George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Christian Theodor Sigismund von Molitor and Georg Hermann Vulteius, 21 May 1789

To Christian Theodor Sigismund von Molitor and Georg Hermann Vulteius

New York, May 21st 1789


Your letter of the 18th Inst, setting forth your distressed condition, and requesting some pecuniary assistance, has been put into my hands.

The distresses of my fellow creatures are never known to me without giving pain, to whatever nation or Country they belong; and happy should I be could I releive the wants & necessities of every one—but, Gentlemen, that is out of my power—and there are thousands of my own Countrymen whose misfortunes should certainly claim my first attention—but even here I am unable to gratify my feelings, for I receive no emolument for my public services—and my private fortune would be totally inadequate to the numerous applications which are made to me for assistance.1 I presume, therefore, you will not think it proceeds from a disinclination to help the needy—or from a pointed discrimination between my own Countrymen & foreigners that I do not comply with your request. I am, Gentln Yr most Obedt Serv⟨t⟩

Copy, in the writing of Tobias Lear, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1In May 1789 GW still assumed that he would retain the financial status he had adopted as commander in chief during the Revolution and receive no salary for his services, although his expenses would be paid by the government. In his inaugural address, 30 April, GW commented on his policy during the Revolution when he had determined that his duty “required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed—And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the Executive Department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the Station in which I am placed, may, during my continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.” Although the question of compensation for the president and vice president was taken up by Congress in early May, it was not until September that, after considerable debate, “An Act for allowing a Compensation to the President and Vice President of the United States” fixed the compensation of the president at $25,000 a year and that of the vice president at $5,000. The president was further allowed “the use of the furniture and other effects, now in his possession, belonging to the United States” (1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 72 [24 Sept. 1789]).

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