George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Armstrong, 25 November 1793

From John Armstrong

Carlisle [Pa.] 25th Novr 1793

Honored Dear Sir

Please to accept my sincere Congratulations on the reputed State of your good health & safe return to our Afflicted Capitol, or the invirons thereof.

The design of this letter which ought to have been much sooner addressed, is to tender my Cordial thanks & acknowledgments of your Excellencys friendly rememberance of my son in the appointment proposed to him—of which thro’ an accidental delay in his correspondence, I knew nothing until a short time before your last setting out to Mount Vernon. his non-acceptance I find gave him some pain for certain reasons distinct from the change of his residence to that of New York, which he thinks would not correspond to his circumstances in life; and which I hope he may in some degree have explain’d in the acknowledgments incumbent upon him.1 It has been amongst my wishes for and advices to him, to keep a constant eye to the common dictates of providence, seeking resignation in Such Station as most naturally presented itself however private it might be, and I trust he has in a good degree began to see the propriety thereof, and the Sovereign disposal of men & things which this world presents to the observation of every day! his elder brother who never looked for any thing out of the sphere of his own profession, and which former bad health had even obliged him to lay aside, is now called forth to deliberations of a very important kind for which he hath few possitive quallifications beyond the native Simplicity and firmness of his mind, yet such is the course of human conduct.2

In regard to our Western Affairs, a Solemn Silence at present prevails—if Genl Wayne has carried out 3000 effectives, from the consideration of more discipline & better appointments, there is much to hope he has reach’d the Villages near the begining of this month. If a general Action should take place it is not likely to be obstinate, as the Novelty joined to the terror of the Horse has a tendency at once to intimidate & discomfit the Enemy, who in my opinion have no rational motive at all for a general engagement except their numbers far Exceed our computation; their present estimation of their own Superiority at Arms may prove a Stimulas to produce a general battle, but if they persist, (the circumstances of light & ground being favourable) the Stimulas I hope will prove a Snare to these inflated men.

Publick prayers have been offered in these parts for the Success of our little Army—the preservation of our Country & the Capitol of this state from wasteing & contagious diseases—and the Governor I see has recommended another day of the like Ser⟨illegible⟩ which may be more generally attended to—this to be sure is both laudible & highly expedient, but pity it is, where the holy Bible may be so easily consulted that this devout prescription should appear to be wanting in a Capital Article—as of the merits & intercession of jesus Christ, the proclamation sayeth nothing! without a special respect thereto (if revelation be true) the other good things mentioned therein can avail nothing—but the people we hope will make this necessary Supplement.3

The late afflictive Visitation of God to the inhabitants of Philada is truly Alarming & ought to awaken not only the reflexion of Pennsylvania, but of every State in the Union—nor is the limittation of the infection to that spot (as is generally reported) less extraordinary, from which we are not unnaturally led to augur some good to this country—happy however at the present in hearing not only of a gradual abatement of this malignant disease for more than a month past, but now of it’s total abolition.

I should but improperly offer to touch the publick difficulties of the present moment and can only express my earnest wishes that together with the country where you preside you may be safely carried through the political intricacies that either now or hereafter may fall in the way—You were Sir, I firmly believe providentially called to this checkered task, and in a diligent attention not only to your official, but Christian duty, have cause to be of good Courage, not because of an imperfect discharge of these duties, but because the lord reigns & will do all his pleasure, who can carry you through this maze of things, with honor and dignity to the end. And this dear Sir in the simplicity of truth is the habitual desire of your frail but invariable friend

John Armstrong


1In April 1793 John Armstrong, Jr., was offered an appointment as surveyor of the revenue for New York City, a position he briefly accepted and then resigned (see Tobias Lear to GW, 8 April, and n.8).

2James Armstrong (1748–1828), a physician and judge, was elected to represent Pennsylvania in Congress, 1793–95.

3Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Mifflin’s proclamation of 14 Nov. read: “WHEREAS it hath pleased Almighty GOD to put an end to the grievous Calamity, that recently afflicted the City of Philadelphia; and it is the Duty of all, who are truly sensible of the Divine Justice and Mercy, to employ the earliest moments of returning Health, in devout expressions of penitence, submission, and gratitude: THEREFORE I have deemed it proper to issue this Proclamation; hereby appointing THURSDAY, the Twelfth Day of December next, to be holden throughout the Commonwealth, as a Day of general Humiliation, Thanksgiving, and Prayer. AND I earnestly exhort and entreat my Fellow-Citizens, to abstain on that Day from all their worldly Avocations; and to unite in Confessing, with contrite Hearts, our manifold sins and transgressions; in acknowledging, with thankful adoration, the mercy and goodness of the Supreme Ruler and Preserver of the Universe,—more especially manifested in our late deliverance; and in praying, with solemn zeal, that the same mighty Power would be graciously pleased to instill into our Minds the just principles of our duty to Him, and to our Fellow Creatures;—to regulate and guide all our actions by his Holy Spirit;—to avert from all Mankind the evils of War, Pestilence and Famine;—and to bless and protect us in the enjoyment of Civil and Religious Liberty. AND all officers of the Commonwealth, as well as all Pastors and Teachers, are, also, particularly requested to make known this Proclamation, and, by their example and advice, to recommend a punctual observance thereof, within their respective jurisdictions and congregations:—so that the voice of the People, strengthened by its unanimity, and sanctified by sincerity, ascending to the Throne of Grace, may there find favor and acceptance” (Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, 18 Nov.).

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