The Diaries: Volume 5

DATE July 1786 – December 1789

Washington’s diary entries from July 1786 to the end of 1789 continue the day-to-day accounts of activities and guests at his plantation home, Mount Vernon. They also contain much information about the establishment and first months of the new republic.

The volume covers the weeks when Washington was president of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia (May-September 1787). Since the delegates were bound to secrecy, Washington did not record the convention’s proceedings in his diary, but his entries do illuminate the social lives of the delegates and their relations outside the convention hall. Both Washington’s original entries for this period and the revised version he produced after his return to Mount Vernon are included.

Volume 5 also records his early presidency, from October to December 1789, and treats many of the diplomatic and domestic problems the new government faced during the crucial months that followed the first inauguration. The entries for these months present a detailed account of social life at the presidential mansion in Philadelphia. Washington’s description of his presidential tour of New England in the fall of 1789 is included.

Many entries deal with Washington’s extensive agricultural activities. These cover his relations with agricultural workers and slaves and include descriptions of the experimental planting carried out on his farms. Improvements and construction at Mount Vernon by skilled craftsmen were under way then. As in past volumes, annotations supply information about the persons and places mentioned in the entries, and an index is provided.


Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Papers of George Washington: Diaries volume 5, July 1786 – December 1789. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1979.