The Letterpress Edition of The Papers of George Washington consists of the following volumes, printed in five series and the complete diaries, which can be found in most university, college, and public libraries. The volumes are available for purchase from the University of Virginia Press. The series includes not only Washington’s own letters and other papers but also all letters written to him.
The Diaries span most of Washington’s adult life. Begun in 1748 and kept until his death in 1799, these volumes reveal the lifelong preoccupations of the public and private man.
The Colonial Series (1744–1775) takes Washington through his command of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War and then focuses on his political and business activities as a Virginia planter during the fifteen years before the Revolution.
The Revolutionary War Series (1775–1783) presents in documents and annotation the myriad military and political matters with which Washington dealt during the long war for American independence.
The Confederation Series (1784–1788) begins on 1 January 1784 with the hero of the American Revolution back at Mount Vernon under his own “vine and fig tree.” It ends in September 1788 on the eve of his return to public life as president under the new Constitution. Unlike the series devoted to Washington’s Revolutionary War and presidential papers, the Confederation Series is composed almost entirely of personal letters and includes very few official documents.
The Presidential Series (1788–1797) when complete, will cover the eight precedent-setting years of Washington’s presidency. These volumes include the public papers either written by Washington or presented to him during both of his administrations. Among the documents are Washington’s messages to Congress, addresses from public and private bodies, applications for public office, letters of recommendation and documents concerned with diplomatic and Indian affairs. Also in these volumes are Washington’s private papers, which include family letters, farm reports, letters to and from friends and acquaintances, and documents relating to the administration of his Mount Vernon plantation and management of the presidential household.
The Retirement Series (1797–1799) covers the interval between Washington’s retirement from the presidency on 4 March 1797 and his death on 14 December 1799. Except for a trip to Philadelphia in 1798, Washington stuck close to home, only occasionally going from Mount Vernon into Alexandria or across the river to Georgetown and the new Federal City. The management and improvement of his farms at Mount Vernon were his major concern, and the pressing need for money forced him to give particularly attention to the disposition of his large landholdings in the West. As “Father of His Country” he found himself not only entertaining a constant stream of visitors but also responding to a steady flow of letters from friends and strangers, foreign and domestic. From the start, senators, congressmen, Adam’s cabinet members, and diplomats kept him informed of political developments. Washington’s absence from the public state, never much more than a fiction, came to an end in July 1798 when his growing alarm over French policy and the bitter divisions in the body politic arising out of it led him to accept command of the army, with the promise to take the field in case of a French invasion. And in 1799 Washington for the first time became deeply involved in partisan electoral politics.