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That historic 1789 visit in
the President's own words
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By Charles W. Brewster

Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.
JDR

Washington's tour to New Hampshire in 1789 -- His own account.

Go to Washington & Lear Homepage

EVERY age has some epoch from which events before and after are dated. Among the epochs of Portsmouth in the past century may be ranked the year of the great fire in 1813, the year of the yellow fever in 1798, the year when Washington visited Portsmouth in 1789, and the year of the declaration in 1776. These events made so deep impressions upon the participators in the scenes, that all minor events are frequently dated as so many years before or after their occurrence.

Washington was inaugurated President on the 30th of April, 1789, and soon after attended the first session of the first Congress at New York, which closed on the 29th of September. A few days after its close, attended only by his two private secretaries and servants, he left New York on a tour through Connecticut and Massachusetts to New Hampshire. In nine days he reached Boston, and in seven days after arrived in Portsmouth, which was the eastern termination of his tour.

With our readers we will now ramble over the streets of Portsmouth in company with Washington, revive some of the old scenes, and enter some sketches which the page of written history has not yet presented. It is a matter of no little satisfaction for us to stand aside awhile, and let our honored guest give his own account of that visit, made in his private diary at the time, but never before this given in print. With deep interest was it first listened to at our Temple, when in 1858 Edward Everett, in his silver tones, read it to a Portsmouth audience, among whom were some who almost seventy years ago, were witnesses of the scenes. Mr. Everett, at our request, has furnished us with the extract in full.

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Saturday He Arrives

FROM WASHINGTON'S PRIVATE DIARY, 1789. SATURDAY, 31st Oct. Left Newburyport a little after eight o'clock, (first breakfasting with Mr. Dalton,) and to avoid a wider ferry, more inconvenient boats, and piece of heavy sand, we crossed the river at Salisbury, two miles above, and near that further about; and in three miles came to the line which divides the State of Massachusetts from that of New Hampshire. Here I took leave of Mr. Dalton and many other private gentlemen,--also of Gen. Titcomb, who had met me on the line between Middlesex and Essex counties, corps of light horse, and many officers of militia; and was received by the President of the State of New Hampshire, the Vice President, some of the Council, Messrs. Langdon and Wingate of the Senate, Col. Parker, Marshal of the State, and many other respectable characters; besides several troops of well clothed horse, in handsome uniforms, and many officers of the militia, also in handsome (white and red) uniforms, of the manufacture of the State. With this cavalcade we proceeded, and arrived before three o'clock at Portsmouth, where we were received with every token of respect and appearance of cordiality under a discharge of artillery. The streets, doors and windows were crowded here, as at all other places; and, alighting at the Town House, odes were sung and played in honor of the President. The same happened yesterday at my entrance into Newburyport, being stopped at my entrance to hear it. From the Town House I went to Colonel Brewster's tavern, the place provided for my residence, and asked the President, Vice President, the two Senators, the Marshal and Major Gilman to dine with me, which they did; after which I drank tea at Mr. Langdon's.

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Sunday and Monday

NOVEMBER 1st.
Attended by the President of the State, (General Sullivan,) Mr. Langdon and the Marshal, I went in the forenoon to the Episcopal church, under the incumbency of Mr. Ogden; and in the afternoon to one of the Presbyterian or Congregational churches, in which a Mr. Buckminister preached. Dined at home with the Marshal, and spent the afternoon in my own room writing letters.

MONDAY, 2d.
Having made previous preparations for it, about eight o'clock, attended by the President, Mr. Langdon and some other gentlemen, I went in a boat to visit the harbor of Portsmouth, which is well secured against all winds, and from its narrow entrance from the sea, and passage up to the town, may be perfectly guarded against any approach by water. The anchorage is good, and the shipping may lay close to the docks, etc., when at the town. In my way to the mouth of the harbor, I stopped at a place called Kittery, in the Province of Maine, the river Piscataqua being the boundary between New Hampshire and it. From hence I went by the old Fort (formerly built while under the English government) on an island which is at the entrance of the harbor, and where the lighthouse stands. As we passed this Fort we were saluted by thirteen guns. Having lines, we proceeded to the fishing banks, a little without the harbor, and fished for cod,--but it not being of proper time of tide, we only caught two,--with which, about ten o'clock, we returned to town. Dined at Col. Langdon's and drank tea there with a large circle of ladies, and retired a little after seven o'clock. Before dinner I received an address from the town, presented by the Vice President; and returned an answer in the evening to one I had received from Marblehead, and another from the Presbyterian clergy of the State of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, delivered at Newburyport--both of which I had been unable to answer before.

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Tuesday and Wednesday

TUESDAY, 3d.
Sat two hours in the forenoon for a Mr. -----, painter, of Boston, at the request of Mr. Brick of that place, who wrote Major Jackson that it was an earnest desire of many of the inhabitants of that town that he might be indulged. After this sitting I called upon President Sullivan and the mother of Mr. Lear; and, having walked through most parts of the town, returned by twelve o'clock, when I was visited by a clergyman of the name of Haven, who presented me with an ear and part of the stock of the dyeing corn, and several small pieces all cloth which had been dyed with it, equal to any colors I had ever seen, and of various colors. This corn was blood red, and the rind of the stock deeply tinged of the same color. About two o'clock, I received an address from the Executive of the State of New Hampshire, and in half an hour after dined with them and a large company at their Assembly room, which is one of the best I have seen anywhere in the United States.

At half after seven I went to the Assembly, where there were about seventy-five well dressed and many very handsome ladies, among whom (as was also the case at the Salem and Boston assemblies) were a greater proportion with much blacker hair than are usually seen in the southern States. About nine I returned to my quarters. Portsmouth, it is said, contains about five thousand inhabitants. There are some good houses, (among which Col. Langdon's may be esteemed the first,) but in general they are indifferent, and almost entirely of wood. On wondering at this, as the country is full of stone and good clay for bricks, I was told that on account of the fogs and damp they deemed them wholesomer, and for that reason preferred wood buildings. Lumber, fish and potash, with some provisions, compose the principal articles of export. Ship building here and at Newburyport has been carried on to a considerable extent; during and for some time after the war, there was an entire stagnation to it, but it is beginning now to revive again. The number of ships belonging to this port are estimated at--.

WEDNESDAY, 4th.
About half-past seven I left Portsmouth quietly and without any attendance, having earnestly entreated that all parade and ceremony might be avoided on my return. Before ten by reached Exeter, fourteen miles distance. This is considered as the second town in New Hampshire, and stands at the head of the tide-water of the Piscataqua river, but ships of three hundred and four hundred tons are built at it. Above (but in the same town) are considerable falls, which supply several grist mills, two oil mills, a slitting mill and snuff mill. It is a place of some consequence, but does not contain more than one thousand inhabitants. A jealousy subsists between this town (where the Legislature alternately sits) and Portsmouth, which, had I known it in time, would have made it necessary to have accepted an invitation to a public dinner; but my arrangements having been otherwise made, I could not.

The above is President Washington's own account of his four days visit at Portsmouth, and presents the town as seen by him. Now for a view of President Washington as seen by our citizens.

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