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" is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. "

From George Washington to Harriot Washington | Sunday, October 30, 1791

Editorial Notes

Harriot—or Harriett—Washington (1776-1822) and her two brothers George Steptoe and Lawrence Augustine were among a number of orphaned young relatives who were taken in and raised by George and Martha Washington over the years. The children’s father was George Washington’s younger brother, Samuel (1734-1781), who died during the American Revolution. This quotation was written in response to a very short letter from Harriot at Mount Vernon, dated October 24, 1791. She closed with the words, “I am sorry it is not in my power to write a longer letter as the Major [George Augustine Washington (1759-1793), another nephew] is waiting for it.”  In his response, George Washington chided that she could have written her letter to him in a more timely fashion rather than putting it off, leading to the bit of avuncular wisdom quoted above.

From George Washington to Harriot Washington, 30 October 1791