George Washington Slept Here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Written by J. Dennis Robinson
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Why did the first President of the new United States come all the way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1789? And why did he stay four full days? Who did he see? What did he do? A new walking tour from the Gov. John Langdon Mansion clears up the details and traces the sites of these most historic days in the city’s history. (Continued below)
Portsmouth was on pins and needles. Washington was coming! The first President of the United States left Newburyport. Massachusetts after breakfast at 8am on the morning of October 31, 1789. An estimated 400 militiamen escorted him to a safe crossing point on the Merrimack River near Amesbury where as many as 700 cavalry waited for the ferry to touch the New Hampshire shore. State “president” John Sullivan of Durham (one of Washington’s former generals in the Revolution) was among the greeting dignitaries as were senators Paine Wingate of Stratham and John Langdon of Portsmouth.
Recovering from the ravages of war, Portsmouth was approaching its economic zenith in 1789. Washington’s approval rating was off the charts, hovering somewhere between that of a beloved monarch and a demigod. Washington used that popularity to sew together the loosely knit, increasingly derisive, confederation of sovereign states at a critical time. His four-week New England journey, followed by a tour of the South, brought Washington from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to the banks of the Merrimac.
No camera captured the president’s first boot print in the New Hampshire soil as he stepped from his horse to enter a carriage for the long dusty ride to the state’s only seaport. But that visit -- Portsmouth was the high water mark of the President’s journey north – still resonates. Those four days must be included among the most important in the city’s history.
CONTINUED NEXT PAGE -- Washington in Portsmouth
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