To Timothy Pickering
Mount Vernon 15th Feby 1799.
Your favour of the 8th instt conveys very pleasing information, and I feel obliged by the communication.
Although you did not give your letter the stamp of privacy, I did not think myself at liberty to mention the purport of it to some good Federal characters who were dining with me at the time I received it, and who would have thought it the best Desert I could have offered.1
Hence forward, I will consider your letters to me, in three distinct points of view; and I mention it now, that I may commit no error hereafter.
First, such communications as you may conceive proper to make to me, alone, and mark confidential, shall go no farther; those marked private, I may, occasionally, impart their contents to well disposed characters; and those without either, will leave me unrestrained.2 With very great esteem & regard—I am always—Yr Affecte
ALS, MHi: Pickering Papers; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; copy, MHi: Pickering Papers.
1. The only dinner guests at Mount Vernon noted at this time were those of 12 Feb., who included Nicholas Fitzhugh, a brother of Fitzhugh, and Henry Washington (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:334).