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Washington's entry into New York...

[Detail] Washington's entry into New York...

For Lesson Two:
Letter from George Washington to David Humphreys, October 22, 1786

NOTE: This is an excerpt. The full text version of Letter from George Washington to David Humphreys, October 22, 1786 is in George Washington Papers, 1741-1799.

{excerpt begins}

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.--vol. 29

Mount Vernon, August 22, 1785.

...But for God's sake tell me what is the cause of all these commotions:33 do they proceed from licentiousness, British-influence disseminated by the tories, or real grievances which admit of redress? If the latter, why were they delayed 'till the public mind had become so much agitated? If the former why are not the powers of Government tried at once? It is as well to be without, as not to live under their exercise. Commotions of this sort, like snow-balls, gather strength as they roll, if there is no opposition in the way to divide and crumble them. Do write me fully, I beseech you, on these matters; not only with respect to facts, but as to opinions of their tendency and issue. I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe. ...

[Note 33: Shay's rebellion in Massachusetts.]

... {excerpt ends}


  • What evidence of economic problems among the states is seen in the letters?
  • What is the nature of the "commotions" to which Washington repeatedly refers?
  • What impact does Washington think Shay's Rebellion will have on the image of the United States in foreign countries?
  • What, as reflected in his own words, is Washington's personal view of this domestic crisis?

Go to the complete interview from which this excerpt was taken.