About this Collection
The papers of army officer and first U.S. president George Washington (1732-1799) held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress constitute the largest collection of original Washington papers in the world. They consist of approximately 77,000 items accumulated by Washington between 1745 and 1799, including correspondence, diaries, and financial and military records. The collection documents Washington’s childhood education, his first career as a surveyor, his experiences as a militia colonel during the French and Indian War, his election as a Virginia delegate to the first and second Continental Congresses, his role as general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, his presidency of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, his two terms as president (1789-1797), and his retirement. Also documented is his management of Mount Vernon, his plantation home in Virginia, and the lives of his family, servants, and slaves. Notable correspondents include John Adams, Benedict Arnold, Edward Braddock, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Because of the wide range of Washington's interests, activities, and correspondents, which include ordinary citizens as well as celebrated figures, his papers are a rich source for almost every aspect of colonial and early American life.
Description of Series
This collection of George Washington Papers is organized into nine series, which are listed below. Additional information about some of these series may be found in the Series Notes under the Articles and Essays tab.
Series 1, Exercise Books, Diaries, and Surveys, ca. 1745-1799
Three exercise books (school copy books), ca.1745-1747, kept by Washington between the ages of about thirteen and fifteen; thirty-six of the diaries kept by Washington from about the age of sixteen until his death in 1799; and notes and drawings documenting Washington’s early career as a surveyor, 1749-1752 and undated. For more information, see the Series Notes.
Series 2, Letterbooks, 1754-1799
Forty-one letterbooks used by Washington to keep copies of his correspondence, dating from the beginning of the French and Indian War until his death. For more information, see the Series Notes.
Series 3, Varick Transcripts, 1775-1785
Forty-four letterbooks containing copies of the correspondence Washington accumulated as Commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. These were made by Richard Varick, at Washington’s direction, in 1781-1785. Many of the original letters Varick copied from are in Series 4. For more information, see the Series Notes.
Series 4, General Correspondence, 1697-1799
The largest series in the George Washington papers consists of 297 volumes containing original letters to and from Washington. Also included are early family papers, speeches, military orders, farm reports, and other papers. Since Washington preserved drafts of his letters, and made letterbook copies of both outgoing and incoming correspondence, his letters often exist in multiple versions.
Series 5, Financial Papers, 1750-1796
Ledgers, journals, account books, cash books, pocket books, receipts, invoices, and business correspondence filling thirty-four volumes. These document the finances of Washington’s public and private life; his plantation at Mount Vernon, including the slaves who lived and worked there; his military service during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War; his presidency, and his retirement. The financial papers also contain many detailed pieces of information about the family members, neighbors, servants and other employees, slaves, doctors, merchants, and tradespeople he dealt with. For more information, see the Series Notes.
Series 6, Military Papers, 1755-1798
A miscellaneous collection of twenty-six volumes dating from the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Quasi-War with France. With the exception of an orderly book Washington kept as an aide to General Edward Braddock during the French and Indian War and a Virginia Militia memorandum book, these are volumes that Washington accumulated during his military career but did not create himself. Most document the Revolutionary War and include orderly books, including some captured from the British; interrogations of British deserters, lists of officers and provisions, court martial proceedings of Captain Richard Lippincott, diaries, copies of letters, and a few published volumes of military strategy. For more information, see the Series Notes.
Series 7, Applications for Office, 1789-1796
Thirty-two volumes containing letters Washington received from job-seekers while he was president of the United States.
Series 8, Miscellaneous Papers, ca. 1775-1799
The items in Series 8 are not different in substance from manuscripts elsewhere in Washington’s papers. They were filed separately only because they arrived at the library separately from the bulk of Washington’s papers. They include correspondence and miscellaneous notes, 1757-1799; military commissions, honorary degrees, and other certificates, 1775-1798; survey warrants, 1750-1752; and notes Washington made on his reading, ca.1760-1799. For more information, see the Series Notes.
Series 9, Addenda, ca. 1732-1943
Washington material acquired since 1970, organized by date of acquisition, and items that were removed from the first eight series as extraneous.
Transcriptions Included on this Website
Some of Washington’s papers are supplemented on this website by transcriptions from the published editions listed below. There are some discrepancies in date and text between documents in these published editions and the manuscript images. This is because in some cases editors of the published editions used a different draft than the one the Library of Congress owns. In other cases archivists at the Library of Congress and editors of the published editions arrived at different interpretations of dates, correspondents, or other data. With the exception of Jackson and Twohig’s edition of the Diaries, these are older editions, used because they are out of copyright or otherwise in the public domain. For citations to modern editions of Washington’s papers, see the bibliography in Related Resources.
- Fitzpatrick, John C., ed. The Writings of Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, 39 vols. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1931-1944.
- Fitzpatrick, John C., ed. George Washington's Accounts of Expenses While Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, 1775-1783. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917.
- Hamilton, Stanislaus Murray, ed. Letters to Washington and Accompanying Papers, 5 vols. Boston: Society of Colonial Dames of America; New York: Houghton Mifflin and Company; Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1898.
- Jackson, Donald, and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Diaries of George Washington, 6 vols. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976-1979. This edition is presented in Series 1 in two forms: facsimiles of published pages, and searchable text. The searchable text contains updates to the editors' annotations and notes that are not in the published version. These updates were provided by the editors of The Diaries at the University of Virginia's Papers of George Washington External publication project.