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George Washington Handwritten and Signed Letter on Becoming the 1st President of the United States Vows he "Will Make Justice and Public Good My Sole Objects." A Presidential Expression Setting the Stage For Future Presidents and America as a Whole.

In this fantastic letter to Physician Dr. Frederick Phile in March 1789, President-elect George Washington expresses his determination to enter the presidency "totally free from pre-engagements of every nature whatsoever," and declares that he will make "justice and the public good, my sole objects" in judging the "merits and justice of every" request submitted to him, a sentiment he would extend to every aspect of his presidency.

Washington referred to the standard of "justice & the public good" only a few times, yet the present letter is the only example we know to exist in public hands or to ever have reached the market. Included in the "Justice and public good" letters is an expression to Declaration signer Benjamin Harrison, the Father and great Grandfather of two future presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison respectively. Washington writes to Harrison on March 9, 1789 "if it should be my inevitable fate to administer the government (for Heaven knows that no event can be less desired by me; and that no earthly consideration short of so general a call, together with a desire to reconcile contending parties as far as in me lays, could again bring me into public life) I will go to the chair under no pre engagement of any kind or nature whatsoever. But when in it, I will, to the best of my Judgment, discharge the duties of the office with that impartiality and zeal for the public good, which ought never to suffer connections of blood or friendship to intermingle, so as to have the least sway on decision of a public nature."

Just a few days later, on March 13, 1789, Washington would also write to another Declaration-signer Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey that he would act "with a sole reference to justice & the public good." Both these letters exist in institutions as far away as Russia.

Interestingly, Phile was a practicing Doctor before he took public office, and lost his practice as a result. Washington stuck to his words and eventually appointed Phile, not because he had lost his practice, not because he supported a blind daughter, but based on many recommendations including that of yet another signer of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee. "Justice and Public good" prevailed.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Autograph Letter Signed, to Frederick Phile, March 15, 1789, Mount Vernon, Virginia. 1 p., 8" x 6.25". Minor flaws and some reinforced strips on verso. Apparently written on blank leaf of Phile's letter to him as is evidenced by remnants of address on letter sheet "[George] Washington.... [Moun]t Vernon." Washington docketed the received letter in his hand "To Doct. Fred: While 15th March 1789."

Complete Transcript:

Mount Vernon Mar 15th 1789


Yesterdays Post brought me your favor of the 7th – In answer to it, I will briefly observe that if the Administration of the New Government should inevitably fall upon me that I will go into Office totally free from pre-engagements of every nature whatsoever, and in recommendations to appointments will make justice & the public good, my sole objects. Resolving to pursue this rule, invariably – I shall add nothing more on the subject of your application until the time shall arrive when the merits and justice of every claimt shall appear – when, so far as the matter depends upon me, the principle above mentioned shall to the best of my judgment have their full operation.

I am Sir, Your Most Obedt

And most Hble Ser. mo. ob. Ser

Go Washington

Determining value on an iconic Washington letter is no easy task, especially because nothing like the present letter has ever traded hands. To some extent, a viable benchmark is a brief Washington ALS that sold in November of 2022 at Freemans Auction for $2,389,500 against an estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. This letter was very important solely because it transmitted our constitution from Washington to Thomas Jefferson, but is indeed only a transmittal letter.

Those other comparables are not limited to letters. Washington's undelivered Inaugural fragments, of which there are many, have traded hands for decades. In 2002, one such fragment fetched $358,000 in Christies, again from the Forbes Collection. In 1994, a leaf sold at Christies for just over $200,000.

Importantly, although not a Washington ALS, in 2020 a Richard Henry Lee ALS to Washington informing him of his election to the Presidency sold at Sotheby's for just over $500,000.

A George Washington ALS as President, possibly a retained draft, where Washington humbly considers his new position and discusses his conception of public service as an obligatory responsibility sold in Sotheby's for $362,500 in 2002. In this letter he evokes a similar concept, that his presidency will "be invariably directed by an honest and ardent zeal."

Of course the high water mark for George Washington, although we don't consider it a comparable is the nearly $10 million dollars that his copy of the printed constitution sold for in 2012.

This is debatably the most important Washington Letter to ever surface in public auction, and this may well be your only chance to bid on it. A holy grail piece that would be the centerpiece of any collection.

Authentication: James Spence Authentication (JSA) Letter of Authenticity and a Gotta Have Rock and Roll Certificate of Authenticity.
George Washington Handwritten and Signed Letter on Becoming the 1st President of the United States Vows he "Will Make Justice and Public Good My Sole Objects." Setting the Stage for America as a Whole
Current Bidding (Reserve Has Been Met)
Minimum Bid: $100,000
Final Bid: $220,000
Estimate: $500,000 - $1,000,000
Number of Bids:13
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