226 Year Old Handwritten Letter by George Washington Up For Auction
By Circle Auction | May 2023
George Washington is known as one of the most iconic figures in American history, as he played a pivotal role in the country’s founding and early development. His leadership as the first President of the United States helped to establish many of the country’s foundational policies and principles. After his presidency, Washington remained a prominent figure and an active member of the community. This is evidenced by the rare handwritten letter he wrote in August 1797 to his friend and neighbor, Ludwell Lee, which is now up for auction.
The letter, which is being auctioned by Circle Auction, is a historical glimpse into the personal life of George Washington. The letter measures 8 3/4″ x 14 1/2″, and while some fading and foxing has occurred, the letter has clear and legible handwriting throughout. The bold signature of George Washington jumps off the page, a tangible representation of his status as one of America’s most iconic figures.
The letter is addressed to Ludwell Lee of Shuter’s Hill, Alexandria, Virginia, and is a personal invitation from George Washington to his friend and neighbor. In it, Washington cordially invites Lee to dinner at Mount Vernon, expressing his desire to see him the following day. Ludwell Lee was a Speaker of the Virginia Senate, a kinsman of Robert E. Lee, and son of Richard Henry Lee, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. This invitation is a testament to Washington’s deep roots in his community and his enduring connections to those around him.
Contextualizing the time period in George Washington’s life, this letter was written just 11 months after his famous Farewell Address and the end of his second term as President. He had retired to his beloved estate at Mount Vernon, and was relishing the opportunity to live a slower life more restful life. In a previous letter to James Anderson in April, he described this new season: “I am once more seated under my own vine and fig tree, and hope to spend the remainder of my days—which in the ordinary course of things (being in my Sixty sixth year) cannot be many—in peaceful retirement, making political pursuits yield to the more rational amusement of cultivating the Earth.”
Washington’s correspondence from this later period at Mount Vernon is now fairly scarce, as he would take ill and lose his life in 1799, and Martha Washington burned many of his personal papers for the privacy of the family. This makes this letter all the more valuable, as it is a rare glimpse into the personal life of one of America’s most important figures.
The auction for this extraordinary piece of American history is now open and will run until May 20th. Other historical highlights in the auction include an 1800 signed land grant by John Adams and John Marshall, as well as a Revolutionary War engraved powder horn. Interested parties are invited to view the letter in our online auction here, explore the entire online auction catalog, or attend the open house auction preview on May 18th and 19th to see this historical document in person.
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