From John Waller Johnston
[ca. 8 Dec. 1792]
J. W. Johnston, presents, his most respectful Compliments, to Mr. Jefferson, and begs leave to observe, that he was a Candidate, for the place of keeper of the Light-house, on Cape-Henry; but Mr. W. Lewis, of Fredericksburg, had applied before him; and had lately got the appointment, but on the 16th Ulto. Suddenly died at Norfolk. J. W. Johnston, has therefore, now come forward; to offer himself to the Secretary of the Treasury, for keeper. J. W. Johnston, has lived in the Custom-house, at Bermuda-Hundred, for Several years; but extreme weekness of eyes; has obliged him, to give up that employment. The place of keeper of the Light-house appearing in every respect calculated to Suit him; he had communicated his wish to Several of his friends; among whom was David M. Randolph, esqr. but being at his fathers in Spotsylvania Cty. indisposed at the time of hearing of Mr. Lewis’s death he thought proper, to come forward to offer his Service. If Mr. Jefferson, will condesend so far as to communicate his wish to the Secretary, he will ever consider it a most singular favor and most humbly begs and will hope for pardon for this peice of intrusion.
RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); undated, but recorded in SJL as received 8 Dec. 1792.
This communication from John Waller Johnston (1757–1832) of Chesterfield County, Virginia, was accompanied by a brief letter of introduction from Waller Lewis of Spotsylvania County (Lewis to TJ, 29 Nov. 1792, RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; endorsed by TJ as received 8 Dec. 1792 and so recorded in SJL). Although Johnston had also enlisted the aid of James Madison and Governor Henry Lee, he was unsuccessful in his application to be keeper of the lighthouse at Cape Henry. He left Philadelphia on 13 Dec. 1792 and ultimately removed to Nelson County, Kentucky (Johnston to Madison, 1 Mch., 27 Nov. 1792, Madison to Washington, 14 Dec. 1792, in Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 17 vols. description ends , xiv, 239–41, 418–19, 424; Lee to Hamilton, 23 June 1792, Hamilton to Washington, 22 Sep. 1792, in Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xi, 550–1, xii, 414).
William Lewis, surveyor of the port and inspector of the customs at Fredricksburg, had applied to be keeper of the lighthouse in October 1791 and had received the appointment in October 1792 (Lewis to TJ, 22 Oct. 1791, RC in DLC: Washington Papers, Applications for Office, endorsed by TJ as received 3 Nov. 1791, but recorded in SJL as received 2 Nov. 1791; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xii, 552–3). David Meade Randolph had written earlier to TJ recommending Johnston for the keepership (Randolph to TJ, 30 June 1792, RC in DLC: Washington Papers, Applications for Office; endorsed by TJ as received 7 June but recorded correctly in SJL under 7 July 1792).