That historic 1789 visit in
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.
Washington's tour to New Hampshire in 1789 -- His own account.
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.
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.
Sunday and Monday
Tuesday and Wednesday
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--.
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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