Presidential Series: Volume 4

DATE September 1789 – January 1790

Volume 4 covers the fall and early winter of 1789-90 and focuses on the problems facing the new administration. Many documents in this volume deal with the difficulties Washington encountered in his attempt to staff the federal Judiciary and his fears that failure to attract viable candidates for the Supreme Court and the federal courts would damage the reputation of the new government. There is extensive correspondence dealing with the administration’s unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a treaty with the Creek chief Alexander McGillivray and with the growing threat from Indian tribes in the Northwest. Applications for office continue to pour in, often illustrating the private difficulties and public aspirations of the Revolutionary generation. Letters to Washington come from a cross section of Americans and foreign dignitaries and present a rich resource on such diverse topics as foreign affairs, overseas trade, and public attitudes toward the new government.

In October 1789 Washington undertook a trip through the New England states to attract support for his administration. His triumphal journey is richly documented by the numerous letters of private and public support. Private letters deal with topics ranging from his attempts to furnish his new greenhouse at Mount Vernon with exotic plants and his acquisition of mares to stock the plantation’s paddocks to the settlement of the financial affairs of his stepson’s estate and his gift of a bit of chintz to the young daughters of a Connecticut innkeeper.


Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series volume 4, September 1789 – January 1790. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993.

Purchase from the University of Virginia Press.