George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William North, 20 May 1789

From William North

May 20th 1789


Fearful of intruding on Your Excellencys time, more valuable at present, if possible, than ever: I should have waited in silence until my merits had been sufficient to bring me forward, were I not informed that Your Excellency would not be displeased with applications from those who wished to serve the Public.

For this Purpose, I offer myself to your Excellencys Notice—If I have abilities, Your Excellency can best estimate their Value, and place them where they will be most useful to our Country.1 I can only vouch for my integrity, & for the promptitude with which I shall execute the commands of a Leader whom I was so long used to follow in times of difficulty, & distress. With the most Profound respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Excellencys Obed. Servant

W. North


William North (1755–1836) was born at Fort Frederick, Pemaquid, Maine. He began the war as a 2d lieutenant in Henry Knox’s Continental Artillery in 1776. Rising to the rank of captain in various regiments, he was appointed aide-de-camp to Baron von Steuben in May 1779 and served with him until November 1783. He remained in the army after the war as a major and inspector of the army until 1788 when he settled in Duanesburg, New York. He was in the New York legislature in 1792 and 1794–96 and in 1798 served briefly in the United States Senate. North maintained close ties with Steuben after the war. When the baron died in 1794, he left his American property to North and William Walker, another of his wartime aides.

1In considering army appointments during the Quasi-War some years after this, GW included North’s name on a list headed: “The following, as far as my recollection serves, are among the most intelligent and active Officers of the late American Army,” 14 July 1798. In the same month, when the Senate refused to confirm the appointment of William S. Smith adjutant general of the army, North was appointed to the position (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:292, 293). He received no federal appointment from GW.

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