You are here

Patrick Henry to George Washington, October 16, 1795

Honored Sir: Long Island, Campbell County, October 16th, 1795.

Your favor of the 9th Inst. is at this moment brought to me by an express from Richmond. The contents of it make a deep impression on my mind. To disobey the call of my Country into Service when her venerable chief makes the demand of it must be a crime, unless the most substantial reasons justify declining it, and I must trust in your goodness and candor to excuse me for not accepting the appointment you are pleased to offer me. My domestic situation pleads strongly against a removal to Philadelphia, having no less than eight children by my present marriage, and Mrs. Henry's situation now forbidding her approach to the small pox, which neither herself nor any of our Family ever had. To this may be added other considerations arising from loss of Crops and consequent derangement of my Finances—and what is of decisive weight with me, my own health and strength I believe are unequal to the dutys of the station you are pleased to offer me. This detail, composed so much of particulars uninteresting to the public, I am emboldened to lay before you, from the very friendly and unreserved sentiments you are pleased to express towards me. Permit me to add, that having devoted many years of the prime of my life to the public service and thereby injured my circumstances, I have been obliged to resume my profession and go again to the Bar, at a time of life too advanced to support the fatigues of it. By this means my health has been injured. When these things are considered, may 1 hope for your favorable judgement on the motives by which I am actuated? Believe me, Sir, I have bid adieu to the distinction of federal and antifederal ever since the commencement of the present government, and in the circle of my friends have often expressed my fears of disunion amongst the States from collision of interests, but especially from the baneful effects of faction. The most I can say is, that if my Country is destined in my day to encounter the horrors of anarchy, every power of mind or body which I possess will be exerted in support of the government under which I live, and which has been fairly sanctioned by my countrymen. I should be unworthy the character of a republican or an honest man, if I withheld from the government my best and most zealous efforts because in its adoption I opposed it in its unamended form. And I do most cordially execrate the conduct of those men who lose sight of the public interest from personal motives. It is with painful regret that I perceive any occurrences of late have given you uneasiness. Indeed, Sir, I did hope and pray that it might be your lot to as small a portion of that, as the most favored condition of humanity can experience- and if it eventually comes to pass that evil instead of good grows out of the public measures you may adopt, I confide that our Country will not so far depart from her character as to judge from the events, but give full credit to the motives, and decide from these alone. Forgive, Sir, these effusions, and permit me to add to them one more, which is an ardent wish that the best rewards which are due to a well spent life may be yours. With the most sincere esteem and high regard I ever am, dear Sir, your much obliged and very humble servant,

P. Henry. To the President of the United States.

Printed in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence, and Speeches (1891), 2: 558.