From Jeremy Belknap
Boston April 14. 1794
The favourable reception which you gave to my History of New Hampshire encourages me to present you the first volume of an American Biography.1
In the 326th page I have given a particular description of the place originally called St Croix, in hope that it might throw some light on the Controversy with the British Government respecting the Eastern boundary of the United States.2
The prosecution of this work will probably employ a great part of the remaining years of my life—and any assistance which can be afforded me will be very acceptable.3 Should you find leisure from your public duties to furnish me with any communications in this way, the favour will be gratefully acknowledged by sir Yr very humble servt
1. GW thanked Belknap for volume 1 of the History of New Hampshire in a letter of 5 Jan. 1785. The current gift was volume 1 of American Biography: or, An historical account of those persons who have been distinguished in America, as adventurers, statesmen, philosophers, divines, warriors, authors, and other remarkable characters. Comprehending a recital of the events connected with their lives and actions (Boston, 1794). Both volumes were in GW’s library at the time of his death. GW also possessed a complete three-volume set of the History of New Hampshire, and an additional volume 1 and a volume 2 of American Biography (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 508–9).
2. The chapter on the early French explorers de Monts, Poutrincourt, and Samuel Champlain includes a lengthy footnote that gives a detailed description of the island of Saint Croix and its surrounding waters, that is, the Saint Croix River in Maine (American Biography, 1:326–30). This island was assigned to the United States in 1798, and the river serves as a boundary between Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends , 2:427–32).
3. GW’s reply of 9 May reads: “Your letter of the 14th Ulto, and the first Vol. of an American Biography, came safe to my hands. For both I pray you to accept my thanks; and to consider me as a subscriber for the latter.
“I wish it was in my power to afford you any aid in the prosecution of so desirable a work. But I do not see wherein I can; and if I did, my avocations are of such a nature as to allow me no time to profit by the means. My good wishes therefore seems to be all that is left me, on this occasion” (ALS [photocopy], Profiles in History, catalog 15 (1992), item 10; ALS [letterpress copy], NN: Washington Papers; LB, DLC:GW; copy, MHi: Belknap Papers).