George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Elizabeth Dandridge Aylett Henley, 20 October 1799

To Elizabeth Dandridge Aylett Henley

Mount Vernon 20th Octr 1799

Dear Madam,

You will perceive by the Enclosed, which is left open for your perusal before it is forwarded, that your son John, is appointed a Mid-shipman in the Navy of the United States.1

You will press him to take the oath of Office, required by the Secretary of the Navy, without delay; and forward it to that Gentleman in the manner he directs—Enclosing it in a letter couched in some such terms as you will find on the other side. From the date of which letter of Acceptance, his pay will commence, according to the information given therein.

The oath may be taken before any respectable Magistrate, who must certify the same, at the bottom thereof. and I hope by his punctuality, and diligence in performing the duties which will be required of him, and his obedience to orders, he will give sufficient evidence of his deserving this first grade in the Naval Service, & thereby entitle himself to promotn.

As I expect your Sister is writing to you, I shall say nothing concerning her, or family matters;2 only adding that with the greatest truth I remain Your most Obedient, and Affectionate Hble Servant

Go: Washington

P.S. If your Son John can write a tolerable hand, the Letter to the Secy of the Navy had better be written by himself than any other; taking care to spell his words well.3

ALS (photocopy), DLC:GW. This letter is addressed to “Mrs Elizabeth Henley near Williamsburgh To the care of the Postmaster at that place.”

1GW’s letter to Stoddert of this date reads: “Sir, Your favor of the 16th instant was received the morning, after your letter to Mr John Henley was presented to me, & before the latter had been forwarded to that young Gentleman.

“For your politeness ⟨illegible⟩ for the latter’s appear⟨illegible⟩ the former, and for this fresh instance of your kind attention to my recommendation, I feel much obliged.

“I unite most sincerely with you in wishing, that the Mission to France on the eve of embarkation, will be productive of the good the President expects, and that an honorable, permanent and happy Peace for this Country, may be the result of the measure. With very ⟨illegible⟩ I am—Sir Your most Obedient obliged Hble Servt Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, NN: Washington Papers).

2Burwell Bassett wrote GW on 2 Dec. 1799 to inform him that Mrs. Henley, Martha Washington’s sister and Bassett’s aunt, had died in late November.

3GW enclosed this draft of a letter to Stoddert for John Henley to use: “Sir, Through the medium of General Washington, I have been honoured with your letter of the 16th, enclosing the Presidents Warrant appointing me a Midshipman in the Navy of the United States.

“Herewith I return the Oath which I have taken, with the Magistrates certificate thereof, annexed. My thanks are due to the President for this mark of his confidence—and to you, Sir, for having had the kindness to communicate it to me.

“Your orders I shall strictly obey—and I pray you to be assured, that if zeal for the welfare of my Country, and a strict attention to the Orders of my Superior Officers can accomplish it, the President shall have no cause to regret the confidence he has been pleased to place in Sir Your Most Obedt and Very Humble Servant John Henley” (photocopy, DLC:GW).

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