In 1964 the Library of Congress published the Index to the George Washington Papers to assist researchers of the microfilm collection. This introduction to the Index by Dorothy S. Eaton, Specialist in Early American History, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, describes the route the George Washington Papers travelled to arrive in the Library's collections.
Meanwhile the papers at the Commander- in-Chief's headquarters continued to grow in number, and each time the headquarters location changed they had to be packed, transported, then unpacked. It was one of the duties of the group of "sober, young, active, and well made" soldiers who formed the Commander-in-Chief's Guard to see to the safety of the manuscripts.4 No provision had been made for keeping the quickly multiplying mass in order, however, and Washington finally sought help on this problem from the President of Congress on April 4, 1781. He wrote that his papers, "which may be of equal public utility and private satisfaction" remained in loose sheets "in the rough manner in which they were first drawn,"and that their unarranged state exposed them to damage and loss and made their use inconvenient. He asked, therefore, for authority to employ a"Man of character" and a "set of Writers" to work steadily at a quiet place near his camp to arrange and register the manuscripts. The Congress promptly complied by a resolution of April 10,5 and Washington was able to appoint Lt. Col. Richard Varick of New York as his recording secretary on May 25.
The Commander-in-Chief's careful plan for the arrangement of his Revolutionary War papers was set down in a memorandum of instructions that accompanied the letter of appointment. This directed that the papers be grouped into six classes:
- A.l. All letters to Congress, Committees of Congress, the Board of War, Individual Members of Congress In their public Characters and american ministers Plenipotentiary at Foreign Courts...
B.2. All letters, orders, and Instructions to officers of the line, of the Staff, and all other Military Characters.
C.3. All Letters to Governors, Presidents and other Executives of States, Civil Magistrates and Citizens of every Denomination . .
D.4. Letters to foreign ministers, Foreign Officers, and subjects of Foreign Nations not in the immediate service of America
E.5. Letters to officers of every Denomination in the service of the Enemy, and to British subjects of every Character with the Enemy, or applying to go in to them.
F.6. Proceedings of Councils of War in the order of their dates.
A seventh class, "P," was established later, to consist of Washington's private letters. The General Orders were likewise recorded in a separate series by copyists in the Adjutant General's office. 6
Varick was instructed first to set up a chronological arrangement within each class and then to supervise the recording, in uniform "Books of Entries," by clerks who were sworn to be upon their honor and to be careful of the papers. The letters to Washington were to be similarly grouped, endorsed, filed in neat order, and stowed in"proper Boxes."
At the beginning of his project, Varick took with him from Washington's headquarters at New Windsor, N.Y., the papers dating from 1775 to 1778. After waiting for transportation for his precious "Charges," he travelled to nearby Poughkeepsie where he established his work shop in the home of Dr. Peter Tappan, "an honest Patriot" and a brother-in-law of Governor George Clinton. 7 By 1782, he and his copyists had covered the existing files and from then on they were able to deal with current documents, usually received in weekly shipments. Washington was sending Varick both public and private letters to handle as late as October 2,1783, and in a letter of that date he cautioned that these papers contained "sentiments upon undecided points" and that it was therefore more than ever necessary"that there should be the strictest guard over them, & the most perfect silence with respect to their contents." By the end of the year the work had come to an end, and on the first day of 1784 Washington thanked his recording secretary for the work he had done, writing that he was"fully convinced that neither the present age or posterity will consider the time & labour unprofitably spent."
The volumes of Varick transcripts which now compose most of Series 3 of the Washington Papers are the only reflection of Washington's own plan for the arrangement of his Revolutionary War correspondence. The drafts and letters he received during that period became disarranged and Varick's work on them can be seen only in the neat dockets they bear.
Looking forward to the time his papers would be transported to Mount Vernon, Washington ordered from Daniel Parker of New York, on June 18, 1783, "Six strong hair Trunks well clasped and with good Locks." He added that he would be glad to have on each trunk a brass or copper label containing his name and "the year of each." On November 9, when he no longer had real need to refer to the papers, they were packed in the trunks and loaded on wagons, and Bezaleel Howe, lieutenant of the New Hampshire line and a member of the Commander-in-Chief's Guard, was placed in charge of the escort that was to take them to Mount Vernon. "As you know." Washington wrote to Howe, "[the wagons] contain all my Papers, which are of immense value to me."Then the route Howe was to follow was given and he was cautioned not to cross the ferries if the wind was high or there was the least danger. In Philadelphia he was to deliver the bundle containing Washington's accounts as Commander-in-Chief to Robert Morris, Superintendent of Finance. Unfortunately, Howe's own account of expenses for the trip to Mount Vernon has not been located; it is not known exactly when he reached there with his cargo, which, even now after segments have been removed, composes more than half of the Library's Washington Papers.
In 1782, and again in 1783, the Reverend William Gordon had asked Washington's permission to use his papers for a history of the American Revolution. Each time this permission was denied-- until such time as the Continental Congress should open its records to historians. Washington explained in reply to the first request: "It appears to me impracticable for the best Historiographer living, to write a full & correct history of the present Revolution who has not free access to the Archives of Congress, those of Individual States, the Papers of the Commander in Chief, and Commanding Officers of separate departments. Mine --while the War continues -- I consider as a species of Public property, sacred in my hands." 8 Similar requests from others were received after Washington had retired to Mount Vernon. For John Bowie, whose request came through an old friend, Dr. James Craik, Washington offered to open his papers on public affairs for the period prior to his appointment to the command of the American army. 9
Perhaps it was due to such requests that he determined, but never found the time, to put all of his papers in order. Nevertheless it was probably during this period of retirement that he reviewed and amended the texts in his early letterbooks of 1755 and 1758, and employed Robert Lewis to transcribe them and other early drafts in the amended form. 10 If this was designed as a parallel to the Varick transcripts of his later papers, it came out a poor second; Lewis was not an accurate copyist, and in the process many of the unbound drafts were apparently discarded,
When Washington left Mount Vernon for New York City in April 1789 to assume his duties as first President of the United States, his papers for the previous years were left at the estate. A month after his inauguration Mathew Carey applied for permission to select from the papers documents relative to skirmishes, battles, and "interesting circumstances" of the Revolution. Washington replied on May 21 `that "all the papers in my possession, relative to the revolution, are packed up in trunks and boxes at Mount Vernon."
During the presidential years, Washington used paper with a distinctive watermark, which was manufactured for him by an unidentified paper maker. Examples have been located in three different weights, for ledgers or journals, letters, and press copies; each bears a watermark with the name GEORGE WASHINGTON enclosed in concentric circles. The largest circle measures 3-3/8 inches in diameter and is surmounted by the figure of a dove on an inverted "W." Many recipients' copies and almost all of the press copies of his letters for those years were written or reproduced on this paper. The President's correspondence with each of the Government departments- - State, Treasury, and War- - and with the Congress was transcribed in a separate series of letterbooks.
At the end of his term of office, Washington employed Tobias Lear and Bartholomew Dandridge, who had served as his secretaries, to separate from his papers those files which were intended for his successor in office, John Adams, and to pack and send the remainder to Mount Vernon. It was later discovered, as the result of a request from Attorney General Charles Lee, that two bundles containing original opinions of the Heads of Departments were still in the possession of the Secretary of State, who had borrowed and failed to return them. 11 He promptly made arrangements for their return.
Soon after he reached Mount Vernon, Washington wrote James McHenry that he planned to erect a building on the estate "for the accommodation & security of my Military Civil & private Papers which are voluminous, and may be interest[ing]." He then added, "yet I have not one [building] or scarcely anything else about me that does not require considerable repairs." 12 Apparently the many demands on his time and other more pressing repairs to existing buildings prevented him from carrying out this plan.13
He also hoped to sort and arrange his papers. When he employed Albin Rawlins of Hanover County, Va,, as a new assistant in February 1798, one of Rawlins' duties was "to copy and record letters and other Papers."14 Washington was able to make some headway on this self-imposed task during his leisure hours, as his letters for this period tell, but his appointment by President Adams as the commander-in-chief of a newly forming army in the summer of 1798, and the heavy correspondence this entailed, finally compelled him to abandon the task.
Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. In his will he bequeathed to his nephew Bushrod Washington, eldest son of his favorite brother John Augustine, "all the Papers in my possession, which relate to my Civel [sic] and Military Administration of the affairs of this Country. . . [and] also, such of my private Papers as are worth preserving." This nephew, who had been appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court the previous year, was also to receive the mansion house and a portion of the acreage of Mount Vernon after the death of Martha Washington.15
Tobias Lear, who had been a trusted friend and secretary for many years and who was at Mount Vernon when Washington died, was the first person to handle the papers. According to Lear's published journal, he spent Tuesday, December 24, 1799, "in looking over & arranging papers in the General's Study." 16 He had possession of them, presumably at Mount Vernon, for about 8 months after Washington's death.17 Perhaps during this period he removed and turned over to Martha Washington the correspondence she and her husband had exchanged; her granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter, told Jared Sparks many years later that Mrs. Washington had burned all but two letters, which were saved by accident,"shortly after General Washington's death."18
Although Bushrod Washington thus did not take immediate possession of the papers- - and no evidence has been found to show that he actually removed them from Mount Vernon before Martha Washington's death--he must have started soon after his uncle's death to arrange for the preparation of a biography. He first approached Tobias Lear on December 26, 1799, and proposed that they write a biography of George Washington, in partnership; Lear would arrange the papers and do the preliminary work and Bushrod Washington assist in the later stages. This apparently did not lead to any formal agreement. There appeared in Philadelphia, in the True American for August 18, 1800, the following announcement printed over his signature: "Having at length engaged a gentleman of distinguished talents to assist in writing a History of the Life of the late General Washington, this work will be immediately commenced, and will be completed as expeditiously as the nature of such an undertaking will permit." 19
The "gentleman of distinguished talents" was John Marshall, then Secretary of State and soon to be appointed Chief Justice of the United States, who optimistically thought he could complete the biography in the winter following George Washington's death. Thomas Jefferson was among those who were worried lest it come out in time to influence the presidential election of 1804. 20 As it turned out, the first volume did not appear until 1805 and the fifth and final volume until 1807.21
While this biography was in preparation, and for many years thereafter, a large part of the Washington papers was in Richmond, where Marshall lived and worked on them. He did not require manuscripts for the first volume, an introduction which barely mentioned Washington. He received what appears to have been the first shipment of papers late in 1803 and reported this in a letter he wrote to his publisher, Caleb P. Wayne of Philadelphia, on December 23, 1803:"The trunks containing the papers relative to the civil administration have reached me only this week, & have not yet been opened." He added that he could not examine them until the following spring after he was relieved from circuit court duties and the session of the Supreme Court.22 By 1805, he had received more papers, because in the introduction to the first volume of the biography he stated that "with infinite labour" he had examined the "immensely voluminous" correspondence of the commander-in-chief during the war. Marshall probably never had some of the early papers; when the first volume of Jared Sparks' edition of Washington's writings reached him in 1834, he told Sparks that he had never before heard of Washington's boyhood "rules of civility." 23
Apparently groups of the Washington papers passed back and forth between Richmond and Mount Vernon not only while the biography was being prepared but later as well. Marshall first worked slowly on corrections he hoped to incorporate into a revised edition; then the two men worked, mainly between 1823 and 1825, on what was to be a three-volume selection of Washington's letters.24 Judging from Bushrod Washington's letters during this period, the larger part of the papers was with Marshall in Richmond. The latter finally returned "six trunks & a box" on board the schooner John on August 6,1823. He thought these contained "all the manuscript books & papers" in his possession,25 but actually he had many others until 1827. Evidently no precautions to care for the papers were taken in the long weeks Marshall was away from home during court sessions; Bushrod Washington, writing to James Madison in 1819, admitted that "the papers sent to the Chief Justice, and which are still in Richmond, have been extensively mutilated by rats and otherwise injured by damp as he not long since informed me." 26
In contrast, Judge Washington attempted to provide some care of the papers in his possession during those years. They were stored in his office, a separate building close to the mansion house at Mount Vernon, which had been occupied by the white servants in George Washington's time, and the building was covered by insurance. 27
Bushrod Washington received many calls for the letters of given individuals and many requests for autographs, while the papers were in his keeping, and he was generous to a fault in complying with the requests. In 1811, the Marquise de Lafayette told Judge Washington of the loss ofhis correspondence with George Washington "in the revolutionary storms of Europe." He asked that his letters, and copies of Washington's letters, be sent to him. The favor was granted. 28
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, the widow of Alexander Hamilton, visited Mount Vernon for a fortnight in the summer of 1818 and asked to borrow certain letters her husband had written to George Washington of which she did not have copies. Judge Washington turned over to her those that he could find at Mount Vernon and asked John Marshall to "look amongst the letters in your possess[ion] for the balance & forward them." He later wrote apologetically to Mrs. Hamilton, when Marshall did not reply, that he thought it "highly probable that the C. J. got the papers into some disorder whilst he was preparing the material for the life. . . and now finds it a task of no ordinary difficulty to make a successful search through them for any particular papers which may be called for." 29 He was still promising James A. Hamilton in 1822 to send the other letters as soon as he received the remainder of the trunks from Richmond. 30 The list Mrs. Hamilton supplied has not been located, and so it is not known how many of Hamilton's letters were lent to her. There was some difficulty in getting them back; they were finally returned only in 1827 when they were urgently needed by Jared Sparks.31
James Madison, in looking over his papers in 1818, found that he had lost or failed to retain copies of a number of letters he had written to George Washington and asked Judge Washington's permission to "fill up the chasm" from the originals. "This may be done either by letting the papers be copied by some good penman among the clerks in Washington. . . or by forwarding through some safe channel, the originals to be copied here, in which case they shall be carefully returned." He added that he possessed all of the correspondence on the other side and would gladly furnish copies. Judge Washington first waited for a favorable change in the weather and the disappearance of a cold he had had for some time "to go into an outhouse where my papers are kept and to select those you want," and he was at last able, in the Spring of 1820, to send five original letters to Madison.32 He was sure that many more would be in Marshall's keeping in Richmond.
Of autograph seekers there were many. Christopher Hughes, diplomat son-in-law of Gen. Samuel Smith of Baltimore, Md., was one who benefited from Judge Washington's generosity. Hughes received in 1818, for forwarding to the Russian Minister at Stockholm, manuscript letters of John Marshall, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Jay, and George Washington; 33 and for himself he received, in 1825, Washington's diary for 1797 34 and a gathering of Washington's autograph notes on a book on husbandry, which provided the diplomat with many a leaf to distribute among his friends.35
Hughes was a minor figure compared to the Reverend William B. Sprague. According to Lyman C. Draper, Sprague, who was graduated from Yale in 1815, spent the following year as an instructor at Woodlawn, in the family of Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis (a granddaughter of Martha Washington) and Lawrence Lewis (George Washington's nephew), and during this period obtained Bushrod Washington's permission "to take whatever letters he might choose from Gen. Washington' s voluminous correspondence, provided only that he would leave copies in their stead."
Draper added that, as a result, Sprague "came into possession of some 1,500 letters, many of which were included in the three sets of the Signers which he completed." 36 This story has been accepted by other writers, Justin Winsor among them, and it is a fact that Sprague wrote from Mount Vernon in 1816 to Jared Sparks, who had been an Exeter classmate, and sent him "a scrap of General Washington's handwriting." 37 Nevertheless, Sparks himself is authority for the statement that Sprague removed the manuscripts many years later, after they were in Sparks' hands--but, as he wrote, with Judge Washington's permission. 38
A part of Sprague's collection went to Simon Gratz and is now in the Gratz Collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, by whose permission the Library of Congress has obtained photostatic copies of many of the letters to Washington that strayed. These are filed by date in Series 4 of the Washington Papers and can be distinguished from original manuscripts because they are in negative form.
A request of a different type was directed to Judge Washington in 1824. Jared Sparks, then editor of the North American Review, wrote him on behalf of one of his former schoolmates at Exeter, Charles Folsom, who was interested in preparing an edition of George Washington's writings. The Judge did not offer to open the papers at Mount Vernon, and Folsom lost interest in the project. Sparks, on the other hand, started to assemble information on George Washington from official records and the papers of his contemporaries, and again wrote to Bushrod Washington on January 16, 1826, on his own behalf, incorporating in his letter a plan for an edition of the Washington writings. His friend, Judge Joseph Story, delivered this letter, but even under these auspices the result was disappointing; Story reported that John Marshall and Bushrod Washington had already prepared a three volume edition of Washington's letters and that the Judge did not incline to favor Sparks' project. Although the news was "somewhat of a damper" to Sparks' zeal, as hewrote Story in March 1826, he added that "all the important materials may be obtained from other quarters, though with great trouble, & my present impression is that I shall pursue the project. Washington's public letters and papers are the property of the nation." After a tour through the south that summer, Sparks again wrote to Judge Washington, offering to halve the profits of an edition (after deducting expenses) if he was allowed to examine the Washington papers. Chief Justice Marshall, as well as Judge Story, was now a force in swaying the decision; he advised his friend to accept the offer, and Judge Washington finally agreed, in January 1827. 39 Sparks recorded in his journal for January 17: "I am to have full access to the whole [of the papers], and publish such as I think proper... The papers are not to be taken from Mount Vernon, except some of them by his consent." On March 7, a contract was signed with John Marshall and Bushrod Washington forming one party, Jared Sparks the other. Exactly one-week later Sparks arrived at Mount Vernon to survey the papers, 40 and continued this survey for slightly more than 2 months. Bushrod Washington was away on circuit court service during the entire time and saw Sparks "for only an hour or two" after returning to Mount Vernon in May.41
In contrast to the amateur efforts of Marshall and Washington in handling and copying George Washington's papers, Sparks entered into the work with incredible energy. Within the 10 weeks he was at Mount Vernon he notified the Judge (April 3) that he had received from Marshall "General Washington's letters during the French War" and"a volume of letters for the year 1787," which Marshall had retained by accident, and asked Washington to have "Hamilton's and Lafayette's letters" returned; located, on April 17, nearly 50 original Lafayette letters "out of place" in loose parcels containing the volumes of General Orders, 42 and, on April 28, "some new and valuable papers. . . in a large chest in a garret"where it was "merely accidental" that he foundthem; 43 suggested to the Judge that, in addition the "Life and Writings" for which they had contracted, he also prepare a separate edition of letters addressed to Washington; 44 solicited James Madison's acquaintance by informing him, on April 12, that he had found about 70 Madison letters in the Washington papers;45 and prepared a long description of the papers for publication. 46
Sparks was amazed at the richness and the number of papers, and he soon realized that his primary task of preparing an edition of Washington's writings could not be accomplished at Mount Vernon, but that he would need copying assistance and a good library nearby. He therefore directed a long letter to Judge Washington on April 17, in which he stated the problems, asked for permission to take a large part of the papers to Boston, and elaborated his plans for their care.47 Hoping for approval- - he received it in a letter of April 29- - he then doubled his efforts to assemble and select the papers he would need. By May 18, he was able to write to Joseph Story that the papers he proposed to remove to Boston were "assorted and arranged. . . and with one hour's work more" would be packed. "Thus, Sir," he continued, "you see what a little perseverance on my part, and a good deal of kind assistance on yours have effected. I trust you will not be disappointed in the results at a future day."48
Actually Sparks finished packing the papers at Mount Vernon on May 22. They were in eight large boxes, six of which, filled with letterbooks and volumes of Varick transcripts, were shipped from Alexandria to Boston; the other two, which contained "the most valuable papers"--miscellaneous original papers, including a "free selection" of letters addressed to Washington- - Sparks carried with him. He made stops to do research in several locations in Maryland and in Philadelphia and New York, and reached Boston on June 10. Thepapers that had been shipped arrived safely a few days later.
Even before he reached his destination, Sparks decided that he should have all of the letters addressed to Washington, and he wrote to Judge Washington about them on June 4. The latter left in his papers a memorandum that "On the 13th June 1827... I put on board the schooner Alexandria for Boston a large box containing the residue of the letters to Genl Washington."49 Sparks notified the Judge on August 14 that the papers had arrived, and that he had insured them in the Judge's name for $10,000. A further group was taken from Mount Vernon by Sparks when he visited there on February 27, 1828; these consisted of Washington's private journals and diaries.50
The letters to Washington were in loose bundles, filed alphabetically by the names of the writers, when they came into Sparks' hands.51 Within a few weeks after he had received them, he assembled the John Marshall letters and sent them by stagecoach to Judge Story, then in Salem, to assist him in an article he was writing for the North American Review, "I do not suppose it would be advisable to quote any of them in form," Sparks wrote, "but the facts may be used freely without reference the source whence they come." He asked Story to preserve them with great care; he held them only in trust.52 He also assembled and packed James Madison's letters, late in 1827, and entrusted the parcel to Col. Samuel A. Storrow of Culpeper, Va.,who was visiting in Boston, for delivery to Madison. Although Madison promptly had copies made of those missing from his files, he held the originals to hand to Sparks during a visit the latter made to Montpelier in April 1830. 53
In March 1828, Sparks sailed for Europe to examine and copy material he needed for the several writing and editorial projects he had undertaken. Before he left, he had the Washington papers "put up In chests, and deposited in the safety vault of an insurance office." One maywonder whether he first removed some autographs from them. In the preceding months he had collected Washington autograph letters from Timothy Pickering and James A, Hamilton and had tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain examples from James Madison; these he proposed to distribute to public libraries and other institutions in Europe, where he felt that they would be preserved with care and to "much better purpose than in the hands of individuals." 54
Soon after Sparks returned to Boston in 1829, he started to examine the Washington papers in detail, and he soon sought, and received, Bushrod Washington's permission to rearrange the letters addressed to George Washington in a chronological order.55 The work of rearrangement was accomplished in the early months of 1830 by the Reverend Doctor Thaddeus M. Harris, in Dorchester, and, after the letters had been bound (in 107 volumes),Dr. Harris was asked to index them. 56
On November 26, 1829, before Jared Sparks had made any substantial progress toward his edition of the Washington writings, Judge Bushrod Washington died. In his will, "All the papers and letter books" and many of the printed books which had been devised to him by General Washington were bequeathed to his nephew George Corbin Washington, a lawyer, agriculturalist, and Member of Congress from Maryland. Some time in the following spring the new owner of the papers moved those that had remained in his uncle's possession from Mount Vernon to his office in Georgetown, D.C.57
Sparks continued his work on the edition, first in Boston, and then, when the time came to begin sending manuscript to the printer, in Cambridge.58 His principal advisers were Samuel A Eliot, a friend who gave much needed financial assistance, and Charles Folsom (the friend in whose behalf Sparks had originally written to Judge Washington),who saw the work through the press. It is unnecessary to refer here to Sparks' editorial practices, about which so much has been written, except to point out that even his longtime friend Joseph story feared that "antiquarians and devout admirers of Washington" would object to the changes of wording that were made "merely to express the thought more appropriately." 59
Officers of the Government had from time to time been allowed to consult the Washington papers- - mainly the military returns- - at Mount Vernon, and they continued with greater frequency to seek this privilege from George Corbin Washington. Finally, on December 10, 1833, Secretary of State Louis McLane wrote to Washington that he was "desirous of rendering as complete as possible the Archives of the United States" and asked if the latter would consent to deposit the papers in the Department of State. In Washington's reply, on January 3, he first emphasized the extent and importance of the papers, then agreed to transfer his title to all but those papers which were"of a private nature, or which it would be obviously improper to make public" for a sum that would be mutually satisfactory. He referred to Sparks' publication, which he understood-- too optimistically- - was then nearly through the press, and agreed that delivery of the papers could be made "as soon as practicable, after the publication above alluded to." 60 The Secretary sought an appropriation from Congress the following month.
The question was referred to the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives; the committee, through Edward Everett, was furnished with a description of the papers by Jared Sparks; and a bill to enable the Secretary of State to purchase "the manuscript papers and a portion of the printed books of General George Washington," for $25,000, was taken up by the House on June 26, 1834. `In the course of debate on the bill, Representative Job Pierson of New York moved to raise the purchase price to $35,000, and he was supported by Representative Richard Henry Wilde of Georgia, who pointed out that the Washington papers contained the only surviving copies of lists of all officers of the American Army who held their commissions at the time the Army was disbanded. Duplicate copies had been destroyed when the War Office was burned in 1800, and by reference to the lists in the Washington papers, the Government had already "saved to itself a large proportion of the money asked for these manuscripts." The amendment was nevertheless defeated; the bill as submitted was passed by the House on June 28 and was approved by the Senate on June 30, 1834. 61
The papers covered by the bill were turned over to the Department of State in several steps. Early in the summer of 1834, George Corbin Washington delivered the public papers that were then in his possession.62 These consisted largely of the military returns which the Government had found so valuable and drafts of Washington's own letters. During a visit to Cambridge in August, he received 10 volumes of Army returns from Jared Sparks and promptly turned them over to the Department. In November, Sparks himself sent "several first drafts of Washington's Letters, which belong to the collection already in the Dept. of State" and urged that one of them (Washington's famous reply to Col. Lewis Nicola), being "curious," should be carefully preserved. 63 In April of the following year Colonel Washington found a few manuscripts relating to public transactions among the "3 or 4 bundles" of private papers he had retained, and he sent these to the Secretary of State. 64
That officer was obliged to wait for the rest. Sparks had letterbooks, Varick transcripts, and the long series of original letters addressed to Washington at his home in Cambridge when the bill for purchase was approved, and there he sought to keep them until he had finished his work. Only 5 of the 12 volumes of his edition of Washington's writings had been published. By relying on the terms of the contract he had made with Bushrod Washington and John Marshall in 1827 and supported by letters Joseph Story and Edward Everett wrote on his behalf to the Secretary of State, Sparks was able to win a stay in the transfer. A contract between the Department of State and Colonel Washington on August 22, 1834, provided that the remainder of the papers would be handed over not later than the close of the next session of Congress (March 3, 1835). One-fifth of the purchase price was withheld until the transfer was completed. Apparently a further delay was won later, for it was not until October 11, 1836, that Colonel Washington could turn over 188 volumes and a bundle of lists of appointments and claim that he had finally fulfilled the terms of the contract. He had delivered "every paper and manuscript" devised to him by Judge Washington "in any wise connected with Genl. Washington's public life from 1754 to 1799." He had gone to Boston to bring the final segment with him by steamboat and railroad so that they could be given greater security.65
The Department of State, meanwhile, had employed Peter Force- - then at the beginning of his work of compiling material for the American Archives--to examine and arrange the unbound papers that were part of the first segment received from George Corbin Washington. By September 23, 1834, Force was able to inform the Secretary of State that these papers, mainly military returns, had been arranged as nearly as possible by subject and, within each class, in chronological order. They were ready to be bound in 37 volumes. He added that he had also found a number of letters addressed to Washington, which probably belonged to the bound volumes then in Sparks' possession; these he had laid aside for later attention. There were, in addition, several bundles of papers that related "to the present government," which he could, if so instructed, "put up with those of the Revolution."66 No further instructions to him have been located.
After receipt of the last segment from Colonel Washington in 1836, the Department proceeded to examine its holdings and check them for completeness against the volumes of Sparks' edition of Washington's writings. Certain papers, presumably missing, were reported by the Department's William A. Weaver to the Secretary of State in mid- 1838, and the latter got in touch with Colonel Washington. The list included the third volume in the series of orderly books; 67 the early journals and papers from Washington's boyhood to 1754; two volumes of his letters and invoices, 1758-75; and several hundred original letters which had been removed from the bound volumes and copies substituted.68
Colonel Washington, in reply,69 reminded Secretary John Forsyth that he had expressly reserved from the deposit papers "of a private nature, or which it would be obviously improper to make public." Those he had retained were of this character and were contained "in a small drawer."He had withheld "the correspondence between Genl. Washington and John Nicholson [sic], in relation to an anonymous letter addressed to the former over the signature of John Langhorne,"because he considered that it deeply implicated the conduct of "a distinguished individual of that time," and he had not been aware that Sparks had published any portion of it. (He submitted this correspondence for inspection by the Secretary, to be retained or returned as that officer deemed proper.) Washington considered that Sparks' use of and publicity given to certain of the private papers did not affect his rights in the few papers he had expressly reserved. As to the orderly book, it had been reported missing while the papers were owned by Bushrod Washington; and he was not aware that any original papers had been taken from the bound volumes except those described by Sparks, in a letter of which he enclosed a copy, as having been removed by Dr. Sprague with Judge Washington's permission.70
Finally, in 1849, the Department of State, with Colonel Washington's approval, proposed that the Government buy the remaining papers in his possession. A clause providing for their purchase, for $20,000, was inserted into the general appropriation bill, which was approved on March 3,1849. 71
While the Washington papers were in the custody of the Department of State they were used by various persons from time to time. William A. Weaver transcribed the first two volumes of general orders for Peter Force in 1838.72 In mid-century, John Church Hamilton examined the papers while he was preparing his seven volume edition of The Works of Alexander Hamilton and six-volume History of the Republic, and he is credited with having transferred to the Hamilton papers, which were also in the Department at that time, the recipient's copies of certain letters Hamilton had written to Washington.73 Historians who were allowed access to the papers later in the century included Moncure D. Conway and Worthington C. Ford. 74
Much more extensive use was contemplated. President Grover Cleveland, on April 12, 1888, transmitted to Congress and commended for favorable attention a letter of April 10 from Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard, in which a plan for publishing all of the important collections of historical manuscripts then deposited in the Department of State was outlined. Accompanying the outline were a copy of a circular letter Bayard had sent to and the replies he had received from some 40 historians and public figures, who heartily endorsed the plan. As a sample of what was proposed, Bayard also sent printed texts of all the Washington papers dated from June 15 to August 4, 1775; letters and memoranda by and addressed to Washington were included as were all papers they had enclosed, and the various versions of a given communication were cited. The first footnote is followed by the initials "W. C. F."--evidently Worthington C. Ford had been asked to edit the specimen pages.75 The following year saw the publication of the first volumes of Ford's edition of The Writings of George Washington.
Between 1889 and 1892 the Congress appropriated $14,000 for the restoration, mounting, and binding of manuscripts in the Department. The first to be treated were the Continental Congress papers. These were followed by the papers of Madison, Monroe, and Washington. 76 Before this time, and perhaps many years before, some 800 manuscripts--drafts or retained copies of Washington letters as well as letters addressed to him, mainly by Government officers while he was President--had lost their identity as Washington papers and had become part of the miscellaneous letters series in the Department's records. It may be that these manuscripts were in the bundles which Peter Force set aside in 1834 for later attention.77 The Department had also extracted from the Washington papers and other groups of Presidential papers in its keeping and had formed into a separate bound series the correspondence exchanged between the Presidents and the Commissioners of the District of Columbia.78
In November 1894, in accordance with Acts of Congress of 1892 and 1894, the Department transferred to the Record and Pension Office of the War Department all the military records in its custody, including the "Army returns" that Washington had used in camp and retained in his papers79 and that Peter Force had arranged in 1834. Although the original manuscripts no longer form a unit in the records of the War Department, individual items can be traced to the Washington papers by reference to the transcripts of the series, which were made for Peter Force and acquired by the Library of Congress when it purchased the Force library in 1867.
Under authority of an Act of Congress of February 25, 1903, and following an Executive Order of March 9, 1903, the Department of State transferred the papers of George Washington to the Library of Congress on June 29, 1904. Three letterbooks were retained; these contain a record of Washington's correspondence with the Department.80
Some of the many manuscripts that became separated over the years from the main body of Washington papers have already been noted. It may be well at this point to refer to others of the kind. There is evidence that certain private papers of Washington were distributed among members of the Washington family, who later gave them away or sold them. There must have been considerable pressure brought to bear on these owners by autograph seekers. In 1857, George Washington Parke Custis sent John Pickett of Warrenton, Va., a "Relic" taken from the accounts George Washington had kept of the estates of Custis' father and grandfather. He wrote: "I am now cutting up fragments from old letters & accounts, some of 1760, . . to supply the call for Any thing that bears the impress of his venerated hand, One of my correspondents says send me only the dot of an I or the cross of a t, made by his hand, & I will be content. 81 Mrs. John Washington of Mount Vernon gave Washington's diary for 1762 to James K. Paulding; now owned by his descendants, it is on deposit in the Library of Congress. In the last quarter of the 19th century a number of Washington papers were sold at auction by members of the family and eventually became part of large private collections or the holdings of historical societies and libraries. 82
Among these papers, press copies of 236 Washington letters (June 1792-December 1799) and an original notebook kept by Washington in 1757 were purchased by the New York Public Library in 1895 and 1919, respectively.83 In addition to Washington papers in its Gratz collection, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has a household account book for 1793-97 and Washington's pocket diary for 1796, and the Detroit Public Library has his diary for 1789-90; the Henry E. Huntington Library has a survey field book, a "pocket-day-book," and a number of letters addressed to Washington; the Lloyd W. Smith Collection, now in the Morristown National Historical Park, includes Washington's Ledgers "C" and "G," accounts of the Mount Vernon mansion house and other farms for 1797-99, and numerous other Washington papers. Finally, the Library of Congress acquired with the Peter Force library, in 1867, Washington's diary for 1787; his letterbook for 1775-76 (now volume 9 of Series 2 of the Washington Papers); the volume of General Orders for 1778, which is mentioned earlier; and a number of letters addressed to Washington. 84 A portion of the letterpress copies now in Series 4 was received with the Joseph Meredith Toner Collection between 1882 and 1896.
To this nucleus were added the main body of Washington papers acquired in 1904, the series of applications for office during Washington's administration, transferred by the Department of State in 1909, and, in the same year, from the Treasury Department, Washington's accounts and vouchers for the Revolutionary War period. The papers were kept in the arrangement in which they were received until about 1920, and during the interval the Library published guides to the papers dated prior to June 1775 and to the papers that had been included in classes A and B of the Varick arrangement. 85
The drafts, press copies, the contents of two letter and invoice books, memoranda, and vouchers were combined with the letters and documents addressed or referred to Washington in one chronologically arranged series in about 1920.This is the basis for the present Series 4 of the Washington Papers, although in their recent reorganization the vouchers and the reconstituted letter and invoice books have become part of series 5.
In the late 1920's and 1930's, the Library intensified its longtime effort to assemble photocopies of Washington manuscripts in other institutions and in private hands in order to supplement the Washington Papers, and cooperated closely with John C. Fitzpatrick, the editor for the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission of the Writings of George Washington From the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, which was published by authority of Congress, in 39 volumes, between 1931 and 1944.The supplementary photocopy material acquired during those years does not appear on the microfilm but may be consulted in the Library's Manuscript Division. As part of the Library's program to ensure the safety of its most valuable manuscripts during World War II, certain miscellaneous volumes of The Washington Papers were given special protection in the city of Washington while the bulk was sent to the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia for storage. The papers were brought together again in 1944, when the material which had been evacuated from Washington was returned under the direction of Alvin W. Kremer, then Keeper of the Collections.
The Washington Papers, which now number 64, 786, were studied and the arrangement perfected during the period 1960-63. A microfilm that reproduces them in this arrangement was released in 1964. A description of the Washington papers appears in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1962, published by the Library of Congress in 1964.
- Series 1. Exercise Books and Diaries. 1741-99. 43 volumes,
- Subseries A. Exercise books. 1741-47/8. 3 volumes. One volume of "Form of Writing," containing transcripts by Washington and "Rules of Civility." Two volumes of school copybooks.
- Subseries B. Diaries. 1748-99. 36 volumes. Washington's record of his activities, weather observations, and memoranda on agriculture and other subjects. Chronologically arranged.
- Subseries C. Surveys. 1749-52. 4 volumes. Notes and records of surveys and land entries. Chronologically arranged.
- Series 2. Letterbooks. 1754-99. 41 volumes. Mainly copies of Washington's correspondence. Chronologically arranged within groups with some overlapping dates. Volumes 1-24. General correspondence, 1754-97. Volumes 25-27. Congress, 1789-97. Volumes 28-30. The Department of State, 1789-96. Volumes 31-34. The Department of the Treasury, 1789-96. Volumes 35-37. The Department of War, 1789-96. Volumes 38-40. Civic, fraternal, and religious groups, 1789-97. Volume 41. "Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793-1797."
- Series 3. Varick Transcripts. 1775-83. 44 volumes. Transcripts of Washington's Revolutionary War correspondence in the following subseries, each chronologically arranged:
- Subseries A. Continental Congress. 7 volumes.
- Subseries B. Continental and State military personnel. 16 volumes.
- Subseries C. Civil officials and citizens. 5 volumes.
- Subseries D. Foreign officers and subjects of foreign nations. 2 volumes.
- Subseries E. Enemy officers and British subjects. 1 volume.
- Subseries F. Continental Army Council proceedings. 3 volumes.
- Subseries G. General Orders. 7 volumes.
- Subseries H. (Originally P) Personal correspondence. 3 volumes.
- Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799. 298 volumes. Letters sent and received by Washington, drafts of letters, military returns, and other documents. Chronologically arranged and alphabetized, within the day, by names of correspondents.
- Series 5. Financial Papers. 1750-96. 34 containers. Accounts and financial records of Mount Vernon, Colonial Virginia militia, Washington's Revolutionary War expenses, and Society of the Cincinnati travelling expenses. Chronologically arranged.
- Series 6. Military Papers. 1755-98. 26 containers. Chronologically arranged within three subseries.
- Subseries A. 1755-83. 8 containers. Mainly orderly books and other military records relating to the Colonial Virginia militia and the Revolutionary Army, including records of enemy deserters and Continental Army officers' commissions.
- Subseries B. Captured British orderly books. 1777-78. 8 volumes.
- Subseries C. Miscellaneous military records. 1769-98. 12 containers. Sundry records relating to the Revolutionary War and later period, including account books, 1777-79, of the Quarter master of Yorktown, proceedings of a trial held by the British in New York, 1782, and records compiled by several unknown soldiers.
- Series 7. Applications. 1789-96. 32 volumes. Applications for office during the administrations of Washington. Arranged alphabetically by names of applicants. A list is attached.
- Series 8. Miscellaneous Papers, ca. 1775-99. 16 containers. Rough chronological arrangement within groups.
- Subseries A. Recipients' copies of some Washington letters. 1 container.
- Subseries B. Certificates of Washington's degrees and honors. 2 containers.
- Subseries C. Surveys. 1 container.
- Subseries D. Notes, extracts, and forms. 12 containers.