To William Milnor
Mount Vernon Apl 1st 1789
I have been duly favored with yr Letter of the 26th Ult.1—and had before seen a letter from you to Mr Lund Washington on the same subject. In answer to them both I can say no more to you at present than what I have already invariably said to many—very many others—that if it should be my lot to administer the Government, I am resolved to enter upon my office totally free from every engagement whatsoever—and that in all appointments to Offices as far as my agency in the matter is required—one only rule shall guide me, and that is to consult the fitness of characters and the public good: for however strong my friendships or however great my inclination towards individual2 may be, they will never make me swerve knowingly from this rule. I do not say this as any discouragement to your application—on the contrary it would give me great pleasure to see you placed in a situation agreeable to your wishes and merits—As a step towards it (your conduct, & walk of life having for many years been unknown to me) I would advise you to obtain the most ample testimony of your sobriety Industry &ca from the well known & respectable characters of your City this would be a proper ground for recommendation to any Office to be built on.3 I am &ca
ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.
1. Letter not found.
2. GW originally wrote “individual characters” and then crossed out the word “characters.”
3. Milnor was seeking an appointment in the Philadelphia customs service. On 8 Jan. 1796 he again wrote to GW, applying for a prospective vacancy among the port officers: “Your Excellency will probably recollect that at the Organization of the Federal Government I received from Sharp Delany Esqr. Collector of the Port of Philadelphia the Appointment of Gauger of said Port. In this situation I have since remained, fulfilling the Duties of that post as I have every reason to suppose to general satisfaction—But as to bodily Strength & ability to undergo the great fatigue which accompanies a personal performance of the labors of the Office, altho’ blessed with a great portion of Health, I have in that time experienced a sensible diminution.
“If therefore it could be my good fortune to meet with an Opportunity of serving the public in a situation rather less laborious I have been led to hope that your Excellency would not be displeased at my acquainting you with it and soliciting your instrumentality to its attainment.
“I have then received intimation that Genl Walter Stewart intends in a short time to resign the Office of Surveyor of this Port. from an intercourse of Six Years with that & the other Offices of the Customs, I have had means afforded me of acquiring some degree of information with respect to the routine of business there transacted. I therefore beg leave respectfully to offer myself as a Candidate for that Office, in case the resignation of Genl Stewart takes place, and solicit your Excellencys Nomination thereto if upon inquiry into my Conduct since I have been favor’d with a public Appointment I should be thought worthy” (DLC:GW).
On the same day Clement Biddle sent GW a letter of support for Milnor’s application, stating that “Mr Milnor’s Conduct as Guager of the port” had come particularly to his notice and that he had “filled the office with Reputation to himself and great Satisfaction to the Merchants” (DLC:GW).