ALS signed “G:o Washington,” one page, 8.25 x 9, no date [but February 20, 1787]. Letter to Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth, his former Continental Army commissary general, who had recently sent him intelligence about Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, in full: “I thank you kindly for sending me the enclosed.—The Post of this day, brought letters from Genl Knox to me containing similar information of yours.—The Gentleman at whose house I am (Mr. Fendal) presents his compliments to you, and desires me to add, that he should be exceedingly happy to see you at it.” Silked on both sides and restored to very good condition, with repaired separations to intersecting folds (one vertical fold passing through the extreme left edge of the signature), scattered toning and soiling, a small tear to the right edge approaching the signature, and trimmed edges.
This letter can be dated to February 20, 1787, as Washington says he is writing from the home of Philip Richard Fendall in Alexandria, where he, Martha Washington, and his physician Dr. James Craik dined that evening; this is noted in Washington’s diaries. Henry Knox, then serving as secretary of war under the Articles of Confederation, had been keeping Washington informed on the turmoil in western Massachusetts. Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays and his supporters rose up in protest of economic injustice over the summer of 1786, and the movement had reached its peak at about the time of this letter. A private militia had crushed a Shaysite attempt to seize a federal armory in January 1787, and a surprise attack on February 4 fragmented the main group. Pockets of resistance continued over the next few months, but when Washington wrote this letter the large-scale organized resistance had largely concluded. This conflict brought the threat of domestic insurrection to the forefront of Washington’s mind, and he recognized the need for a stronger national government capable of suppressing future rebellions. In presiding over the Constitutional Convention a few months later, Washington helped to shape the government and its military powers as he saw fit, with the impact of Shays’ Rebellion serving as a central factor in the constitution’s reformation. An exceedingly desirable letter marking a pivotal moment in American history. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.