Portrait of George Washington

Charleston Welcomes the First President

South Carolina is in the news right now as it readies itself for Saturday’s Republican Primary election in which voters will help select a presidential candidate for this fall.

As one of the longest continuously settled areas in America, South Carolina has a long history of dealing with presidents as we find in this 1883 book celebrating the city of Charleston’s first century of Incorporation.  This is an exchange of letters between the city leadership and President George Washington.

It is indicative of the era that the city’s letter sounds as though it is addressing a supreme monarch while President Washington’s reply stresses the importance of democratic ideals as the source and foundation for national ‘happiness’.

To the President of the United States:

Sir — The Intendant and Wardens, representing the citizens of Charleston, find themselves particularly gratified by your arrival in the Metropolis of the State. It is an event, the expectation of which they have for some time with great pleasure indulged. When in the person of the Supreme Magistrate of the United States, they recognize the Father of the People, and the defender of the liberties of America, they feel a particular satisfaction in declaring their firm persuasion that they speak the language of their constituents, in asserting, that no body of men throughout this extensive continent can exceed them in attachment to his public character, or in revering his private virtues. And they do not hesitate in anticipating those blessings which must ultimately be diffused amongst the inhabitants of these States from his exertions for their general welfare, aided by those in whom they have also vested a share of their confidence.

Go on, sir, as you have done. Continue to possess as well as deserve the love and esteem of all your fellow-citizens: while millions in other parts of the globe, though strangers to your person, shall venerate your name. May you long be spared to receive those marks of respect which you so entirely merit from a grateful people; and may all who live under your auspices continue to experience that freedom and happiness, which is so universally acknowledged to have proceeded from your wide, judicious and prudent administration.

Arnoldus Vanderhorst, Intendant.

To which the President returned the following answer:

To the Intendant and Wardens, representatives of the citizens of Charleston:

Gentlemen — The gratification you are pleased to express at my arrival in your Metropolis, is replied to with sincerity, in a grateful acknowledgment of the pleasing sensations which your affectionate urbanity has excited.

Highly sensible of your attachment and favorable opinions, I entreat you to be persuaded of the lasting gratitude which they impress, and of the cordial regard with which they are returned.

It is the peculiar boast of our country that her happiness is alone dependent on the collective wisdom and virtue of her citizens, and rests not on the exertions of any individual. Whilst a just sense is entertained of their natural and political advantages, we cannot fail to improve them, and with the progress of our national importance, to combine the freedom and felicity of individuals. I shall be particularly gratified in observing the happy influence of public measures on the prosperity of your city, which is so much entitled to the regard and esteem of the American Union.

George Washington

Charleston’s Centennial Medal

The City Council of Charleston arranged with Mr. Snowden, the courteous and obliging director of the United States Mint at Philadelphia, for a memorial medal; its size and inscription are fully illustrated at page 2 (shown below). The issue comprises two in gold, twenty-one in silver (for the Aldermen serving at that time) and two hundred in bronze—total, two hundred and twenty-three.

The medals were mounted in handsome morocco cases, and copies in bronze were presented to Gov. H. S. Thompson, Lieut. Gov. J. C. Shepherd, Mr. Speaker James Simons, and Attorney-General Ch. Richardson Miles.

Charleston Centennial Medal (Front)

Charleston Centennial Medal (Front)


Charleston Centennial Medal (Back)

Charleston Centennial Medal (Back)


Book: The Centennial Of Incorporation (1783–1883) [Charleston, SC]
Collection: American County Histories
State: South Carolina

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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