President Washington's Diaries
Category: History
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George Washington is often referred to as the father of the United States. He was the first president and a war hero for his country. Most of his amazing life was spent in the public eye, but his stories have been retold many times. President Washinton's Diaries are the actual words of Washington recounting his life and adventures. Read the experiences of an American legend from his point of view.

President Washington’s Diaries

1791 to 1799

Transcribed and Compiled
Jos. A. Hoskins

President Washington's Diaries

“Long shall we seek his likeness — long in vain;
And turn to all of him which may remain,
Sighing that nature formed but only one
And broke the die in moulding Washington.”

Lincoln's Tribute to Washington

Washington is the mightiest name on earth. Long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in the moral reformation. On that name a eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun or glory to the name of Washington is alike impossible. Let none at tempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked, deathless splendor leave it shining on.


The editing and publishing of President Washington’s diaries is here undertaken with the view of presenting all that are extant from the year 1791 to 1799. They are fragmentary but very interesting.

The search for the unpublished parts of the diary was instituted for the purpose of proving the fact of President Washington’s visit to Guilford County, North Carolina, and its famous battlefield, on his Southern Tour. It was traditional knowledge in the family of the writer, and, while the facts concerning the visit had faded from the minds of all others, it remained firmly fixed with him. It was while pondering over Lossing’s Imprint of the Southern Tour that he became convinced that there must be more of the Journal, and that, if found, it would settle the mooted question.

Lossing stopped June 1st, 1791, (Salem, N. C.) My transcription begins where he left off, and takes the President to Guilford Courthouse, on June 2nd, and on through North Carolina and Virginia to Mount Vernon, where he arrived June 12th, and Philadelphia July 6th. At this time Washington was President of the United States.

The trip to Georgetown, to the Federal City and on to Philadelphia began June 27th, 1791. He travelled by way of the upper road through Williamsburgh, Fredericktown, Taneytown, Lyttlestown, Hanover (commonly called Mc Allistertown), Yorktown and Lancaster. He describes the towns and the intervening country. While in the Federal City he conferred with Maj. L’Enfant and Mr. Ellicott, and selected the spots on which the buildings for the Executive Departments and the President’s house were to be located. He directed Maj. L’Enfant to change the location of a certain street, so as to leave out a spring (commonly known as the Cool Spring) belonging to Maj. Stoddart.

In 1794 we find him accompanying the army from Philadelphia to the Rendezvous at Carlisle, passing through Norristown, The Trap, Potts Grove, Reading, Meyerstown, Lebanon, Humelstown, and Harrisburg. This was the Whiskey Rebellion Campaign. At Bedford he delivered a speech to the insurgents. This speech has probably never been published before. He here received Messrs. Riddick and Tindley, representatives of the insurgents, and their speeches are given in his diary. The President and the army marched thence to the Rendezvous at Bed ford, passing Shippensburgh, Green Castle, Williamsport (Maryland,) Cumberland, (Maryland,) Frankfort, and on to Bedford.

In November, 1798, he gives an account of his triumphal progress to Philadelphia, by way of the lower road. On this journey he stopped and was entertained at the Federal City, Bladensburg, Spurriers, Baltimore, Websters, Hartford, Susquehanna, Elkton, Christianna, Wilmington and Chester. At this time he was Commander of the army, with Major Gen’l Alexander Hamilton second in command. This was during the period of the French Imbroglio. General Washington was dined and feted in Philadelphia by President Adams and others. He names his entertainers.

The diary that Washington kept at Mount Vernon is largely interesting because it is an account of the guests who came and went after enjoying his hospitality. The name of each is given, and hundreds are mentioned, — the famous people of the day. From another viewpoint this part of the diary is interesting. It shows the painstaking, methodical Washington, in that hardly a day is passed that accurate and careful mention of the weather is not made, the thermometer and barometer readings recorded and the direction of the wind stated. Many of these weather observations have been omitted from this transcript, only enough of them being retained to show Washington s carefulness and diligence in all things. The last entry in the diary (in his own hand) was made December 13th, 1799. He died the following day.

His entire Southern Tour is here presented, beginning at Phila. — March 21, 1791, giving names of scores of towns visited in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Many of these are now large towns and cities. This part of the diary is full of local color.

In confirmation of the claims set forth above an editorial from the Greensboro Daily News, under date of February 15th, 1920, and a letter from the Library of Congress are herewith copied and appended.

Editorial Greensboro Daily News, Feb. 15th, 1820

The discovery of the evidence — in the handwriting of the first President — that George Washington visited Guilford County on his southern tour was made by J. A. Hoskins. It is most improbable that the facts were ever published prior to their publication by Mr. Hoskins in the Daily News of December 12, 1919. They are certainly unknown to contemporary North Carolina historians, which means that they had not become facts of historical record; it is not therefore too much to say that the circumstances were unknown to history.

It was well enough known that the diary of President Washington lay in the archives of the government at Washington. The contents have been in part edited and published, but for some reason the compiler stopped just short of the circumstances recorded in the diary which are of most personal interest to North Carolina people.

Mr. Hoskins had, to be sure, a starting point. It was traditional knowledge in his family; a part of those spoken records, records transmitted from generation to generation, and which may be implicitly believed, but of which no competent evidence exists. Mr. Hoskins sought long for that evidence, and it finally occurred to him that the diary of the Southern Tour ought to dispose of the matter. He accordingly applied to the Library of Congress, and was furnishing a photostatic copy of the manuscript. There can be no question of its authenticity, and no one questions it; on the contrary, North Carolina historians give Mr. Hoskins credit for the discovery of a rare gem of historical knowledge.

It is this same investigater who has produced the evidence that Dolly Madison was born at New Garden (Guilford College) N. C. and that Andrew Jackson was a resident of the county and a member of the Guilford bar which evidence he had published hitherto in the Daily News, but he has refrained from announcing any of his discoveries until able to clinch them.

It is doubted if the narrative has ever appeared in print until set up by the compositors of this office.

Letter, Oct. 20th, 1920

(From the Library of Congress)

“The assistant chief of the manuscript division reports that everything that we have between June 27, 1791, and December 13th, 1799 has been sent you.”

My transcriptions are made from photast at copies of the original notebooks in Washington’s own handwriting.

His spelling, abbreviations and punctuation are observed as near as possible.

Elmhurst Farm,
Summerfield, N. C.

November 18th, 1920.

Washington’s Diary

Monday, March 21-1791

Left Philadelphia about 11 o’clock to make a tour through the Southern States. Reached Chester about 3 o’clock — dined and lodged at Mr. Wythes — In this tour I was accompanied by Maj. Jackson — My equipage and attendance consisted of a chariot and four horses drove in hand — a light baggage wagon and two-four saddle horses besides a led one for myself — and five — to wit — my Valet De Chambre — two footmen, Coachman, and postillion.

March 22.

At half past six o’clock we left Chester and breakfasted at Wilmington — crossing Christiana Creek proceeded through New Castle and by the Red Lyon to Buck tavern 13 miles, from New Castle and 19 from Wilmington where we dined and lodged.

March 23.

Set off at 6 o’clock — breakfasted at Warwick — bated with hay 9 miles farther and dined & lodged at the house of one Worrell’s in Chester (town).

March 24.

Left Chestertown about 6 o’clock — before nine I arrived at Rock Hall (on Chesapeake Bay) where we breakfasted and immediately after which we began to embark. After 8 o’clock P M we made the mouth of Severn River (leading up to Annapolis) but the ignorance of the people on board with respect to the navigation of it ran us aground first on Greenbury point from whence with much exertion and difficulty we got off — and then having no knowledge of the Channel and the night being immensely dark with heavy and variable squalls of — wind constant lightning & tremendous thunder — we soon got aground again on what is called Horne’s Point — where finding all efforts in vain and not knowing where we were we remained not knowing what might happen till morning.

March 25.

Having Lain all night in my great coat & Boots in a birth not long enough for me by the head and much cramped, we found ourselves in the morning within about one mile of Annapolis & still fast aground. Whilst we were preparing our Small Boat in order to land in it, a sailing Boat came off to our assistance in wch. with the baggage I had on board, I landed — was informed upon my arrival (when 15 guns were fired) that all my other horses arrived safe that embarked at the same time I did, about 8 o’c last night — was waited upon by the Governor (John Eager Howard) as soon as I arrived at Mann’s Tavern and was engaged by him to dine with the citizens of Annapolis this day at Mann’s Tavern, and at his house tomorrow. The first I accordingly did.

March 26.

Dined at the governors and went to the assembly in the evening where I stayed till half past 10 o’c.

March 27.

About 9 o’c this morning I left Annapolis under a discharge of Artillery and being accompanied by the Governor, a Mr. Kilty of the Council and Mr. Charles Stuart proceeded on my Journey for Georgetown. Bated at Queen Ann 13 miles distant and dined and lodged at Bladensburgh.

March 28.

Left Bladensburgh at half after six and breakfasted at Georgetown about 8, — where having appointed the Commissioners under the Residence Law to meet me I found Mr. (Thomas) Johnson one of them (and who is chief Justice of the State) in waiting — and soon after came in David Stuart and Dan’l Carroll, Esq’s. the other two (a few miles out of town I was met by the principal citizens of the place and escorted by them — and dined at Suter’s Tavern where I also lodged at a public dinner given by the Mayor and Corporation — previous to which I examined the surveys of Mr. (Andrew) Ellicott who had been sent on to lay out the District of ten mlies square for the federal seat; and also the works of Maj. L’Enfant who had been engaged to examine and make a draught of the grds. in the vicinity of Georgetown and Carrollsburgh on the Eastern branch.

March 29.

Finding the interests of the Land owners about Georgetown and those about Carrollsburgh much at variance and that their fears and jealousies of each were counteracting the public purposes and might prove injurious to its best interest whilst if properly managed they might be made to subserve it — I requested them to meet me at six o’c this afternoon at my lodgings which they accordingly did — dined at Forrest s today with the Commissioners & others.

March 30.

The parties to whom I addressed myself yesterday evening having taken the matter into consideration saw the propriety of my observations and that whilst they were contending for the shadow they might loose the substance; and therefore mutually agreed and entered into articles to surrender for public purposes one half of the land they severally possessed within bounds which were designated as necessary for the City to stand. — This business being thus happily finished and some directions given to the Commissioners, the surveyor and engineer with respect to mode of laying out the district — surveying the grounds for the city and forming them into lots. I left Georgetown — dined in Alexandria and reached Mt. Vernon in the evening.

Thursday, March 31st.

From this time until 7th of April I remained at Mt. V. visiting my Plantations every day.

Thursday, 7 — April

Recommenced my journey with Horses apparently much refreshed and in good spirits.

In attempting to cross the ferry at Colchester with the four horses hitched to the Chariot by the neglect of the person who stood before them, one of the leaders got overboard when the boat was in swimming water and 50 yards from the shore — with much difficulty he escaped drowning before he could be disengaged — His struggling frightened the others in such a manner that one after an other and in quick succession they all got overboard harnessed and fastened as they were and with the utmost difficulty they were saved & the Carriage escaped being dragged after them, as the whole of it happened in swimming water & at a distance from the shore — Providencially, indeed miracously, by the exertions of the people who put off in Boats & jumped into the River as soon as the Batteau was forced into wading water — no damage was sustained by the horses, Carriage or Harness.

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