It had taken General Washington over four months to reply to Elkanah Watson after receiving a masonic apron from him and his French business partner, Francois–Corentin Cassoul. Watson had serviced as a commercial agent for the American states in the port of Nante, France, during the War for Independence.
Elkanah Watson wrote about the apron in his autobiography, Men and Times of the Revolution:
Wishing to pay some mark of respect to our beloved Washington, I employed in conjunction with my friend M. Cassoul, nuns in one of the convent at Nantes to prepare some elegant Masonic ornaments and gave them a plan for combining the American and French flags on the apron designed for this use. They were executed in a superior and expensive style. We transmitted them to America, accompanied by an appropriate address.
Washington’s reply reads:
State of New York Augt 10th 1782
The Masonick Ornamts which accompanied your Brotherly Address of the 23d of Jany last, tho’ elegant in themselves, were rendered more valuable by the flattering sentiments, and affectionate manner, in which they were presented.
If my endeavours to avert the Evil, with which this Country was threatned by a deliberate plan of Tyranny, should be crowned with the success that is wished—the praise is due to the Grand Architect of the Universe; who did not see fit to suffer his superstructures and Justice, to be subjected to the Ambition of the Princes of this World, or to the rod of oppression, in the hands of any power upon Earth.
For your affectionate Vows, permit me to be grateful; and offer mine for true Brothers in all parts of the World; and to assure you of the sincerity with which I am Yrs
This letter (see photograph below) is property of the Grand Lodge of New York’s Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Library.
It is commonly agreed upon that this apron was used by President Washington at the masonic cornerstone ceremony of the United States Capitol in 1793. The apron is property of Alexandria–Washington Lodge № 22, Alexandria, Virginia. The whereabouts of the sash that accompanied the apron are unknown.
The letter’s envelope is in the collections of Washington’s Headquarters Museum at Morristown, New Jersey.