WASHINGTON, George. Autograph letter signed ("G:oWashington") as President, TO MAJOR GENERAL AND SECRETARY OF WAR HENRY KNOX (1750-1806), Mount Vernon, 14 October 1791. 1½ pages, 4to, marked "(Private)" by Washington at the top of page one, in very fine condition.
WASHINGTON LEARNS TO HIS SURPRISE THAT CONGRESS IS DUE TO CONVENE A WEEK EARLIER THAN EXPECTED
An excellent presidential letter, in which Washington informs Knox, one of the most trusted member of his cabinet, that he had just learned that the Second Session of the Second Congress was scheduled to re-convene in Philadelphia a week earlier than he had believed (the official date was 5 November). "He had a week less than he thought in which to complete his work at Mount Vernon, to get back to Philadelphia, and to draft the annual message" (D.S. Freeman, George Washington: Patriot and President, 6:331). A clearly dismayed Washington writes: "I have been under a strange mistake with respect to the time appointed for the meeting of Congress-and a distressing one; inasmuch as I shall have but a little time after my arrival in Philadelphia to receive, & digest the thoughts which may have occurred to the heads of Departments, with those of my own, into proper form for communication, or recommendation."
"So strongly was it fixed in my mind that the last instead of the fourth Monday in this month was the day appointed for the meeting, that, as my return depended on Page's stage Coach it was not ordered to be at George Town until the 18th instt.; nor should I (unless by accident) have discovered my mistake, had not Mr. Lear in a letter I received from him yesterday...informed me of it."
"This being the case (tho' it is not probable it has happened to you) to be prepared, according to the desires made known to you before I left the City, against my return to it--which will be without a moments delay that I can avoid after the means are in my power to proceed. Being much hurried I have hardly time to look back on what I have written but if you understand my meaning it is enough..." Washington signs himself "Sincerely and affectionately yours."
In the end, Washington set out for Philadelphia on October 16, stopping in Georgetown where he conferred with Madison and Jefferson. After reaching Philadelphia, "Washington was ready, if by a margin of a few hours only, when Congress met on the 24th of October for a session that some observers expected to be important" (Freeman, loc. cit). On 25 October 1791, Washington delivered his Third Annual Address to Congress. Published in Fitzpatrick 31:390.