Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark


Letter from George Washington to Franc├žois Jean, marquis de Chastellux

George Washington to Franc├žois Jean, marquis de Chastellux, October 12, 1783
George Washington recounts his trip into western New York and contemplates the possibilities for the navigation of plentiful western waterways, writing of "the immense diffusion and importance of it; and with the goodness of that Providence which has dealt her favors to us with so profuse a hand."

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Princeton, October 12, 1783.

My dear Chevr:,

I have not had the honor of a line from you, since the 4th. of March last, but I will ascribe my disappointment to any cause, rather than to a decay of your friendship.

Having the appearance, & indeed the enjoyment of peace, without a final declaration of it; I, who am only waiting for the ceremonials, or 'till the British forces shall have taken leave of New York, am placed in an awkward & disagreeable situation, it being my anxious desire to quit the walks of public life, & under the sha

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dow of my own vine, & my own Figtree, to seek those enjoyments, & that relaxation, which a mind that has been constantly upon the stretch for more than eight years, stands so much in need of.

I have fixed this epoch to the arrival of the Definitive Treaty, or to the evacuation of my country by our newly acquired friends. In the mean while at the request of Congress, I spend my time with them at this place, where they came in consequence of the riots at Philadelphia, of which you have doubtless (for it is not a very recent transaction) been fully apprised. They have lately determined to make choice of some convenient spot near the Falls of the Delaware for the permanent residence of the sovereign power of these United States; but where they will hold their Sessions 'till they can be properly established at that place, is yet undecided.

I have lately made a tour through the Lakes George & Champlain as far as Crown point; then returning to Schenectady, I proceeded up the Mohawk river to Fort Schuyler (formerly Fort Stanwix), & crossed over to the Wood Creek Maps: which empties into the Oneida Lake, & affords the water communication with Ontario Maps: . I then traversed the country to the head of the Eastern Branch of the Susquehanna Maps: & viewed the Lake Otsego, & the portage between that lake & the Mohawk river at Canajohario. Prompted by these actual observations, I could not help taking a more contemplative & extensive view of the vast inland navigation of these United States, from maps & the information of others; and could not but be struck with the immense diffusion and importance of it; and with the goodness of that Providence which has dealt her favors to us with so profuse a hand. Would to God we may have wisdom enough to

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improve them. I shall not rest contented 'till I have explored the Western Country, & traversed those lines (or great part of them) which have given bounds to a New Empire. But when it may, if it ever shall happen, I dare not say, as my first attention must be given to the deranged situation of my private concerns which are not a little injured by almost nine years absence and total disregard of them.

With every wish for your health and happiness, and with the most sincere and affectionate regard, I am, my Dr. Chevr. Your most obt srvt