Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Lesson Plans > George Washington

Back to Lesson Plans

Washington's entry into New York...

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

For Lesson Two:
Letter from George Washington to Henry Knox, December 26, 1786

NOTE: This is an excerpt. The full text version of Letter from George Washington to Henry Knox, December 26, 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, December 26, 1786.

... I feel, my dear Genl. Knox, infinitely more than I can express to you, for the disorders which have arisen in these States. Good God! who besides a tory could have foreseen, or a Briton predicted them! were these people wiser than others, or did they judge of us from the corruption, and depravity of their own hearts? The latter I am persuaded was the case, and that notwithstanding the boasted virtue of America, we are far gone in every thing ignoble and bad.

I do assure you, that even at this moment, when I reflect on the present posture of our affairs, it seems to me to be like the vision of a dream. My mind does not know how to realize it, as a thing in actual existence, so strange, so wonderful does it appear to me! In this, as in most other matter, we are too slow. When this spirit first dawned, probably it might easily have been checked; but it is scarcely within the reach of human ken, at this moment, to say when, where, or how it will end. There are combustibles in every State, which a spark might set fire to.

... {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.