Did You Know: George Washington Ate Dinner with Col. John Fitzgerald on St. Patrick’s Day in 1788

It was at that dinner that the former Alexandria mayor talked with Washington about the construction of the Basilica of St. Mary in Old Town.

“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States” by Howard Chandler Christy. (Pixabay image)

Alexandria’s Irish history runs deep – going all the way back to the Revolutionary War, and tonight thousands in green will descend on the port city’s Irish pubs for meat pies and pints of the cold stuff. But while you’re waiting in line to get in to Murphy’s Irish Pub, Chadwick’s or Daniel O’Connell’s, take yourself back 231 years to the Alexandria home of former Mayor Col. John Fitzgerald on St. Patrick’s Day.

With him sat a close friend – George Washington himself, the president of the Constitutional Convention. Fitzgerald, a merchant who was Washington’s Irish-born aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War, also served as Alexandria’s mayor from 1786-1787. Washington had spent that day overseeing the election of Virginia’s delegates to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, who were to meet in Richmond that June to make a decision on the proposed Constitution.

It was at that dinner that Fitzgerald talked with Washington about the construction of the Basilica of St. Mary in Old Town. Washington reportedly made a financial contribution to the construction of the Catholic church.

The day has been referenced in the GW Diaries of the Papers of George Washington:

  • Monday 17th. Thermometer at 37 in the Morning—[ ] at Noon and [ ] at Night. Clear all day and pleasant. Wind a little variable—in the Morning Easterly—in the evening Southerly.
  • Went up (accompanied by Colo. Humphreys) to the Election of Delegates to the Convention of this State (for the purpose of considering the New form of Governmt. which has been recommended to the United States); When Doctr. Stuart and Colo. Simms were chosen without opposition. Dined at Colo. Fitzgeralds, and returned in the Evening.

Earlier in the month, Washington wrote John Jay, the secretary of foreign affairs (and later first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), that the election of the delegates was an interesting epoch in the annals of the country.

“After the choice is made, the probable decision on the proposed Constitution (from the characters of members) can with more ease be conjectured; for myself I have never entertained much doubt of its adoption,” Washington wrote.

What are you doing on St. Patrick’s Day in Alexandria? Find out what to do tonight here!