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

Letter to his niece, Harriet Washington | Sunday, October 30, 1791

Editorial Notes

Harriot Washington (1776-1822) and her two brothers 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.  Harriot proved to be an untidy, rather dreamy, and undisciplined addition to the family.  This quotation was written in response to a very short letter from Harriot at Mount Vernon, dated October 24, 1791, which the teenager had 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 reminded the girl that, as president, he had rather more correspondence to deal with than did she and then tried to get her to think seriously about her prospects in life and how she might improve on them.

George Washington to his niece, Harriot [sic] Washington, Philadelphia | Sunday, October 30, 1791

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