During the period covered by volume 6, Washington’s attention was devoted to several matters of great national significance. He signed the Residence and Funding Acts, authorizing a permanent new Federal City on the Potomac, establishing the seat of the federal government at Philadelphia until 1800, and creating a national debt by assuming the Revolutionary War debts of the states.
Washington’s official correspondence also shows his concern with Indian affairs, particularly his frustration with Brigadier General Josiah Harmar’s punitive expedition in the Northwest Territory. Secretary of War Henry Knox’s negotiations at New York with the southern Creeks loom large in the documents and annotation of early August 1790, which provide evidence of contemporary attitudes toward the Native American negotiators. Light is also shed on the intrigues of foreign agents on America’s frontiers and in its capital as Spain and Great Britain appeared to drift toward war. The president’s triumphal visit to Rhode Island in celebration of its ratification of the Federal Constitution is well documented.
Washington’s private correspondence with his secretary about remodeling the new presidential mansion and renovating his coach provides a detailed picture of high Federal culture and a glimpse of those whose livelihoods depended on serving the elite. Several requests for charity and numerous letters of application for federal office, particularly for posts in the newly created Revenue Cutter Service, describe the lives of various other ordinary American citizens.
Mark A. Mastromarino, ed., The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series volume 6, July – November 1790. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1996.
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