George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Duer, 5 June 1784

From William Duer

New York June 5th 1784.


My Freind Mr Sayre, late Sheriff of the City of London, has Thoughts of Establishing himself in your State; and from his present Ideas, it is most probable his Choice will be not far distant from your Excellencys Seat 1—My long Acquaintance with him in England (where he was beloved and Respected by an Extensive and polite Circle of Freinds) had riveted him deeply in my Affections; and I cannot but participate, in whatever may promote his Happiness—This Sentiment has acquired additional Strength from the Conviction I have that his Attachment to the Cause of Freedom has been the grand Source of his Persecution, and Consequent Misfortunes in England—a Circumstance which I trust will render him more acceptable, to Every liberal Character in this Country2—Your Excellency’s Patronage (should he determine on Establishi[n]g himself in your Country) will undoubtedly be of Essential Service; and if it will add to your happiness to Contribute to the Success of an amiable, and deserving Character, you will Experience it in givi[n]g a Countenance to my Freind who I will venture to say will prove himself deserving your Esteem.

I hope your Excellency will Excuse the Liberty I take on this Occasion; I am tempted to use it from the happiness I have Experienced in Enjoying some share of your Excellency’s Esteem, and Protection for, some years past: the Value of which has made too lasti[n]g an Impression to be Ever buried in Oblivion.

Lady Kitty, and Miss Browne Unite in the most Affectionate, and warm wishes for the happiness of yourself and Mrs Washington 3—That it may at least Equal to the Anxiety you have felt for the welfare, and Honor of your Country is the sincere wish of Your affectionate and obliged Hble Servt

Wm Duer


William Duer (1747–1799), who was born in Devonshire, England, and settled in New York before the Revolution, was a very active speculator and a promoter of various business schemes in New York and elsewhere. In March 1786 he became secretary to the U.S. Board of Treasury, and he served briefly in 1789–90 as assistant secretary of the treasury under Alexander Hamilton. He died in prison in New York City. See William Duer to GW, 4 Nov. 1788, and notes.

1Stephen Sayre (1736–1818) is described by his biographer as “soldier, merchant, ship-builder, politician, speculator, propagandist, diplomat, inventor, and occupant of prisons,” who has also been characterized as “a most active gallant, a wicked schemer, a liar, a fool, a madman, an embezzler, and a traitor” (Alden, Sayre, description begins John Richard Alden. Stephen Sayre: American Revolutionary Adventurer. Baton Rouge, La., 1983. description ends 1). A New Yorker and a graduate of the College of New Jersey in 1757, Sayre went to England in 1766 where he became a colonial agent, a merchant, and in 1773 sheriff of London through the support of John Wilkes. Sayre spent most of the Revolution on the Continent, returning to New York from France in 1783. He was in Georgetown, Md., and Alexandria, Va., in the late summer and early fall of 1784 (see GW to Sayre, 15 July, 1 Sept., and Sayre to GW, 20 Aug., 15 Oct. 1784). Sayre did finally settle in Virginia, but only after GW had been dead for nearly two decades and shortly before Sayre’s own death.

3GW was in attendance at Duer’s marriage in 1779 to “Lady Kitty,” the daughter of Maj. Gen. William Alexander (1726–1783) of Basking Ridge, N.J., who was known as Lord Stirling. Miss Brown is Anne Brown (Browne; b. 1754), daughter of William and Mary French Brown of Salem, Massachusetts. After her parents’ death she lived with relatives in New York. In December 1773 she visited Mount Vernon with her half brother William Burnet Browne and, after GW became president, she occasionally was invited to various social functions. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:448, 449. Miss Brown was a cousin of Lady Kitty Duer.

Index Entries