George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Morrow, 13 June 1788

From Charles Morrow

Shepherds Town June 13th 1788

Honoured Sir,

Having the greatest veneration possible for your Character & high Station I should never have thought of calling your attention for a Moment to any thing that might affect myself as an Individual and almost a Stranger to your Person, (tho, not to your Character) But where the Character of my friend who is of a growing Genius & has made some discoveries that are likely to be of Public Utility is traduced, and apprehending it will be fully in your power to relieve him from the Imputation, I have ventured upon the expedient.

Mr James Rumsey who has now sailed for England under favour & with Testimonials from a Respectable Company of Citizens of Philadelphia of whom Govr Franklin was one, has had sundrie attacks made on his Character by a Mr Fitch & Co. and the more effectually to rival & traduce him in his absence have confidently Reported in the City of Philada that Mr Rumsey left the Service of the President & Directors of the Potomack River Company in Disgrace. This is the single point that sundrie Gentlemen of this place, with myself, would pray Your Excellency to determine either in a Letter to Govr Franklin or in any other way that you may think proper.1 I am with every possible Sentiment of Unfeigned Respect Yr Excellencys Mo. Devoted Sert

Charles Morrow


Charles Morrow of Berkeley County, Rumsey’s brother-in-law, had followed closely James Rumsey’s experiments with steam power and river navigation at Shepherdstown since 1785 and had witnessed the progress of Rumsey’s boat upstream on the Potomac on 3 Dec. 1787. He provided Rumsey with affidavits about these experiments which Rumsey included in his treatise on steam that he published in January 1788. See Rumsey to GW, 15 May, n.3.

1GW responded from Mount Vernon on 25 June: “Sir, Your letter of the 13th instand from Shepherds town came duly to hand[.] In answer to the question you have propounded to me, consequent you add of a report, ‘that Mr Rumsey left the Service of the President and Directors of the Potomack Company in disgrace’—I answer the fact is—otherwise; and that his quitting superintendency of the Companies concerns was an act of his own acquiesced in, at his desire by the P[resident] & Directors. I am Sir, Yr Very Humble Servant Go. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). For Rumsey’s trip to England, see James Rumsey to GW, 15 May.

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