George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Marinus Willett, 7 July 1789

From Marinus Willett

New York July 7th 1789


In the Bill to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States, At present under the Deliberation of Congress, The States are proposed to be Divided into a number of Districts in each of which an officer similar to the present office of Sheriff (under the apellation of Marshall) is Intended to be appointed.

With the greatest submission I beg leave to offer myself a Candidate for that office, in the Destrict to be composed of the State of New York—Permit me Sir, to flatter myself that I am sufficiently known to you to cause you to think that I would not offer myself for a station to which I did not conceive I was an equal—Partiality in my own favour I am sensable may lead me to too favourably a Conclution of my own qualification. Yet, as far as it may be proper to form a Judgment from the experience of a four years Sheriffilty for this City and County which Commenced in that Critical period when Cival Goverment was first established after the finish of the late war, Perhaps the prejudice in my own favour will not appear as altogether so presumptious—To your Infinitly better Judgment I do most Cordially submit this question, after assuring you that should my application be sucesfull I will most carefully guard against Your Excellencies ever having cause to regret the favour Confered on your Most obedient and very humble Servant

Marinus Willett


For Willett, see Leonard Bleecker to GW, 4 June 1789, n.2. Willett, who from his original position as an adamant opponent of the Constitution had moved to a position of moderate support, was still a vociferous opponent of many of New York’s Federalist politicians. In March and April 1789 he had engaged in a vindictive newspaper exchange with Alexander Hamilton in the wake of the latter’s “H.G.” letters (see the Daily Advertiser [New York], 19, 21, 23, 25 Mar., 11, 13, 15, 18 April 1789). Willett again wrote GW concerning the marshal’s post in a letter dated August 1789: “The suggestion of your Excellency at the time I had the honor of delivering my application for the office of Marshall for the District to be Composed of the State of New York That it was your Intention whenever an office was Created to receive every application that might be presented before you attempted to make up your mind respecting the appointment, And that then the person who either from your own knowledge of his abilities or from the best Information you should receive appeared to be best Qualified for the Office would have your appointment, has Inducd me to apply to the Governer of this State, The Judges of the Supreme Court, And the Mayor and recorder of this City, who are Judges of the Court of Common pleas for this County; For Certificates expressive of their sentiments of the manner in which I executed the office of Sheriff for this County, and their opinion of my Capability for the office to which I now stand a Candidate. Inclosed are the Certificates I have received which I beg to lay before you.

“It is by no means my wish to Intrude on your time—I can form perhaps a very feint Idea of the burden with which you must necessarily be Incumbered—And with the most honest truth I can declare that was it within my reach to lighten that burden No man would be happier in such a service than I should—But I am sure you will excuse me after having applied for an office if I feel desirous of obtaining it, And if in aiming at the accomplishment of my wish I should Intrude on your time I have cause from experience to be persuaded the Intruder will receive a favourable construction” (DLC:GW). Willett did not receive the post of marshal for the district of New York. The position went instead to John Adams’s son-in-law, William Stephens Smith. For comments on the dilemma posed for GW by Smith’s application, see Samuel Blachley Webb to GW, 11 May 1789, source note. Obviously miffed by his failure to receive the post, Willett again wrote to GW, 7 Dec. 1789: “The suggestion of your Excellency when I had the honor of handing you my application for the office of Marshall to the destrict of New York, That it was your intention whenever an office was Created that the person who from the best information you might receive or from your own particular knowledge should appear best qualified to fill the office, should without favour of friendship have your nomination, Induced me to apply to the Governor of this state and the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the Court of Common pleas for this County, for Certificates expressive of their sentiments respecting my qualification to fill the office—for which I had applied—Which Testimonials I did myself the honor to Inclose to your Excellency.

“As those testimonials unfortunatly did not avail me in that application suffer me to request your Excellency if it will not be inconvenient to direct them returned to me, as it is possible they may be of Service to me on some future occasion” (DLC:GW). On 8 Dec. Tobias Lear returned the certificates to Willett (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). His rejection did not stop Willett from pursuing other appointments. On 7 Feb. 1791 he wrote GW that “I had the honor of signifying to you from Charleston, South Carolina the latter end of March last, my wish to have some employment under the General Government. It appears that the Bill for laying duties on distilled spirits is like to become a law—With the most profound submission I beg leave to offer myself for the office of Inspector in this quarter” (DLC:GW). Again, in July 1793, Willett wrote GW, this time in pursuit of the post of commissioner of loans for New York: “Doctor [John] Cochran has received another stroke of the palsey which it is not Improbable will put a period to his life. Should the office he occupies become vacant, I beg leave with the most profound submission to offer myself for that vacancy” (DLC:GW). Willett received neither post, although he was considered for a post in the reorganized army in 1792 (see Willett to GW, 14, 15 April 1792).

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