177
177
Washington, George, first President
Estimate
80,000120,000
JUMP TO LOT
177
Washington, George, first President
Estimate
80,000120,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York

Washington, George, first President
Autograph letter signed ("Go: Washington"), 2 1/2 pages (8 7/8 x 7 1/8 in.; 227 x 182 mm) on a bifolium (watermarked posthorn), Mount Vernon, 21 July 1788, to Nathaniel Gorham (likely at Charlestown, Massachusetts), reception docket on verso of second leaf; some light staining, short fold separations neatly repaired, pinholes at intersecting folds. Red and blue morocco folding-case.
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Literature

The Writings of George Washington, ed. Fitzpatrick, 30:23–24 (text from the letter book, with several variations in incidentals)

Catalogue Note

"Much happiness may rationally be anticipated ... by the operation of a free, yet efficient general government": the President of the Constitutional Convention celebrates ratification with Nathaniel Gorham, one of Massachsetts's most important supporters of the new charter.

Washington reflects with satisfaction on the impact the Constitution is likely to have on the United States. New Hampshire's acceptance on 21 June 1788 met the nine-state requirement necessary for official ratification, but Virginia's adoption of the Constitution four days later was highly significant as a symbol of national unity. He responds here to a congratulatory letter from Nathaniel Gorham, whose home state of Massachusetts was the sixth to ratify the Constitution, 6 February 1788.

"It gives me reciprocal satisfaction to find that the adoption of the Constitution by Virginia has diffused so general a Joy through the other States.—The good disposition manifested by the Citizens of your Commonwealth, excites also a flattering & consolatory reflection in all who wish well to the foederal interest & the glory of the American Nation.—Much happiness may rationally be anticipated from the excreasing prevalence of industry & frugality, invigorated and encouraged by the operation of a free, yet efficient general government.—"

As Washington continues, poetically musing on intimations of mortality, it is clear that he believes that his service at the Constitutional Convention was his last public duty: "Although I am passing rapidly into the Vale of Years, where the genial warmth of youth that fixes its votary with a generous enthusiasm becomes extinct, & where the cheerfullness [sic, evidently for "cheerlessness"] of the prospect often infects the animal spirits with a similar contagion; yet I trust there are few who rejoice more fervently in the expectation that the beams of prosperity will break in upon a Country, which has ever engaged my most disinterested wishes and fondest hopes. And although I shall not live to see but a small portion of the happy effects, which I am confident this system will produce for my Country; yet the precious idea of its prosperity will not only be a consolation amidst the encreasing infirmities of nature and the growing love of retirement, but it will tend to sooth the mind in the inevitable hour of separation from terrestrial objects.—"

Washington was to find it more difficult to separate from earthly responsibility than he might have wished. His irreproachable reputation made his assumption of the newly created office of President of the United States a foregone conclusion across the thirteen states. Despite his sincere desire to retire to the "peaceful abode" of his Mount Vernon estates, Washington felt compelled to support the new nation, and he soon accepted the inevitability of his election as chief executive. From that office, Washington was able to ensure that his closing wish to Gorham would became reality: "With earnest Prayers that you and all the worthy Patriots of America may long enjoy uninterrupted felicity under the New Government. ..."

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York