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WASHINGTON’S VISIT TO BOSTON IN 1789
The autumn after Washington’s election to the Presidency he made a tour of the New England States that had ratified the Constitution. On his arrival at Boston Neck he was met by the Selectmen and the sheriff representing Governor Hancock, but not by the Governor himself. A quarrel ensued here over the control of the procession, and Hancock’s officials threatened “to make a hole through” the town officers. There was such a delay and the weather was so raw and chilly that many of the onlookers caught what was known for many years as the “Washington cold.” The President in his Continental uniform rode through Orange, Newbury, and Marlborough Streets, all of which now form Washington Street, arriving at the State House for the ceremonies. Still Hancock was not to be seen, and added to the coldness of the occasion a cold dinner awaited the distinguished guest, which finally, however, the landlord improved upon by managing to procure an excellent fish at the last moment. Washington was much provoked that the Governor of Massachusetts refused to pay his respects to him and wrote in his diary, “Having engaged yesterday to take an informal dinner with the Governor to-day, but under full persuasion that he could have waited upon me as soon as I should have arrived, I excused myself upon his not doing it, and informing me through his Secretary that he was too much indisposed to do it, being resolved to receive the visit.” The following amusing letters were then exchanged:— “The Governor’s best respects to the President. If at home and at leisure the Governor will do himself the honour to pay his respects in half an hour. This would have been done much sooner had his health in any degree permitted. He now hazards everything as it respects his health, for the desirable purpose.”
The following answer was sent back at once:—
“The President of the United States presents his best respects to the Governor, and has the honor to inform him that he shall be at home till two o’clock. The President need not express the pleasure it will give him to see the Governor; but at the same time, he most earnestly begs that the Governor will not hazard his health on the occasion.”
It looked as if the President’s visit would end most disagreeably, but on the following day Hancock realized his mistake, and caused himself to be swathed in red flannels as a victim of gout, and carried on the shoulders of two men into Washington’s drawing-room, where tea was served. The President appeared most concerned over the inconvenient (or “convenient,” as was thought by many) attack of gout, and the misunderstanding between the two dignitaries was brought to a close. Without doubt Governor Hancock made use of his infirmity as an excuse for not having at once visited Washington. Mrs. Hancock always assured her friends that her husband had a real attack of gout and that Washington shed tears when he saw the servants bringing the helpless man into his presence. Governor Brooks and many others thought differently, although the exact truth will never be known. The visit was returned by the distinguished General and peace again reigned.
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