George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Mease McRea, 10 June 1789

From James Mease McRea

Alexandria 10th June 1789


The time being close at hand when the officers of the Customs are to be appointed under the new Government, I take the liberty to address you in this way, to inform you that I have for two years past, acted as a Searcher at this port, under the Government of Virginia, my duty being to receive the Entrys of vessells, to attend to their unlading and to execute the laws where they have not been comply’d with. And as my present commission must cease on the appointment of new officers, I take the liberty to solicit a reappointment under the new Government, in the same, or in a Similar port to that which I have filled.

I had intended an application to you previous to your departure, when you cou’d have been fully inform’d how far I was deserving, but supposed such an application wou’d have been premature. I have also been prevented from applying heretofore from the general oppinion that those persons in office, wou’d be generally reappointed where they had acted with propriety—I have seen a bill prepar’d for the collection of the Impost from which it appears that there will be a considerable change from our present customs and officers,1 and this has induced me to make the present application which I hope will be sufficient, to prevent my being omitted in the number of applications, as a personal application wou’d be attended with considerabl expence. Agreeable to the bill which I have seen the duty as describ’d for the Surveyor appears Similar to the duties of my present office. I shou’d have accompanied this letter with some recommendations had I thought it necessary and which I can easily obtain from the most respectable Merchants and others of this Town, having had my present appointment from the particular recommendation of Doctr Stewart and Colo. Fitzgerald,2 I have the honor to be respectfully Your Excellencys Mo: Ob. And very Hume Servant3

Jas M. McRea


McRea, a resident of Alexandria, had served as a searcher for the port since at least 1786 (Journals of the Council of State of Virginia, description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends 4:140).

1The committee appointed by the House of Representatives to bring in an impost bill reported to the House on 5 May 1789 and the bill was read in the House for the first time on that day (De Pauw, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 3:47).

2McRea is referring to Dr. David Stuart and John Fitzgerald.

3When the office of surveyor for the port of Alexandria fell open in 1793, McRea applied for the position. Writing to GW on 23 Oct. 1793 in support of his application, Elisha Dick, Samuel Hanson, Charles Little, William Herbert, Robert Townsend Hooe, Robert Mease, Jesse Taylor, Daniel Roberdeau, James Craik, Roger West, and Richard Harrison described McRea as a “gentleman with whom we have been Acquainted for a number of years during which time he has been so fortunate by his Integrity and Industry as to have Acquir’d the Esteem of his Fellow Citizens—And we think him well qualifyed to fill the office of Surveyor of this Port in such a manner as to give general satisfaction” (DLC:GW). A similar letter was sent to the president on 24 Oct. 1793, signed by Charles Simms, Benjamin Dulany, and George Gilpin (DLC:GW).

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