Tuesday, October 27, 2009

George Washington Really Did Sleep Here, Day 7

After spending a quiet Monday under the weather in his Boston lodgings, President George Washington resumed a more active schedule on October 27, 1789, in his tour around New England. At 10 a.m., he received visits from some of Boston's clergy, and then he headed down the street from his Court Street lodgings to King's Chapel, which still stands on the corner of Tremont and School Streets. (Just a short distance up Beacon Street from King's Chapel is the Boston Athenaeum, which now houses a portion of George Washington's library of books.) The president attended an oratorio at the chapel, which was known more commonly as the Stone Chapel in the post-Revolution glow. Unfortunately for the president and other attendees, several of the performers were ill, perhaps with the Washington Influenza, so the program was scaled back. (King's Chapel still hold Tuesday concerts at 12:15 p.m.)

After returning from the chapel, Washington received addresses from the governor, the town of Boston, and Joseph Willard, the president of Harvard College. Willard's address reminded the president of the state of disrepair that had befallen the institution during the Revolution, the last time Washington had seen it: "When you took command of the troops of your country, you saw the University into state of depression--its members dispersed--its literary treasures removed--and the Muses fled from the din of arms, then heard within its walls. Happily restored, in the course of a few months, by your glorious successes, to its former privileges, and to a state of tranquility, it received its returning members, and our youth have since pursued, without interruption, their literary courses, and fitted themselves for usefulness in Church and State. The publick rooms, which you formerly saw empty, are now replenished with the necessary means of improving the human mind in literature and science, and every thing within the walls wears the aspect of peace, so necessary to the cultivation of the liberal arts." In Washington's reply, he said, "It gives me sincere satisfaction to learn the flourishing state of your literary Republick."

The address from the inhabitants of the town of Boston was equally lofty in its language: "As men, we have long since considered you, under God, as the great and glorious Avenger of the violated rights of humanity--As citizens we have observed with peculiar satisfaction, that you have unvariably respected those liberties, which you have so successfully defended. And as inhabitants of a great commercial town, we attribute the security we enjoy, to the singular merit and success of those measures, in the progress of the war, which you had the honour to conduct."

At 3 p.m., the president traveled a short distance to Faneuil Hall, where he was the guest of honor at what Washington referred to in his diary as a "large & elegant dinner given by the Govr. and Council." Among the 150 privileged guests were Vice President John Adams, but Governor John Hancock was not present, due to illness. After dinner, 11 toasts were raised, including ones to Washington; the Fourth of July 1776; the patriots and heroes who suffered and bled in the cause of America; the completion and cement of the Union; the happiness of all mankind; and agriculture, the fishery, and manufactures. Visitors to Faneuil Hall today will see a copy of the portrait of George Washington at Dorchester Heights done by Gilbert Stuart.

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