George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Dawes, 25 May 1789

From Thomas Dawes

New York 25th May 1789

Having been lately introduced to your Excellency’s person, my constraint in making this application is in some measure diminished. I am requested by the friends of Mr James Greenleaf to mention him to your Excellency as a gentleman who would do honor to this his country in the character of resident or consul at the Hague. He is a native of Boston where he lived until about seven years past.1 He is now of the mercantile house of Watson and Greenleaf of this city; tho’ his residence is at Amsterdam, he having there lately married into a family of rank & influence. If your Excellency should think fit to consider Mr Greenleaf among the candidates for the office I have mentioned, I would take the liberty of referring to the Vice-president for some further information touching the character and connections of Mr Greenleaf.2 His credit and circumstances in Holland must, I believe, be known to Mr Van Berkel Junr the minister from that country. If it should be found necessary I believe that ample testimonials could be procured of the abilities and requirements of Mr Greenleaf.

Hoping that this mode of introducing the foregoing subject to your Excellency will not be considered as improper I am with all possible veneration and respect Your Excellency’s most obedt, most humble servant

Thomas Dawes Junr


Thomas Dawes (1757–1825), a Boston lawyer, graduated from Harvard in 1777 and became well known in Boston as a man of letters, producing a number of works of poetry and oratory. Dawes served as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1789 and as judge of the Massachusetts Supreme Court from 1792 to 1803.

1James Greenleaf (1765–1843) of Boston was at the beginning of his career. In the course of the next few decades he became noted as a land speculator in association with Robert Morris and John Nicholson in the North American Land Company and in the development of the new Federal City. While he was in business in Amsterdam Greenleaf married Antonia C. A. Schotten. When the North American Land Company collapsed in the mid–1790s Greenleaf was imprisoned in the debtors’ prison on Prune Street in Philadelphia and was not released from prosecution by his creditors until 1798. In March 1793 GW appointed him consul for the United States at Amsterdam (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 1:136).

2Greenleaf was connected by marriage with both Dawes and Vice President John Adams. Dawes had married Greenleaf s sister Margaret, and Greenleaf s brother John married Lucy Cranch, the daughter of Mary Smith Cranch, Abigail Adams’s sister. William Cranch, Mrs. Adams’s nephew, married Greenleaf’s sister Nancy.

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