To Jeremy Belknap
Mount Vernon 15th June 1798
Your favour of the 29th Ulto accompanying the Discourse delivered on the day recommended by the President of the U. States to be observed for a Fast, was received in the usual course of the Mail, from Boston; and the copies therewith sent, were forwarded agreeably to your desire.
My best wishes attend the prosecution of your American Biography, and (not recollecting whether the request was made before) I desire I may be considered as a Subscriber to the first Volume. To the Proposal which came under cover to me, I have fixed my name; and will lodge the Paper in the hands of a Gentleman in Alexandria for the convenience of those who may incline to become Subscribers thereto; and thereafter to return it to you.1
My information relative to the family of Calvert, is more limited than the one detailed by you. I know little more of it than what is recited in the history of Virginia; but I will send a transcript of so much of your letter as relates to this subject, to a well informed Gentleman of my acquaintance in Maryland, Judge Chase—& give you the result.2
I know of no other Histories of Virginia than those mentioned in your letter. But I recollect well, to have heard the late Richard Bland of Prince George C[oun]ty say, before the Revolution, that he was either possessed of, or was collecting materials, and hoped to furnish a more correct history of it than any that was then extant. He was very competent to the undertaking, being a man of erudition & intelligence; long a member of the Councils of this State, and afterwards a member of the first Congresses that were held in Philadelphia: I cannot add however, that he was the Author of the MS transmitted to you by Carter B. Harrison. Colo. Bland, the person of whom I am speaking, has been dead more than twenty years.3 Bishop Madison, with whom you seem to be in the habit of corresponding, is as likely to give information on the point sought after by you, as any one pe⟨rson⟩ I am acquainted with. To the descendant of a Gentleman, (the Honble Richd Corbin, many years deceased) who it has been said possessed some valuable notes relative to an⟨cient⟩ transactions, and the actors of those ⟨times in this State I will write,⟩ and if any thing worthy of notice is obtained, you shall be furnished therewith.4
If I can render you any service, in procuring materials for your valuable Biography, I shall feel pleasure in doing it. I hope both life & health will be dispensed to you by him, in whose hands all things are, until this and many others of your good works are completed. For the Discourse, which you were so obliging as to send me, and for the favourable sentiments with which it was accompanied, I pray you to accept the best thanks of Revd Sir Your most Obedt & very Hble Servant
ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW; copy, MHi: Belknap Papers.
1. GW wrote to William Fitzhugh in Alexandria from Mount Vernon on 17 June: “My dear Sir The Revd Mr Belknap is esteemed one of the best, and most correct historical writers of the present times. The work which he proposes to lay before the Public will be interesting, if well executed; and as he is taking great pains to collect information, I am persuaded it will be more so than any thing of the Biographical sort, upon a general plan, that has yet appeared, in this Country. Under this belief, I have taken the liberty of enclosing his proposal to you, that, if you should be so inclined, it may be offered in the Coffee house at Alexandria for Subscription. To be returned to me, after it has obtained all it is likely to receive. Best wishes attend you and family. I always am Your Affecte friend Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW). See GW’s report on Fitzhugh’s efforts made to Belknap on 12 July 1798.
2. GW wrote from Mount Vernon on 17 June to Samuel Chase (1741–1811) of Maryland, at this time an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: “Dear Sir, A letter of which the enclosed is an extract, has lately been received by me from the Reverend Mr Belknap (of New Hampshire) who is writing an American Biography.
“As Mr Belknap is a man of character & abilities, writes well, and seems anxious to be correct in what he gives to the World, he merits encouragement, and Aid from those who have it in their power to afford it. If I was able to ⟨solve⟩ the queries contained in the extract, I would have ⟨asked no assistance;⟩ but having no knowledge of the family of Calvert, further than is ⟨recited in⟩ the history of Virginia, and believing that no person is better able to give the particulars of it than you are, must be my apology for troubling [you] with this Address: to which let me add assurances of being, Dear Sir, Your most Obedt Hble Servant Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW). The words in angle brackets are taken from the letter-book copy. Chase replied from Baltimore on 28 June.
3. The learned Richard Bland (1710–1776) was a powerful figure in the Virginia House of Burgesses in the decades before the American Revolution. He collected and preserved many important documents but is not known to have written a history of Virginia.
4. GW’s letter of 17 June to Francis Corbin (1759–1821), son of Richard Corbin (d. 1790), reads: “Sir A letter, of which the enclosed is an extract, has lately been received by me from the Revd Mr Belknap (of New Hampshire) who is writing an American Biography.
“As Mr Belknap is a man of character & abilities, writes well, and seems anxious to be correct in what he gives to the Public, he merits encouragement, and aid from those who have it in their power to afford it.
“Recollecting to have heard—many years ago—that your deceased father possessed many valuable notes of his father, relative to men & things in the early period of our history, I have conceived that it might be in your power to furnish Mr Belknap with some useful information from that source; and it is the only apology I can make for giving you the trouble of receiving this Address from Sir, Your most Obedt Hble Servt Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW). See Corbin’s reply of 7 July.