George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Edmund Pendleton, 23 September 1793

To Edmund Pendleton

Mount Vernon Sep: 23d 1793

My dear Sir,

With very sincere pleasure I received your private letter of the 11th instant.1 This pleasure was not a little enhanced by your reiterated assurance of my still holding that place in your estimation which, on more occasions than one, you have given me the most flattering testimony—highly gratifying to my mind. This assurance came opportunely, as I had begun to conceive (though unable to assign a cause) that some part of my public conduct—how ever well meant my endeavors—had appeared unfavorable in your eyes, for you will please to recollect that, formerly you promised me, and I always expected, an annual letter from you. It is now (if my memory has not failed me) at least four years since I have had that pleasure.2

Sequestered you say you are, from the World, and know little of what is transacting in it but from Newspapers. I regret this exceedingly. I wish you had more to do on the great theatre; and that your means of information were co-equal to your abilities, and the disposition I know you possess to judge properly of public measures. It would be better perhaps for that public it should be so; for be assured we have some infamous Papers—calculated for disturbing if not absolutely intended to disturb, the peace of the community.3

With respect to the fiscal conduct of the S—t—y of the Tr—s—y I will say nothing; because an enquiry, more than probable, will be instituted next Session of Congress into some of the Alligations against him, which, eventually, may involve the whole; and because, if I mistake not, he will seek, rather than shrink from, an investigation. A fair opportunity will then be given to the impartial world to form a just estimate of his Acts, and probably of his motives. No one, I will venture to say, wishes more devoutly than I do that they may be probed to the bottom—be the result what it will.4

With the most scrupulous truth I can assure you, that your free & unreserved opinion upon any public measure of importance will always be acceptable to me, whether it respects men, or measures—and on no man do I wish it to be expressed more fully than on myself; for as I can conscientiously declare that I have no object in view incompatible with the Constitution, and the obvious interests of this Country—nor no earthly desire half as strong as that of returning to the walks of private life, so, of consequence I only wish whilst I am a Servant of the public, to know the will of my masters, that I may govern myself accordingly.

You do me no more than justice when you suppose that from motives of respect to the Legislature (and I might add from my interpretation of the Constitution) I give my Signature to many Bills with which my judgment is at varience. In declaring this, however, I allude to no particular Act. From the nature of the Constitution, I must approve all the parts of a Bill, or reject it in toto. To do the latter can only be justified upon the clear and obvious ground of propriety; and I never had such confidence in my own faculty of judging as to be over tenacious of the opinions I may have embibed in doubtful cases.

Mrs Washington who enjoys tolerable good health joins me most cordially in best wishes for you and Mrs Pendleton.5 I wish you may live long—continue in good health—and end your days as you have been wearing them away, happily and respected. Always, and most affectionately, I am Your Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, MHi: Washburn Papers; ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW. The draft and letter-book copy differ slightly in wording from the ALS at several points, the most significant of which is reported in n.3.

1GW was referring to Pendleton’s second letter of 11 September.

2Pendleton’s most recent extant letter to GW, of 9 April 1791, was a recommendation of George Flowerdew Norton for office (see GW to Hannah Fairfax Washington, 1 April 1791, n.1). GW evidently had in mind Pendleton’s letter of 13 Oct. 1789 explaining his rejection of a federal judgeship, the last extant letter with significant personal content (see GW to Pendleton, 28 Sept. 1789, n.3). Pendleton’s promise of an annual letter has not been identified, but in Pendleon’s letter to GW of 16 Feb. 1781 he begged “Pardon for having so long delayed to pay you my Annual Acknowledgment of regard & Esteem” (PHi: Gratz Collection).

3On the draft, GW initially wrote “we have some very infamous papers,” before crossing out “very” and adding “calculated to disturb the public mind if not absolutely intended to do mischief.” The letter-book copy follows the final phrasing of the draft.

4Alexander Hamilton’s actions as secretary of the treasury had been investigated by Congress in early 1793 (see U.S. House of Representatives to GW, 23 Jan., n.1). However, criticism of that investigation led Hamilton to request in December “that a new Inquiry may be without delay instituted, in some mode most effectual for an accurate and thorough investigation” (Hamilton to Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg, 16 Dec., Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 15:460–67). That investigation culminated with a report on the “Condition of the Treasury Department” submitted to the House on 22 May 1794. The committee found that Hamilton had not “either directly or indirectly . . . procured any discount or credit” from the banks “upon the basis of any public moneys which . . . have been deposited therein under his direction,” and that “no moneys of the United States . . . have ever been . . . used for, or applied to any purposes, but those of the Government, except, so far as all moneys deposited in a bank are concerned in the general operations thereof” (ASP, Finance description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:281–301).

5Sarah Pollard (1725/26–c.1814) married Pendleton in 1743.

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