Document Topics and Themes


  • Washington and Slavery.  Documents from the Papers of George Washington and referencing the names and ages of his slaves at Mount Vernon as well as related articles investigating Washington’s role in the controversy over slavery.
  • Washington’s Advice on Love & Marriage. Washington’s views expressed through letters of advice to his younger relatives.
  • Lafayette’s Visit to America, 1780. Documents from the Papers of George Washington and related links and articles highlighting Lafayette’s arrival and important message to Washington during the Revolutionary War. Also includes current news of a replica reconstruction of the ship Lafayette sailed.
  • Royal Gift. Acquired in 1785, Royal Gift was Washington’s prized Spanish donkey.

Colonial Series

  • The Rules of Civility. These maxims originated in the late sixteenth century in France and were popularly circulated during Washington’s time. Washington wrote out a copy of the 110 Rules in his school book when he was about sixteen years old. This exercise, now regarded as a formative influence in the development of his character, included guidelines for behavior in pleasant company, appropriate actions in formal situations, and general courtesies.
  • Lease for Mount Vernon. 17 December 1754, between George Lee, Ann Lee, and George Washington. The annual lease payment of “Fifteen thousand pounds of Tobacco in fifteen Hogsheads” includes a number of slaves whose value was to be deducted “if it should so happen that any…should Die during the said Term.”

Revolutionary War Series

Confederation Series

  • Making of the Constitution.  Washington wrote to Bushrod Washington on 9 November 1787: “The warmest friends to and the best supporters of the Constitution, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but these were not to be avoided, and they are convinced if evils are likely to flow from them, that the remedy must come thereafter; because, in the present moment it is not to be obtained. And as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the people (for it is with them to judge) can, as they will have the aid of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments wch shall be found necessary, as ourselves; for I do not conceive that we are more inspired—have more wisdem—or possess more virtue than those who will come after us.”

Presidential Series

  • Washington and the Barbary Coast Pirates. A collection of documents, maps, and links pertaining to the pirates of the Barbary Coast of North Africa. These selected items explore the ongoing problem and subsequent actions taken during Washington’s administration.
  • Annual Addresses to Congress. Washington delivered his first State of the Union address in the Senate chambers on 8 January 1790. According to Sen. William Maclay’s account “The President was dressed in a second Mourning, and . . . read his speech well. the senate headed by their President were on his right The House of Representatives . . . with their Speaker were on his left his [official] Family with the Heads of Departments attended. the business was soon over and the Senate were left alone.”
  • Washington’s Presidential Vetoes. George Washington was the first president to veto Congressional legislation, exercising that prerogative once in each of his administrations.

2 thoughts on “Document Topics and Themes

  1. Hi David,

    Please email us at papersofgwashington AT gmail DOT com. We would be glad to answer your question, and emailing will allow us to respond as quickly as possible to any follow up questions you may have.

    Katie Lebert

  2. I’m doing research on the relationship between Gen. Washington and Benjamin Tallmadge, both with regard to the Culper episode as well as other personal and military correspondence and/or references. Where might I find these? Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *