George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Stephen Hall, 14 May 1789

From Stephen Hall

Portland, Massachusetts [District of Maine],

Sir,14 May 1789.

Can you permit me to take up one moment of your precious time in asking a favor! I wish for the Collectorship of duties at the Port of Portland, the Metropolis of the eastern part of the State of Massachusetts. But this Request, I am sensible, must appear both indelicate & improper without some knowledge of me. But how shall I make my self known? It can be only by my friends; for surely the great Affairs You have managed, and are still managing must have obliterated any Remembrance of me, while at Cambridge, where I was some times honoured with your Commands, being the only Governor within the College walls, which for a season contained some part of your troops. I am happy in some acquaintance, & friendship with the Vice President, and most of the Members of the federal Court from Massachusetts, & Newhampshire. If Mr Custis be still living and with You, I dare say he remembers the time when I rode with him to Concord to introduce him to the first scene of Action in the late War, where I was personally present; and perhaps may retain some remembrance of me. I rely Sir, upon your Goodness to excuse the freedom I have taken, & the trouble I have given You. I have omitted the address of Excellency, because it appears to me diminutive when applyed to the President of the United States of America. Wishing You the Presence & Blessing of Almighty God, who superintends the great Affairs of Nations, & determines the happiness of men, and earnestly praying that he would ever be nigh unto You by his special favors, to uphold, comfort, & support you in the management of the weighty Concerns, that lay upon You; permit me humbly to subscribe my self with feelings of Gratitude, Affection, Respect & Esteem, your most obedient & very humble Servant

Stephen Hall


Stephen Hall (1743–1794), the son of the Rev. Willard Hall of Westford, Mass., was educated at Harvard for the ministry, although he appears to have preached only occasionally. From 1772 to 1778 he was a tutor and one of the fellows at Harvard. In 1778 Hall married Mary Cotton Holt (1754–1808), a daughter of William Cotton of Portland, and the widow of Moses Holt, Jr., who died in 1772. He became fairly active in local affairs in Falmouth, now Portland, and served in the early 1780s as a selectman and a representative to the General Court. On 9 June Mrs. Hall wrote to GW in support of her husband’s application: “Strongly impressed with a sense of your goodness I have ventured in this manner to address you relying on your candour to Pardon the singularity—My Husband has of late I know wrote you on this subject requesting you to favour him with the Collectorship of this Port I know not why but I could not resist the strong impulse on my mind of requesting it myself—Left Sir in very early Life by an indulgent Father with an easy fortune for this part of the country I thought myself as happy as my Orphan state would admit of but War the late cruel War has affected my interest extreemly and I am now with a little Flock round me very anxious indeed for their education haveing by publick securities by receiving Paper money for silver and by several other ways lost a considerable part of my little interest with wich I thought myself so happy—I am sensible that the particular circumstances of a Family can have no claim to merit in the choice of an Officer to serve the Public but if Honesty and Integrity of heart with the greatest desire for the public good and a uniform line of conduct to promote it can be any recommendation I think without prejudice my Friend has—But I know that it must appear with a very ill grace for one so nearly connected to offer any thing in favor of the character of her Friend however I am speaking to Genl Washington and I cannot for my Life get rid of the Idea however extravigant (since I read some of your late addresses to the People) that you have a Parentil affection for every individual of this Country with this strong impression on my Mind I beg leave to say I rely on your goodness.

“If you will condesend to inquire of allmost any of the Senators from the State of Massachusets and New Hampshire who are many of them acquainted with Mr Hall they will I am persuaded satisfy you as to his character” (DLC:GW). Hall received no federal appointment in 1789, and on 3 Dec. 1790 he wrote GW in a second vain attempt to secure a post in the customs. On 20 June 1791 he again applied without success for a federal appointment, this time as a revenue officer for Portland (both in DLC:GW).

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