By George: A Letter from Our First President

The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library recently acquired something you’d more likely expect at an East Coast institution. The Aug. 25, 1784, letter written by George Washington was donated by two Albuquerque men who said it had been in their family since 1937.

While it doesn’t reveal any state secrets or military stratagems, it is written in the hand of the man who presumably slept in no shortage of hotels and inns. Five years shy of becoming the nation’s first president, he was fresh off his American Revolution victories. He had been touring his considerable land holdings, some of which came his way courtesy of Robert Dinwiddie, who is referenced in the letter and served as governor of colonial Virginia from 1751-1758.

Librarian Tomas Jaehn said the Chavez Library has letters from other presidents, including Herbert Hoover, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, plus a letter that Jacqueline Kennedy wrote to Fray Angélico.

Materials in the library are available to researchers and other members of the public, Tuesday-Friday, 1-5 pm. (Enter through the New Mexico History Museum’s east doors.)

Here’s a transcript of the letter, sent to James Mercer and written at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. (Mercer was a member of the Continental Congress and later a jurist; his brother, George, was Washington’s aide-de-camp during the war.)

Dear Sir,
My Sister handed me your favor of the 18th. I thank you for the advice respecting the mode of conveying a title for the Lands I purchased at your Brother’s Sale, & will pursue it; but necessity will oblige me to postpone the matter until I return from my Western jaunt; as, from Company & other circumstances, no leizure is left me to rummage for papers before.

My letter to your Brother John Mercer, would have informed you, that I apprehended there were omissions in the account I transmitted, to my prejudice, as I had not been able to make any statemt of my Books, or to assort my Papers (wch by frequent removals to get them out of the enemy’s way, were in sad disorder) since my return. I am much obliged to you for the Memm taken from your journal, especially as I am in a way to be a considerable sufferer from my advances to obtain, & Survey the Grant of 20,000 Acres of Land under Dinwiddies proclamation. Many of the Grantees never having paid me a Shilling.

The enclosed letter will give you every information in my power respecting Vanbraam–when you have read it please return it to me, as it has received no acknowledgement yet. With very great esteem & regard I am–Dr Sir Yr most obt Servt
Go Washington