George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Bayard, 21 April 1789

From John Bayard

Brunswick [N.J.] 21st April 1789

Amidst the general joy that is diffused through the United states on your Excellency’s unanimous election as President General, permit me to present you my most sincere & respectful compliments of congratulation.

At the same time, from my peculiar situation & by the advice of my friends both in Philada & New York I take the liberty to offer myself to your Excellency for your nomination to the Office of Collector of the Customs for the State of Pennsylvania.

My long residence in Philadelphia, near thirty years, in the mercantile line, the part I took in our late important contest, the various Offices of honor & confidence confer’d on me by my fellow Citizens during that period & my having at the beginning of the War loaned almost the whole of my estate to the United States which still continues in their funds, are amongst the reasons that lead me to apply to your Excellency for this appointment.

A letter which I received from the Chief Justice with a certificate from the Judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania accompany this letter.1

If I am approved, I hope to discharge the duties of the Office with fidelity & am with the utmost respect Your Excellency’s most obedt & very hmble Servant

John Bayard


John Bubenheim Bayard (1738–1807) went to Philadelphia from Maryland in 1756 and, in partnership with John Rhea, became one of the city’s leading merchants. As the war with Britain approached, Bayard became increasingly active in Patriot circles. A member of the Provincial Convention of 1774 and one of the Sons of Liberty in 1775, he was a popular leader at public meetings opposing crown policies. In 1777 and 1778 he was speaker of the Pennsylvania assembly and served as major and later colonel of the 2d battalion of Philadelphia gentlemen associators. From 1785 to 1787 Bayard was a member of the Continental Congress. In 1788 he moved to New Brunswick where he became active in politics. Bayard did not get the federal post he sought although he later held various local offices including mayor of New Brunswick in 1790 and justice of the court of common pleas.

1The certificate, dated 5 Mar. 1789 and signed by Chief Justice Thomas McKean and Justices Jacob Rush and George Bryan, spoke of “the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with John Bayard Esquire for many years” and, after recapitulating his public services, testified that “he conducted himself with great fidelity & propriety in those several characters, and by every instance of his behaviour proved himself a steady, active & zealous friend to the American Cause, and to the religious & civil Liberties of his Country” (DLC:GW). On 16 Mar. 1789 McKean advised Bayard on getting a job under the new administration. Since GW would pass through New Brunswick on his way to New York, Bayard should “make application personally to the President, as he is acquainted with you; that you should wait on him as he passes thro’ New-Brunswick with general compliments, and in a few days afterwards at New-York, when you may make your pretensions known, and afterwards endeavour to find out whom he principally consults; these you must make interest with as opportunities offer.” Recommendations must be laid before the president. “It appears to me, that this must have considerable weight with him.” In soliciting support, McKean contended “it will never answer to be too bashful on such occasions . . . as there are a great number indeed here, who are looking out for office; besides, the Gentlemen, who served in our Army, will unquestionably have expectations. These last appear to be busy every where. . . . It is a new Ira, and an unknown administration yet; you will have therefore to trust to the chapter of accidents in a great degree” (PHi: Sprague Collection).

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