Adams Papers

To John Adams from William Cranch, 16 July 1799

Georgetown July 16, 1799.—

Dr. Sir

I have been inform’d that the place of one of the Judges of the supreme Court of Virginia is vacant and that probably Mr Alexr. White will be appointed to fill it. This will leave a vacancy in the board of Commissioners in the federal City. You may possibly recollect that about a year ago, I made application in general terms in behalf of Mr. James Greenleaf, for any vacant Office to which his knowledge and abilities might be applicable. The same motives which then induced my application still exist; and I know of no person more capable than him of executing the duties of one of the Commissioners of the federal City. His long and intimate knowledge of the affairs of the City from its first establishment, his perfect acquaintance with all it’s interests and dependencies, and the leisure he has had for these 9 months past, to examine into the present state of things here and the opportunity he has had of viewing the system, or rather want of system which has of late been pursued in that department, render him more capable than any other man, of being serviceable to the City.—He has already convey’d all his property to trustees for the benefit of his Creditors; and, by an Act of the legislature of Maryland, will, in the course of two months be discharged from all his former Contracts, debts and responsibilities of every kind. He will therefore have no Interests which can be supposed to affect his Actions or bias his Judgment.

Misfortunes have corrected his opinions of Men, and in some degree contracted the Extent of his imagination. He knows well the avenues through which fraud and imposition advance upon us, and the haunts to which they retreat to illude investigation.

Notwithstanding his misfortunes have been by many people attributed to his Connexion with this City, yet his determination is to make it the place of his permanent residence. He has resided here for these 9 or 10 months past and I believe I can say with Confidence, that his appointment to that office would give very general satisfaction among the proprietors of the City Lots, for they all know that he has expended more money and made greater sacrifices for the benefit of the City than any other person in it, and they believe he has a better knowledge of the whole transactions of the Commissioners than almost any other person in the Country who has abilities equal to the place.—I have taken this early opportunity of writing to you on the subject, because I believe you have a wish to do justice to the abilities and integrity of Mr. Greenleaf. If I am deceived in this belief I have only to regret that the Calumnies of his Enemies should have in any degree overshadow’d his good deeds.

I have the Honour to be with the most affectionate / Respect, your obliged & grateful Nephew

W. Cranch

MHi: Adams Papers.

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