I have heard nothing of this excepting through the public papers but the account is so circumstantial I dare not disbelieve it.1
My thoughts rest upon the horrible circumstances, and the singular indifference with which he was observed in his extravagance. Poor fellow, he complained to Dr. Welsh before he went, but I never suspected alienation of mind or he should never have gone. I went to his room and examined his papers. They display nothing but pain, mental agitation about his future prospects which he had much indulged in, but no despair. I destroyed some things which I thought his imprudence had left, and in looking over his own memorials of his mind, I could not help feeling a mixture of emotions which only hereafter shall I be able to describe.
1. The Boston Daily Advertiser reported on 4 May the “melancholy event” of GWA’s death. Arriving in Providence on Wednesday, 29 April, he had boarded the Benjamin Franklin for New York. He was rational and cheerful during the afternoon, but by evening he began to complain of severe headache. As the evening progressed he “exhibited some decided symptoms of mental alienation,” hearing imaginary voices and suspecting his fellow passengers of conspiring against him. About three o’clock in the morning of 30 April he asked the captain to stop the ship and let him ashore. Shortly thereafter he disappeared, and his hat was found near the stern. “The supposition is that he fell overboard and was drowned.”