George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Arthur Fenner, 10 March 1797

From Arthur Fenner

Providence [R.I.] March 10th 1797


The General Assembly, which convened at East Greenwich on the twenty-seventh of February, having continued in Session until the Night before last, I had not the Opportunity of transmitting the inclosed Address.1 I have now the Pleasure of doing it, and of assuring you that I am, with every Sentiment of Esteem and Respect, Sir, Your most obedient, and Most humble Servant

A. Fenner


Arthur Fenner (1745–1805) was elected governor of Rhode Island as an Antifederalist in 1790 and was reelected every year after that until his death. When GW visited Rhode Island in 1790, Fenner led the great procession that greeted the president at the wharf in Providence.

1After the usual expression of regret at GW’s retirement, the legislators in the enclosed address, signed by Fenner and dated “February Session” 1797, declared: “Your Address to the People (which announces the Resolution, that has roused the recollection and called forth the Feelings of United America) entitles you to our Gratitude, Esteem, and Affection. For we deem it not only expressive of your unabated Zeal for the public good, but replete with Maxims and Principles, grounded upon the most extensive and accurate Conceptions of the great Interests of our Country—Maxims and Principles which you have successfully pursued to preserve the Peace and increase the Prosperity of our infant Republic, and which, we trust, will be adhered to by the present and future Generations.”

GW replied to Fenner on 3 April from Mount Vernon: “Sir, I have been favored with your letter of the 10th of March, enclosing an Address from the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island &ca. I now beg leave to transmit, through your hands, my answer to that Address, and to assure you that I am with every sentiment of esteem & respect Sir Your Most Obedient Servt Go: Washington” (ALS, R-Ar). The text of GW’s enclosed reply to the Rhode Island legislature is: “Gentlemen Supported by the patriotic exertions and pleasing approbation of my fellow-Citizens, for a long series of years, in important, critical, and highly interesting situations; I have discharged my duties with that satisfaction to myself which could only result from those circumstances. And when, in the decline of life, I gratify the fond wish of my heart in retiring from public labours, and find the language of approbation and fervent prayers for future happiness following that event, my heart expands with gratitude, and my feelings become unutterable.

“But, in full confidence that, under the wise, firm and patriotic conduct of those who administer our public affairs, the prosperity, happiness and respectability of our Country will be no less an object than they have heretofore been, I feel a peculiar satisfaction.

“If the sentiments which I expressed on the eve of my retirement from Public life, meet the approbation of my Countrymen, I must feel highly gratified; for they were the pure sentiments of my heart, founded on the experience which I had in life, and matured by the best reflection I could give them.

“Although guided by our excellent Constitution in the discharge of official duties, and actuated, through the whole course of my public life, solely by a wish to promote the best interests of our Country; Yet, with out the beneficient interposition of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe we could not have reached the distinguished situation which we have attained with such unprecedented rapidity. To him, therefore, should we bow with gratitude and reverence, and endeavour to merit a continuance of his special favors.

“Deeply and gratefully impressed by your affectionate address & benevolent wishes, I shall not fail to supplicate the throne of Grace that the best of Heavens blessings may rest upon your State, and upon your selves individually. Go: Washington” (ADS, R-Ar).

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