This beautifully rebound First American Edition two-volume set of Washington’s Letters to Congress was printed in Boston by Manning & Loring in 1795. The full title of the work is: Official Letters to the Honourable American Congress, Written During the War between the United Colonies and Great Britain, by His Excellency George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental forces, Now President of the United States. A first American edition is scarce; even Thomas Jefferson had only a first London edition in his famous library. The beautiful set is presented in a custom archival slipcase with a depiction of Washington on the front.
Combining many of Washington’s letters to Congress between the years 1775 and 1778, this set was published in 1795 during his second term in office as the President of the still nascent United States. The letters begin just after Washington was appointed the commanding general of the recently formed Continental Army. Written not long after the gunpowder incident in Virginia, Washington’s first letter desperately pleads Congress for more powder. The last letter was written on December 31, 1778 shortly after the British captured Savannah but after the turning point in the war. Washington mentions an upcoming strategy and possibly the annexation of Canada. These letters take the reader through Washington’s thoughts and actions during major battles, issues, and victories.
Washington was known to meticulously care for and organize his personal papers. Throughout his life, he hired aides, clerks, and secretaries to assist him in his careful record keeping. To Washington, the safety of his letters were second only to the safety of his wife, Martha. In 1775 he wrote to his cousin, Lund Washington, to provide “for [Martha] in Alexandria, or some other place of safety for her and my papers.” Bound copies of papers relating to a single topic were kept with his records and he even planned to build an entire building at Mt. Vernon specifically to safely house his papers. Periodically, the Father of the United States would return to edit his old letters correcting grammar, word choice, etc.
The letters provide evidence for Washington’s leadership, his care for his men, and his care for his country despite overwhelming odds. The first president was always hailed as an American hero, but by his second term the country was divided over his administration. Public opinion nearly glorified Washington universally when he was first elected, however, opposition to his government began in the early 1790s. The most harsh criticisms came about in 1793 and 1794 over US neutrality in Revolutionary France and Great Britain conflicts as well as the Jay Treaty with Great Britain to avoid another war. Amidst growing discontent for the government, these letters were likely published to boost the public’s wavering opinion of Washington and gain support for the government administration. These papers helped to solidify the almost legendary character of the first president of the United States.
Overall age appropriate condition. The two volumes have been professionally rebound in full leather. The boards feature embossed motifs and the spines feature raised bands, embossed designs, and gilt title information. The original internal pages have received minor professional repairs to the margins. The pages have some foxing and discoloration throughout from age, but the text is all easily legible. Both volumes are housed together in a protective custom archival slipcase, featuring a black and white image of George Washington on one side.
Dimensions: 7 ½” H x 4 ¾” W x 3 ¼” D (both volumes with slipcase)
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