On September 17, 1787, when George Washington finally saw the Constitution of the United States of America adopted after four months of intense debate in Philadelphia, he immediately went to a bookseller and paid 22 shillings, six pence for a copy of Don Quixote de La Mancha.
According to MountVernon.org, “this seventeenth-century Spanish allegory does seem a somewhat unusual choice for the pragmatic farmer, soldier, and statesman. An explanation for the apparently uncharacteristic purchase can be found within Washington’s correspondence.”
Don Quixote had been a topic of conversation a few evenings earlier in the home of Benjamin Franklin. We know this because on November 9th, 1787, Washington received a Spanish copy of Don Quixote from Spanish Ambassador Diego Maria de Gardoqui with a note,
“requesting you wou’d accept & give a place in your Library to the last Spanish Edition of Don Quixote which I recolectt to have hear’d you say at Dr Franklin’s that you had never seen it. I cou’d have wish’d it was in English for your particular entertainment, but it being reckoned the very best Edition of that celebrated work & one in which every thing has been manufacture in Spain induces me to request your acceptance.”
But by the time Washington received the Quixote from the Spanish Ambassador, he had already purchased a copy for himself.
– Indy Beagle