George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 15 January 1797

Boston 15 January 1797

My dear sir

Possessing as I do a thousand evidences of your friendship, I am persuaded that you will readily beleive me, when I say that my silence of late, has been the effect of my unwillingness to intrude, lest I should for a moment prevent the consideration and different views, you give to the important subjects incessantly before you.

Although the same cause continues to prevent my interruption, yet I am apprehensive sometimes, that you may think me unmindful of your kindnesses, especially after the receipt of yr affectionate letter by Mr Bingham, the last summer. The loss of two lovely children on which, you condoled in that letter, has been recently revived and encreased by the death of our son of seven years of age, bearing your name. His health has always been delicate, having been born prematurely. We flattered ourselves that his constitution would mend with his years, but we have been disappointed. Unfortunate indeed have we been in the death of eight of our children, requiring the exercise of our whole stock of Philosophy and Religion. We find ourselves afflicted by an irresistible but invissible power to whom we must submit. But the conflict is almost too great for the inconsolable Mother who will go mourning to her grave.

We have lately come from St Georges to pass the Winter in this Town. Indeed this is our general plan. We may however as we grow older find it inconvenient. We are distant about two hundred miles by land, which we may easily ride in six days the snow being on the ground, or with wheels with a little improvement of a small portion of the road. The taverns on the route are as good as any other two hundred miles on the continent.

I am beginning to experience the good effects of my residence on my lands. I may truly say that the estate is more than double in its value since I determined to make it my home. The only inconvenience we experience is the want of Society. This will probably lessen dayly. Our communication by Water to this Town is constant and cheap. We can obtain the transportation of any article from this Town to St Georges, cheaper than the same can be called from any store to the Vessel. This egotism would require an apology to any other person than yourself.

For your own sake I rejoice at the near approach of your retirement. In it, I pray God that you may enjoy all the felicity of which the human condition is susceptible. The consciousness of having acted well, would under any circumstances, have elevated your soul above the peltings of storms raised by Malice and envy—But in addition to this consciousness, the consecration of your retirement, by the unlimited gratitude of your Country, must present in the decline of your life the most perfect reward.

I flatter myself before you leave the helm you will have dissipated the clouds raised by the causeless jealousy of the french administration. If not, we must appeal from them mad and drunk with power as they may be to the time when they shall have recovered their senses. We have not injured them, but have only taken those due precautions which our own happiness required. If they madly continue to war against our innocent and rightful commerce, we must make an account thereof, and look for compensation through all the events of ages, and we shall assuredly find it at some period or other with full interest. But I hope we shall not under any circumstances at present attempt reprisals. Their fit of insanity cannot last long. St Domingo is, and will be in the course of this Winter, the victim of the villany of its administration. The Whites will either be starved or murdered by the blacks.

It cannot be expected that there will be any danger of the french attempting an invasion of our country—But if they should, we must resist. And this appears to be the only case in which we should suffer ourselves to be dragged into the war.

What an eventful Winter this will be in Paris! especially if the Army of Italy should be arrested or defeated in addition, to the retreat of the two armies of Jourdan and Moreau from Germany.

From information generally circulating here, and particularly from a person who has the last autumn arrived from France in which he resided for several years, no doubt rests in my mind but the measures of the french administration towards this Country have been excited by the americans in Paris in consequence of letters received from persons of the same opinions in the United States.

I had not intended to intermix any politics in this letter, which I meant solely as the recognition of a grateful heart—But they have thrust themselves in unawares.

Mrs Knox unites with me in presenting Our respectful and affectionate attachments to You and Mrs Washington and I am my dear Sir Your ever devoted friend

H. Knox

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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