George Washington Papers

From George Washington to David Henley, 5 September 1785

To David Henley

Mount Vernon 5th Septr 1785.


I am sorry the enclosed account should be brought against me in my private character: It is a fact which I thought had been well known to all the public Departments, & to those employed by the public, that expences of the nature of Otis & Henley’s Accots (which is for clothing for the servants I was obliged to employ in my public character) were paid from the public funds.

If I mistake not Otis & Henley were Agents for the purpose of supplying clothing (or materials for it) for the Army: to them in this character I apply’d; & never, until the enclosed account was presented, had I any other idea of the matter, than that the amount had been settled for by them in their public accounts. As this is not the case, had it been presented to me whilst I had authority to do so, I should have ordered the paymaster to have discharged it, but as the matter now stands, I can do no more than certify that the Goods were receiv’d on public Account for my use; for I really cannot pay for them out of my private purse.1 It is to be regretted that the matter has lain over so long. I am Sir &c.

G: Washington


1The enclosed account has not been found, but on 1 Feb. 1785 Samuel Allyne Otis presented a petition to Congress on behalf of Otis & Andrews, Samuel Allyne Otis, and Otis & Henley, agents for purchasing military stores, asking to have their accounts adjusted and settled (DNA:PCC, item 42, 6:109). Congress on 15 April 1785 accepted its committee’s recommendations that the accounts be referred for settlement to “the Commissioner for settling the Accounts of the Department of the Cloathier General” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 28:262–63). Otis & Henley’s accounts, however, were included on 17 Sept. 1788 in a list of unsettled accounts in the Clothing Department as certified by Joseph Nourse (PCC). The letter-book copy of GW’s certificate for Henley is written below the letter. It reads: “I certify that the Goods which are charged within were required on Public Account to clothe the servants who attended me in my public character; & is a proper charge against the United States—not against me as a private person, who derived no other benefit therefrom. G: Washington.” Samuel A. Otis and David Henley (1748–1823) were merchants in Boston (see GW to William Gordon, 6 Dec. 1785, n.3).

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