George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, 5 March 1797

To Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson

Philadelphia 5th March 1797.


The multiplicity of business which occurred in the course of the last Session, particularly in the latter part of it, placed it entirely out of my power to attend to matters of private concern. This reason, I hope, you will have the goodness to accept as an apology for my delay in acknowledging the receipt of your very polite and obliging favour of the 16th of January, at an earlier period—& even now, being not less occupied in preparing to leave this City, I perceive the necessity of asking further forgiveness for this laconic epistle.1 I have, however, conversed freely on the subject of your letter with our mutual friend Mr Boudinot, who will inform you fully of the circumstances under which I find myself relative to your request. To his information therefore, I beg leave to refer you.2

I cannot conclude however, without offering you my sincere thanks for the honor you intended me, for the enclosures accompanying your letter, and for the favourable and flattering sentiments which you have expressed for me therein. To which permit me to add assurances of the high esteem and regard with which I have the honor to be, Madam, Your Most Obedient and Very Hble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson (1739–1801) first wrote to GW on 29 Sept. 1777 asking permission for her husband, Henry Hugh Fergusson, who had recently returned from Scotland and come to Germantown from New York with Lord Howe, to visit her for a month at Graeme Park outside Philadelphia. GW refused to grant her request, and on 15 Oct. she brought to him the famous letter from the Philadelphia clergyman Jacob Duché calling on GW to negotiate a settlement with Britain. Before the Revolution, after breaking off her engagement to William Franklin in 1762 and before marrying Fergusson in 1772, Elizabeth Graeme worked on a translation of Fénelon’s Telemachus which she revised and completed in the 1780s. Her friend Elias Boudinot had been helping her search for a publisher for the nearly thirty thousand lines of poetry in twenty-four books, and she was now asking GW’s permission to dedicate the work to him (Simon Gratz, “Some Material for a Biography of Mrs. Elizabeth Fergusson, nee Graeme,” Pa. Mag., description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 139 vols. to date. 1877–. description ends 39 [1915], 257–321, 385–409, 41 [1917], 385–98).

1Letter not found.

2GW wrote Elias Boudinot (1740–1821) from Philadelphia on 6 Mar.: “Dear Sir, The enclosed letter to Mrs Fergusson, is left open for your perusal—sealing—and forwarding. If you should recollect the conversation we had upon the Subject of her proposed Dedication to me, of a certain translation, you will be at no loss for the footing on which to place the matter with that good Lady. My best wishes attend Mrs [Hannah Stockton] Boudinot, Mrs & Miss Bradford &ca & with great esteem & regard I am—Dear Sir Your obedient Go: Washington” (ALS, DNDAR). See Boudinot to GW, 7 March. Mrs. Bradford was Boudinot’s only daughter, Susan Vergereau Boudinot Bradford (b. 1764), widow of former U.S. attorney general William Bradford; Miss Bradford was William Bradford’s sister Rachel (1764–1805), who made her home with the Boudinots after her brother’s death in 1795. She later married Elias Boudinot’s brother Elisha Boudinot (1749–1819).

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