George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Warren, 1 July 1789

From Henry Warren

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Plymouth July 1. 1789.


Permit me to offer myself to your Excellency as a candidate for the Naval Office, or as Collector of the Customs for this district of Plymouth & Duxborough.

Although I have not the honour of being personally known to your Excellency, yet you are well acquainted with my father’s merits in the late revolution, which may have some weight in granting to his family some of the honours to be derived from it: & should he have transmitted to his son (which I flatter myself may be the case) some of his patriotism & virtue, I am sure, with you, Sir, it would be an additional consideration.

I can only assure Your Excellency I should feel honoured by an appointment which would give me an opportunity more conspicuously to evince my Zeal for the support of the Constitution, my love for my country, & my assiduity in the service of it. I have the honour to be, Sir with the highest respect Your Excellency’s most obedient servant

Henry Warren


Henry Warren (1764–1828), the son of James Warren (1726–1808) and Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814), was at this time farming the family property at Eel River near Plymouth, Massachusetts. In 1788 Warren served as aide-de-camp, with the rank of major, to Benjamin Lincoln who was in command of the Massachusetts forces during Shays’ Rebellion. Warren apparently encountered some difficulties, probably during his military service in the rebellion, because Mercy Warren wrote that he had “suffered too severly from the malice of his Cotemporaries: but perhaps not so much from any impropriety in his own Conduct: as from the determined system of political enmity that has ransacked the lower Regions for calumnies to ruin his Father” (Mercy Warren to John Adams, 2 April 1789, MHi: Adams Family Papers). In June 1789 Mrs. Warren approached Henry Knox for advice on the best method of obtaining a job for her son: “I know not the regular mode of application for favours of this kind: but judge that an address for much greater matters than this might be made with success to the confidential friend of General Washington” (18 June 1789, NNGL: Knox Papers). In his reply to Mrs. Warren, Knox outlined his understanding of the procedures GW followed in considering appointments: “As the president has the nomination to all offices all applications should be made to him in writing—It will therefore be necessary that Major H. Warren should immediately write to the President stating his request—It would be proper that his letter be accompanied by vouchers of his character and fitness for the office—Genl Lincoln and Mr Bowdoin would be good signers to this paper—Were the merchants or principal people also of plymouth and Duxborough to sign another paper declarative of their desire of his filling the office it would be a still firmer support to his request. As the president is decided to make his nominations on the highest principles of impartiality, those who can produce to him the best evidence of their qualifications for the offices for which they are candidates, and also of their being acceptable to the community, will undoubtedly receive his support” (Knox to Mercy Warren, 9 July 1789, NNGL: Knox Papers). Warren’s letter to GW was submitted by Benjamin Lincoln in a letter to the president, 7 July, noting that since Warren had served as his aide, he had “an opportunity of knowing him under various circumstances in all I found him a young Gentleman of abilities and honour. He has had a good mercantile education, as well as a general knowledge of science and will I have no doubt fill a post in the revenue department with address fidelity and punctuality should he receive an appointment therein” (DLC:GW). Although Warren failed to obtain a federal appointment in the customs during GW’s administration, he apparently served for about a year as clerk for Lincoln after the latter’s appointment as collector of the customs at Boston. Young Warren eventually resigned because of ill health (Lincoln to Mercy Warren, 21 Sept. 1790, MHi: Mercy Warren Papers). He applied for the collectorship at Plymouth in 1802, and Jefferson appointed him to the post in November 1803 (Warren to Jefferson, 29 Aug. and 10 Nov. 1802, DNA: RG 59, Letters of Application and Recommendation during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson; 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 1.453, 455).

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