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The noontide of life is now passed with Mrs. Washington and myself; and all we have to do is to spend the evening of our days in tranquillity, and glide gently down a stream, which no human effort can ascend. We must, therefore, however reluctantly it is done, forego the pleasure of such a visit as you kindly invite us to make. But the case with you is far otherwise. Your days are in their meridian brightness. In the natural order of things, you have many years to come, in which you may indulge yourself in all the amusements, which variety can afford and different countries produce, and in receiving those testimonies of respect, which every one in the United States would wish to
render to you.
My mother will receive the compliments you honor her with, as flattering marks of attention ; and I shall have great pleasure in delivering them myself. My best wishes and vows are offered for you, and for the fruits of your love; and with every sentiment of respect and attachment, I have the honor to be, Madam, &c.
TO JOHN JAY.
Mount Vernon, 18 May, 1786. DEAR SIR, In due course of post, I have been honored with your favors of the 2d and 16th of March ;
* since which I have been a good deal engaged and pretty much from home. For the enclosure, which accompanied the first, I thank you. Mr. Littlepage seems to have forgotten what had been his situation, forgotten what was due to you, and indeed what was necessary
* See Life of John Jay, Vol. I. p. 242.
to his own character; and his guardian, I think, seems to have forgotten every thing.*
I coincide perfectly in sentiment with you, my dear Sir, that there are errors in our national government, which call for correction ; loudly, I would add ; but I shall find myself happily mistaken if the remedies are at hand. We are certainly in a delicate situation; but my fear is, that the people are not yet sufficiently misled to retract from error. To be plainer, I think there is more wickedness than ignorance mixed in our councils. Under this impression I scarcely know what opinion to entertain of a general convention. That it is necessary to revise and amend the articles of confederation, I entertain no doubt; but what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. Yet something must be done, or the fabric must fall, for it is certainly tottering.
Ignorance and design are difficult to combat. Out of these proceed illiberal sentiments, improper jealousies, and a train of evils which oftentimes in republican governments must be sorely felt before they can be removed. The former, that is ignorance, being a fit soil for the latter to work in, tools are employed which a generous mind would disdain to use; and which nothing but time, and their own puerile or wicked productions, can show the inefficacy and dangerous tendency of. I think often of our situation, and view it with concern. From the high ground we stood upon,
, from the plain path which invited our footsteps, to be so fallen, so lost, is really mortifying. But virtue, I fear, has in a great degree taken its departure from our land, and the want of a disposition to do justice is the
This subject appears to have been made a matter of much more public importance than its merits deserved. It is fully explained in the Life of John Jay, Vol. I. pp. 204 - 229.
source of the national embarrassments; for, whatever guise or coloring is given to them, this I apprehend is the origin of the evils we now feel, and probably shall labor under for some time yet. With respectful compliments to Mrs. Jay, and sentiments of sincere friendship, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO JAMES TILGHMAN.
Mount Vernon, 5 June, 1786. DEAR SIR, I have just had the pleasure to receive your letter of the 26th ultimo. Of all the numerous acquaintances of your lately deceased son, and amidst all the sorrowings, which are mingled on the occasion, I may venture to assert, that, excepting his nearest relatives, none could have felt his death with more regret than I did, because no one entertained a higher opinion of his worth, or had imbibed sentiments of greater friendship for him, than I had done.
That you, Sir, should have felt the keenest anguish for the loss I can readily conceive.
The ties of parental affection, united with those of friendship, could not fail to produce this effect. It is however a dispensation, the wisdom of which is inscrutable ; and, amidst all your grief, there is this consolation to be drawn, that while living, no man could be more esteemed, and since dead, none more lamented, than Colonel Tilghman.*
* Colonel Tench Tilghman had been an aid to General Washington during a large part of the war, and had acquired in an unusual degree his confidence and esteem. He died after a short illness at Baltimore. Among the Mount Vernon Papers I find the following inscription in manuscript.
“Beneath this Stone are laid the Remains of a Good Man, Colonel
As his correspondence with the committee of New York is not connected with any transactions of mine, so consequently it is not necessary that the papers, to which you allude, should compose part of my public documents; but, if they stand single, as they exhibit a trait of his public character, and, like all the rest of his transactions, will, I am persuaded, do honor to his understanding and probity, it may be desirable in this point of view to keep them alive by mixing them with mine, which undoubtedly will claim the attention of the historian ; who, if I mistake not, will upon an inspection of them discover the illiberal ground on which the charge, mentioned in the extract from the letter you did me the honor to enclose, is founded. That a calumny of this kind had been reported, I knew. I had laid my account for the calumnies of anonymous scribblers; but I never before had conceived, that such a one as is related could have originated with, or met the countenance of Captain Asgill, whose situation often filled me with the keenest anguish. I felt for him on many accounts; and not the least, when, viewing him as a man of honor and sentiment, I considered how unfortunate it was for him, that a wretch, who possessed neither, should be the means of causing in him a single pang, or a disagreeable sensation. My favorable opin
Tench Tilghman, who died April the 18th, 1786, in the 43d Year of his Age. He took an early and active part in the great contest, that secured the Independence of the United States of America. He was aid-de-camp to his Excellency General Washington, Commander-in-chief of the American Armies, and was honored with his friendship and confidence; and he was one of those, whose merits were distinguished and honorably rewarded by the Congress.”
Several of General Washington's correspondents spoke of his death with much warmth of feeling. Robert Morris said; “ You have lost in him a most faithful and valuable friend. He was to me the same. I esteemed him very, very much, and I lament his loss exceedingly.” — April 201h. VOL. IX.
ion of him, however, is forfeited, if, being acquainted with these reports, he did not immediately contradict them. That I could not have given countenance to the insults, which he says were offered to his person, especially the grovelling one of erecting a gibbet before his prison window, will, I expect, readily be believed, when I explicitly declare, that I never heard of a single attempt to offer an insult, and that I had every reason to be convinced, that he was treated by the officers around him with all the tenderness and every civility in their power.
I would fain ask Captain Asgill, how he could reconcile such a belief, if his mind had been seriously impressed with it, to the continual indulgences and procrastinations he had experienced ? He will not, I presume, deny, that he was admitted to his parole within ten or twelve miles of the British lines; if not to a formal parole, to a confidence yet more unlimited, by being permitted, for the benefit of his health and the recreation of his mind, to ride, not only about the cantonment, but into the surrounding country for many miles, with his friend and companion, Major Gordon, constantly attending him. Would not these indulgences have pointed a military character to the fountain from which they flowed. Did he conceive, that discipline was so lax in the American army, as that any officer in it would have granted these liberties to a person confined by the express order of the Commanderin-chief, unless authorized to do so by the same authority? To ascribe them to the interference of Count de Rochambeau is as void of foundation as his other conjectures; for I do not recollect that a sentence ever passed between that general and me, directly or indirectly, on the subject.
I was not without suspicions, after the final liberation