George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Hanson, 7 January 1789

From Samuel Hanson

Alexa. 7th Jany, 1789


With the utmost diffidence I am constrained to trespass, once more, upon your politeness & indulgence, in addressing you with regard to a difficulty, of considerable consequence to myself & family.1

I am informed that the only objection to my appointment in the English School of the Academy is my unwillingness to contract positively, for more than one quarter.2 In my application I stipulated for the privilege of retiring at any time, upon giving 1 Month’s notice. You, Sir, are acquainted with the reasons that prevent my engaging for a longer term. Since I took the liberty of addressing you upon the subject of my application to the New Government, I have been advised to procure the advocation of influential characters with the Fcederal Senate. This advice I have pursued, and have received the most flattering & obliging promises of recommendation & Service from Gentlemen of the first respectability in several States. Sir, I beg you to consider this address as made to you in your present, private, station. It was chiefly upon the hopes of your patronage that my expectations were founded. It is through your influence, whether in a public or private capacity, that I have any chance of succeeding. In the former, without your nomination, the Senate can have no opportunity of serving me. In the latter, I conceive that, having lived so long in your own neighbourhood, and enjoyed the honour of your personal Acquaintance, the want of your recommendation would be an ⟨impassable⟩ defect in my pretensions. The object of this Letter is not to gratify an impertinent or impatient curiosity, but to request the favour of you to advise me how, in my situation, it will be prudent to act with regard to the School: whether it were better to accept, while I can, a certain, but scanty, provision for my family, or continue my application to the new government.3

Well acquainted with your repugnance to injure the feelings of any one, even in the lowest station, permit me to assure you, Sir, that as, on one hand, no determination you can make in my favour, can encrease my respect; so, on the other, your rejection of my suit, cannot, in the smallest degree, diminish it. I am not so partial to my own pretensions as not to know that a Gentleman may be entitled to my esteem & gratitude, though he should think me unqualified to hold an office under the united States. I therefore, neither expect, or wish, any apology for an unfavourable determination; satisfied that it will be dictated by perfect propriety, and an unerring regard for the Publick Good. I have only to request a short line, intimating your opinion whether, with flattering hopes of favour from the Senate, it will be prudent to relinquish those hopes, and accept the School.

The particular crisis of my affairs will, I hope, excuse the purport of this address, which in a situation less delicate, nothing could have extorted. It is occasioned by my extreme reluctance to consign myself, for Life, to an employment, the drudgery of which is, in my mind, more irksome than that of a Common Ploughman.4 With Sentiments of unalterable respect & Esteem, I have the honour to remain Sir Your much obliged & most obedient Servant

S. Hanson of Saml


1Samuel Hanson wrote to GW on 4 June 1788 of his “large family, reduced, from flattering prospects, to a situation the most uncomfortable” and hoped that GW would exert his “influence in procuring for me an appointment under the new Government.” GW wrote Hanson a letter of rebuke on 8 June, and Hanson apologized for his presumption on 12 June 1788.

2For the Alexandria Academy, see John Weylie to GW, 11 Mar. 1789, n.2.

3For GW’s reply, see his letter to Hanson, 10 Jan. 1789.

4In April 1789 Hanson joined a host of other office seekers who descended on New York City in the hope of obtaining positions in the new government and on 26 May wrote to GW that “Your acceptance of the Presidency of the United States renders it necessary for me to inform you that I have attended here in order to prosecute the views which I took the liberty to communicate to you when you were in a private station. I have been waiting some weeks to know what reg⟨mutilated⟩ might be established by the Impost Law deeming it premature to apply for any office before it should be created. Finding, however, that a considerable time must elapse before the passing of that Act, I am induced, by the advice of my Friends here, to return to my family, and without incurring any farther expence, wait at home the issue of that business. I have been advised to make known to you, in the mean time, the office for which I beg leave to offer myself a Candidate.

“Sir, I have never entertained a thought of opposing any Gentleman who now holds, & has given satisfaction in, any office. But should the Naval Officership of Alexandria become vacant, by the resignation of the present Officer, I would beg leave to offer myself for that Post: Or, should that Gentleman continue in the Office, I would, in that case, solicit the favour of being appointed to the Collectorship of Alexandria.

“Perhaps, Sir, I may have been inattentive to my own interest in not procuring from my Friends testimonials addressed to yourself. In declining that measure I was, I confess, governed by a persuasion that, having so long resided in your Neighbourhood, and enjoyed the honour of your acquaintance, my pretensions, such as they are, were sufficiently known to you. But, to fifteen gentlemen of the Senate I brought vouchers the most ample; more so, I fear, than the subject of them would warrent. In the list of my Friends who furnished them I have the honour to count the Governor and Council of Maryland, The Chancellor, Colo. Plater, Majr Jenifer, Genl Williams, The Revd Dr White, Dr Rush, Mr William Hamilton, Genl Dickinson, Dr Witherspoon, my Towns-Men Colo. Fitzgerald, Colo. Lyles &c. That I did not apply to more of my Towns-Men and Neighbours was not owing to any fear of not being able to obtain their general testimony in my favour, but to a Conception that such a step was unnecessary. If I had it not in my power to encrease my list of Virginia Advocates by any respectable Names, out of Alexandria or it’s Neighbourhood, it will, I hope, be imputed to the fact that in my own State I am very little known, from the circumstance of my having never been, during my residence there, farther on the Virginia Side than Mount-Vernon.

“I beg you, Sir, to excuse the freedom of this address, a freedom to which I have been betrayed by an unwillingness to suppress any Circumstances that might strengthen the weakness of my claims to your notice. In a matter so very important to myself & my family you will pardon my yielding to the temptation of making known to you that there are some good Men, and respectable Citizens, who would be highly gratified by my success. Be assured, Sir, that, though the partiality of my Friends has over-rated my pretensions, there is nothing that they have promised for me which shall not be performed on my part, so far as it may depend u⟨pon⟩ assiduity and upright intentions.

“I cannot conclude without professing the most entire submission to the propriety of your Determination with respect to my suit. If it be rejected, I shall be perfectly convinced that it ought to have been ⟨illegible⟩ that either my pretensions were outweighed by those of others, or that my views were ⟨illegible⟩ with the Public Good. Should you ⟨illegible⟩ yourself warranted in granting my suit, ⟨illegible⟩ of fresh obligation would undoubtedly heighten my gratitude, though nothing can encrease that profound respect and esteem with which I have already the Honour to be, Sir, your much-obliged and most obedient Servant.”

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