George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Mitchell, 20 May 1789

From John Mitchell

Charleston South Carolina 20 May 1789


Having been highly honor’d by your notice and friendship as our Illustrious Commander in Chief—I earnestly hope you will not be Offended, at my sincerly congratulating you. but more particularly my country in the Honble & most Eminent Rank which you have been call’d on to fill, by the Unanimous Voice of the Citizens of the States, may the Almighty ruller and Governor of the Universe grant you long life, and every Happiness which this World, & blessings of the Grand Archect of the Universe can give.

I earnestly hope you will excuse my mentioning my wishes, & from bad Success in Trade, my hopes of obtaining some appointment under the Federal Goverment—any Department or any place of residence will be agreeable to me I wou’d go to any part of the Globe to serve where I cou’d obtain a descent subsistance.1

Permit me to assure you of my unfiened respect & most profound esteem & veneration and to Subscribe myself Your Excellencys Most Obedt & most Humble St

Jno. Mitchell


John Mitchell (1741–1816) began his career as a merchant in Dominica, British West Indies, and possibly spent some time in Baltimore before going into business with his brother Randall in Philadelphia in 1769. When war broke out he was appointed a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia and became commissary of artillery troops and mustermaster in the Pennsylvania navy in 1776. In 1778 he was appointed deputy quartermaster general and in despite of stormy relations with the Pennsylvania executive remained in his post until 1780. After the British evacuated Philadelphia, Mitchell was stationed in the city where he entertained munificently, and GW and Mrs. Washington had frequent social contacts with him. After the war he moved to Charleston where he was elected a city warden in 1787. A prominent Mason, Mitchell also was active in the Society of the Cincinnati.

1On 20 July 1789 Mitchell again applied to GW, promising “application to the Duties of whatever office he may be honor’d with” and to “do all in his power to give satisfaction—the office of Comptroler or Naval officer did not formerly exist here & I believe I cou’d fully discharge the Duties of either but I will serve in any Department, or in any state in America, or in any other part of the World you wou’d be pleased to appoint me to where I can do my duty—either in the Customs, civil or Military departments—my losses in Trade having rendered me at present unable to persue it with any advantage—In the Judicial Department I cou’d do the Duty of Marshal in the three great Departments I cou’d do the Duty of any but the principal wch I do not aspire to—I wou’d go abroad in any station I cou’d fill with propriety” (DLC:GW). Mitchell received no federal appointment in 1789; on 15 Feb. 1790, when the surveyor at Charleston was “dangerously ill,” a substantial group of Charleston residents recommended Mitchell as “a proper Person to fill that Office” (DLC:GW). Still unsuccessful in his application, on 3 Aug. 1791 Mitchell wrote GW: “our Worthy Collector Mr [George Abbott] Hall died on Monday last, very unexpectedly—permit me to beg leave to offer myself to fill that office . . . which I am persuaded the Gentlemen of this City wou’d be pleased that I shoud fill they some time ago sent very ample and strong recommendations in my favor which were sent to the Senators for this State, and to the Secretary of the Treasury to be communicated to you when an Opportunity offered” (DLC:GW).

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