George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Ross, 25 June 1789

From John Ross

Burlington New Jersey June 25th 1789


I take the liberty of addressing a letter to your Excellency, and of offering myself as candidate for the appointment of Collector of the customs or duties for the State of New Jersey. It is with reluctance that I interrupt, even for a moment, the more important business in which your Excellency must necessarily be engaged; but learning that it was proper for me to make known my pretentions to the President with whom originate all appointments to office, I have taken this method of doing it as the least troublesome to your Excellency and on many accounts the most unexceptionable. I p[r]esume not to detail Such of my pretentions as are immediately founded upon personal merit, these I leave to the enquiry of your Excellency and to the information of others more disinterested than myself. But it may not be amiss to mention that in 1781 a law was passed in New Jersey for the regulation of its trade and navigation—That the State was therein divided into three districts, the better to carry into effect the provisions contained in the law1—That I was honored with the first appointment of Naval Officer for the middle district for three years, and have since twice successively been reelected to the same office by the votes of both houses of the legislature, in which I still continue and am to exercise the duties thereof untill superseded by the law about to be passed by Congress under the new Constitution. I have only to add, that if I shall be so happy as to be honored with your Excellency’s nomination and appointment to the place in question, I shall esteem it my greatest pride and ambition to discharge the duties thereof with punctuality and fidelity.2 I have the honor to be, with the highest respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble Servant

Jno. Ross


John Ross (1752–1796), a New Jersey physician, served as a captain in the 3d New Jersey Regiment in 1776, a major in the 2d New Jersey in 1779, and as a lieutenant colonel of militia in 1782. A member of the New Jersey Society of the Cincinnati, Ross was state naval officer at Burlington from 1781 to 1789. In 1789 GW appointed him collector of the customs at Burlington.

1Ross is referring to “An Act for regulating Navigation and Trade in this State,” which provided that the New Jersey council and assembly should appoint a naval officer to reside in each of the three counties of Middlesex, Burlington, and Cumberland (Acts of the Sixth General Assembly . . . First Sitting, 2 Nov.–29 Dec. 1781 [Trenton, 1782], 10–13).

2In support of Ross’s petition GW received a letter from Elias Dayton, colonel and brigadier general in the Continental army during the Revolution.

Dayton’s letter, 30 June 1789, stated that although he considered that the “recommendation of individuals with a view to their appointment to places of trust, is for the most part disagreeable & is at all times a business which should be undertaken with delicacy & caution,” in the case of Dr. Ross “I have no hesitation in declaring, that from the time of my first acquaintance with him in 1776, when he was appointed a Captain in the Regiment which I raised, and during a pretty long course of service together (when he held the rank of Major) until he retired from the army, I found him an active, intelligent & faithful officer & a steady, upright & worthy man. The distance of his place of residence, since his retirement, from that of mine, prevents my speaking with so much certainty from immediate observation relative to his conduct & character since that event took place. If, however, to possess the esteem and respect of the people in the neighbourhood of which he dwells & to whom he is known, be evidences of good conduct & character, he manifests them in his case to the highest degree. . . . It has given me the most sensible pleasure to learn that your Excellency is happily recovering from your late illness which had already occasioned very great anxiety & alarms among the people of this state to whom the rumour of it had reached. My most earnest wishes are that your health may continue to increase & strengthen” (DLC:GW). For additional comments on Ross, see an anonymous letter to GW, 13 July 1789.

Index Entries