not prophecy good concerning me but evil.2

I wished no disposition like this might ever get possession of the Presidents mind against me nor my friends For our plainess of expression at any time, I thought it felt that evening we were with him as if he was a little hurt by somthing; I concluded it might be in part oweing to some anonimous publications respecting the Indian war that he might think our address to the general goverment might rather strengthen;3 and which I did endeavoure to do away in some measure then, I was at that time much hurt on account of our Not accompanying that address to thee, it was my mind At first we should, that would have given thee an oppertunity of opening thy mind to us, and our giving thee our reasons, divers of our Committee were sorry after, and I hope thou wilt accept it that we did not intend any blame on thee or reflection on thy Conduct, But I was much pleased with the freedom thou used with us, it gave me much satisfaction, and I believe has been of use to many since my return home, as it gave an oppertunity for me to satisfy divers respecting the intentions of goverment, who had mistaken Idies on this subject of the war, and the intentions of Goverment relative thereto—For altho I am fully satisfy’d the Natives have been greviously imposed on, and unjustly dealt by—Yet it affords great satisfaction to find our rulers so generally disposed to favour them—and I have all along had much expectation from thee in this business relying on thy certain Knowledge off them, and disposition toward them—which induces me to hope somthing permanent may be fixed on; can thou but devise means to keep in order the Lawless whites.

I hope thou will not view our proceedings as improper medling, I believe it proceeded from a real religious concern, and to manifest we were willing to do what we could consistant with our principles for the aid of our Country, and the promotion of peace and good will towards all men—And wherein I have no doubt this Country will find some day we are right let southern blasts storm as they may and insinuate what they will respecting the Affricans, I remain of the very same sentiment made known to thee hereto-fore.4

And therefore have again to request which I think but a reasonable one that if our proceedings in a society or Individual Capacity at any time give thee uneasiness that thou wilt be so kind as to communicate the same to us, that thou may understand fully the ground we move on, for I may tell thee truly as far as I know and that is pretty generally the Sentiments of our members are favourable toward thee, and that I consider it an Offence against our dicipline if any of our members should be guilty of publishing under Anonimous signatures tending to the prejudice of rulers, I believe it unbecoming the Christian—“Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people” Acts 23:3.5

And yet I can say I wish with all my heart that thou wert not a slave holder this does hurt the feelings of some of thy best friends, even such as are so, without any desire for either post Or pension from goverment—This is certainly somthing of a spech.

However my craveings for thee are that the Almighty may be mercifully pleased to afford thee such a portion of his divine Grace as may enable thee to go in and out before this so great People, and Hear them amidst the adverse winds in such manner as may be pleasing to him who rules in the army of Heaven, and amongst the Nations of the Earth who can turn and overturn Kingdoms and empires at his pleasure, set up and put down whom he will—May the a[s]piration of thy soul be to him, day and Night, That thou may be thereby continu’d a bles⟨si⟩ng in his holy hand to this Nation to the latest period ⟨of⟩ thy life and at the final close with thee on this se⟨a of⟩ glass,6 thou might be fitted and prepared for a Cro⟨wn⟩ immortal in that State of existance that I believe unchangable and Eternal, in the Mansions of rest & peace, with the spirrits of Just men made perfect ⟨is⟩ the Unfeigned desire for thee, of thy sincear Friend

Warner Mifflin
Kent 10th of 12 mo. 17937

P:S. since I wrote the Above I have been in Philadelphia and passing the street met an Acquaintance, who stopt me and qu⟨e⟩ried about the debates in Congress respecting my address respecting the Affricans8—Ah said he you deserve no better, you were very fond of addressing the President, and shew’d so much being wrapt up in the President and goverment that you deserved no better, This was a person who had a right of membership, at the time we prepared an Address to thee or just before, but he was one of the regimental kind of Quakers—finding his disposition I said little to him—and I now mention this to thee, that if any such information comes to thee through another chanel thou may understand he is none of us, he may say as much before some who may take him to be a Quaker.9

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1For Mifflin’s previous letter to GW, see Mifflin to GW, 23 Nov. 1792.

2For Mifflin’s biblical reference, see 1 Kings 22:6–8.

3See the Quakers’ petition to GW of 17 Nov. 1792, which Mifflin and fifty-two other Quakers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia had signed.

4For Mifflin’s views on the African slave trade and slavery in the United States, see his letter to GW of 23 November.

5The correct citation for this biblical quotation is Acts 23:5.

6Mifflin’s use of “sea of glass” is probably a reference to the final judgment day and other events described in the New Testament book of Revelation (see Revelation 4:6 and 15:2).

7Mifflin erred in dating the postscript. The docket of this letter reads: “From Warner Mifflin 12th Decr 1792 recd through the hands of Mr Bassett 13th Feby 1793.” Richard Bassett (1745–1815), U.S. senator for Delaware, probably was the person who delivered Mifflin’s letter to GW.

8Mifflin’s petition “on the subject of Negro slavery” was discussed in the House of Representatives on 28 Nov. 1792 (see 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., 2d sess., 730–31). Between 1783 and 1797 Mifflin, a noted abolitionist, helped write or present various petitions against slavery and the slave trade to Congress. He published in Philadelphia A Serious Exposition with the Members of the House of Representatives of the United States in 1793 and The Defence of Warner Mifflin against Asperions Cast on Him on Account of His Endeavors to Promote Righteousness, Mercy, and Peace, among Mankind in 1796.

9At some point Mifflin decided to enclose a letter that he had written to GW on 20 Feb. 1791 but did not send at that time. The introductory paragraph to this enclosure, which probably was written on 20 Dec. 1792, reads: “some years back I wrote a letter to the present Arch-Bishop of Canterbury [John Moore] on the subject of the Affrican Slave Trade, since which, a friend of mine, on an interview with the Bishop, Queried, if he had any exceptions against the contents of said letter? The Bishop reply’d, ‘We never take exceptions to things well meant.’

“In full confidence I am now addressing a personage of as generous principles, induces me to transcribe a letter, wrote at the time of the date thereof, which has been held back through difidence, and is as follows, To witt.”

In his letter to GW of 20 Feb. 1791, Mifflin wrote: “I trust it is with all due respect to thy person and Station that I approach thy presence with this address, thereby opening a religious concern that has impressed my mind for some time, and has been lately revived by seeing thine to the two branches of the Legislature at the opening of the present sessions, feeling I believe real desires for thy Temporal tranquility, and eternal felicity in particular, and which concern is not confined there, but opens to the general welfare of mankind the world over; and therein have felt an engagement of heart that thy talents might be improved to a general good, in promoteing the Glory of God, Peace and good will amongst the inhabitants of the Earth. I sometimes have a hope from some sensations that have accompany’d my mind both sleeping and wa⟨k⟩ing respecting thee, that a measure of the favour of the Almighty was yet toward thee; and as I sat in a religious Meeting the other day labouring in the secret of my mind to perform that worship to Almighty God that might be acceptable to him, thou was presented to my View, and secret breathings of soul I believe I may say took place for thee, that thou might be animated with a disposition to do all in thy power that the Almighty might design thee as an instrument for, that thou might be sincerely given up to discharge the duty as in his sight, faithfully according to the measure of Light that he may be graciously pleased to illuminate thee with; that so thou might at least have this testamony given off thee that it was in thy heart to prepare Materials for forwarding the Lords in the Earth, as of David formerly respecting the building the Hou⟨se⟩ yet was not allow’d to build because as it was said ‘Thou hast shed much blood in my sight’ if this was an impediment under that dispensation, I think its as likely under the present to prevent ⟨such⟩ from being the most bright shining instruments in the Lords hands of spreading so generally, and establishing that peacable gov⟨er⟩ment, wherein Nation shall not dare to lift against Nation the d⟨e⟩vouring sword, Nither devise instrument of War, and shall be e⟨ver⟩ Asshamed of learning the Military art—When the people shall come to confide in the Holy fear of God Almighty; placeing their trust and confidence in him, respecting these outward tabernacles, dureing the little time he may be pleased to permit their residence in this World; without any desire for protection from those murderous weapons, as they most generally manifest a willingness to do, respecting the caretaking and disposition of the more Noble part that will endure to all Eternity, [(]more especially the military part) which if men were sufficiently concerned about would remove much of those fears about temporals.

“And as I firmly believe it is sacredly determined that the goverment of the Prince of Peace shall spread and prevail in the Earth, perhaps more generally in the present generation than in any former Age of the world—I should rejoice to see us as a Nation of people, taking the lead therein, believing the less a Martial spirit is encouraged by the Nation the more will the Protection and favour of Heaven be towards it; let other Nations do as they will I could wish that an apprehended Political expediency might Never sway the minds of our rulers to push into things of this Nature, Necessity may, or might never compel them to.

“Let it be remembred that if a mans ways please the Lord he maketh even his Enemies to be at Peace with him, and is it not reasonable to conclude, that if the ways of a Nation please him he will also make the enemies of that Nation dwell in concord with them—Have we not faith to believe, that he can keep it out of the heart of the enemies of ⟨mutilated⟩ a Nation even to desire to invade them; or if they should throug⟨h⟩ ⟨mutilated⟩stigation of the enemy of righteousness attempt so to do, cannot h⟨mutilated⟩ them without the breath of his mouth, Yea my faith is that he will yet ⟨mutilated⟩ these things—Therefore may we as individuals and as a Nation, be concerned that our ways please him, which will no doubt procure his favour and Protection; and in order thereto I firmly believe it does deeply concern us as individuals and as a Nation, to inspect our ways and Conduct toward the Natives of this Land, the Indians, and also the oppressed Affricans; should this be ommitted, it is in his power who hath all power in his hands, to Chastize us by those very people yet—Altho we may have at present so much the ascendency over them: and I much believe he will if we are not more careful—and then, can we but acknowledge that it is just—I was sorry when I heard there was an expid[it]ion on foot against the Indians, I felt sorrow of heart, but I hoped thou would not permit it but, from what to thee appeared Necessity; Yet, when I reflect who it is that brings thee information, the sorrow remains; I mean respecting their conduct—and it will not be surpriseing to me, if we should be sevearly chastized, in as much, that almost as barberous treatment is exercised in diferent parts by whites on Indians and Negroes, as any I have yet heard off by Indians toward whites; and all this done in the sight of him who is a God of Justice: have we not the most cogent reason to expect, that the measure we meet out to others shall and will indeed be Measureed to us: there is Undoubtedly a power that is able to do this, let us fortify our selves as we will, And I feel a concern solemnly to warn thee to do thy duty in those respects. remember that ‘he who rules over men must be just ruleing in the fear of God,’ and in the Judgment not be affraid of the Face of Man, for the Judgment is Gods. should the rule be other ways I believe he will yet do as he has done, pull the lofty from their seats.

“And in the Establishment of a Militia Law, there is especial need of care that no encroachment should be on the prerogative of the Almighty, especially in this day of so great favour in the extention of Civil and Religious Liberty—Great Favour indeed. Now let me beg thee to remember and I believe the Witness for God in thy Conference bears Witness thereto; that there are whom he hath enjoined to stand with a testamony against War in the very ground; and that not only at the risk of their Property, but also their lives; of which proof has been given; who dare not yield personal service, nor pay an equivalent in lieu thereof, let that be set as low as it may; and fines forfeitures, and Penalties on such consciencious persons is persecution in the full signification thereof; and which I do conceive will be a disgrace to America at this day and time, also an ⟨mutilated⟩ against the Majesty of Heaven, and such an One as he will not al⟨mutilated⟩ bare with; that his Servants cannot comply with his Royal ⟨mutilated⟩ and pleasure without incuring Penalties therefor from the governments of men—In this address as a real friend of thine I deal plainly with thee, and feeling a flow of Love toward thee, removes all fear of offending; believing thou art capable of discriminating between the friend and the flatterrer—I have indeed abundant Charity for thee considering how the Contrary interest Center in thee, and the tryall that must ensue.

“May God Almighty of his Manifold Grace and Mercy be pleased to Vouchsafe to thee such a portion of wisdom and Understanding as that thereby thou may be enabled so to conduct in his sight as to have his Royal Approbation, that thy Presidency and rule may be to his Honour the good and Welbeing of the People, and finally when the Undeniable messenger may be sent and no further respite of the summons allow’d that thou may be then admitted into the Ma⟨n⟩sions of Everlasting rest and unceasing Joy is the sincear desire & earnest prayer of Thy Friend” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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