Looking Back at George Washington

letter from George Washington

letter from George Washington

It is always interesting and fun, on the anniversary of a great leader’s birthday, to reflect on their life. February 22, 1732 was George Washington’s birthday. Today, while we see him as one of the most influential of American leaders, it is fascinating to look at his shortcomings and fears. He was, in essence, just like the rest of us.

On April 1, 1789, he wrote a draft of a letter that the Shapell Manuscript Foundation has in its possession as part of its Between The Lines program. Writing to the Honorable Major General Henry Knox, he expressed his fear about becoming the President. As he wrote,

For myself, the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for in confidence I tell you, with the world it w[oul]d. obtain little credit) that my movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution; so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities & inclination which is necessary to manage the helm.

He continued,

_ I am sensible, that I am embarking the voice of the people, and a good name of my own, on this voyage; but what returns will be made for them _ Heaven alone can foretell. _

While this letter, displayed with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, is only a draft, it is close to the final version and certainly shows Washington’s misgivings and fears about his upcoming change.


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