Established in 1968 at the University of Virginia, The Washington Papers is working to publish comprehensive letterpress and digital editions of the Washington family's correspondence.
by William M. Ferraro, Managing Editor
An unfortunate understanding persists that George Washington achieved greatness through his magnificent character despite a marginal intellect. Contemporaries, such as Timothy Pickering, spread this notion by pointing to how Washington relied on aides and secretaries to write so many of his letters, particularly during the Revolutionary War, and plenty of subsequent biographers and commentators have picked up on the idea.1 It is ridiculous to demean Washington for requiring assistance while acting as commanding general of the Continental army because that position often demanded multiple letters a day, with many involving complex or highly sensitive matters. Moreover, Papers of George Washington editors have discovered documentary evidence that Washington involved himself directly in the drafting of all correspondence and confirmed their final form with his signature.2 Further supporting this evidence are the innumerable textual notes in the Revolutionary War Series where Washington in his own handwriting modified words, phrases, or sentences in drafts prepared initially by aides or secretaries.
Major funding for the Washington Papers is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, as well as by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the University of Virginia and the Florence Gould Foundation.