New York: Seat of Empire

by Richard Poe
Wednesday, February 15, 2006

6:07 pm Eastern Time

Why do we call New York the “Empire State”? Most historians agree that George Washington himself coined the term when, in a letter of December 2, 1784 to the officials and citizens of New York City, he described the Big Apple as, “the seat of the Empire.”

Washington wrote:

“I pray that Heaven may bestow its choicest blessings on your City. That the devastations of War, in which you found it, may soon be without a trace. That a well regulated and benificial Commerce may enrichen your Citizens. And that, your State (at present the Seat of the Empire) may set such examples of wisdom and liberality, as shall have a tendency to strengthen and give permanency to the Union at home, and credit and respectability to it abroad. The accomplishment whereof is a remaining wish, and the primary object of all my desires.”(1)

Washington’s words suggest that, had he lived today, he would be called a neocon.(2) At the very least, we can safely assume that the father of our country never read Pat Buchanan’s A Republic, Not an Empire. For additional examples of Washington’s use of the term “empire”, go here.

by Richard Poe
February 15, 2006 06:07 PM ET

Cross-posted from 02.15.06.


1. “George Washington to New York City Officials and Citizens,” 2 December 1784, George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799

2. Scott McConnell, “The Weekly Standard’s War“, The American Conservative (, 21 November 2005; Max Boot, “The Case for American Empire“, The Weekly Standard, Volume 7, Number 5, 15 October 2001

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