Yesterday at the New York Society Library, the estate of George Washington’s Mount Vernon presented the library with a copy of one of the two overdue books the first president checked out in the late 1700s. (You can read my original post about this right here.)
In a formal ceremony at the NYSL, James Rees, the executive director of Mount Vernon, presented NYSL chairman Charles Berry with a copy of The Law of Nations, one of the two books that Washington checked out of the library in October 1789. (You can read the full story of the ceremony here.)
The book isn’t the copy that Washington checked out — staff at Mount Vernon had no luck locating the original, so the estate purchased a similar copy, published the same year, from an online vendor for $12,000. That raised some eyebrows among Mt. Vernon fans, who would rather have seen that money spent at the Washington home.
For Mr. Rees, though, it was a matter of principle. By not returning the book on time, Rees explained, George Washington “did not do his public duty.” I think Washington — who took civic duty seriously — would have approved. Sometimes a symbolic gesture is priceless.