George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Meriwether Smith, 20 July 1789

From Meriwether Smith

Virginia, Bathurst 20th July 1789.


I rejoice with others for your recovery from your late Illness, & hope you will live to establish a System of Government, which may secure the Liberty & Happiness of America, and which perhaps, depends greatly upon your Life: But whilst your Employments embrace the whole Continent of America, permit me to interrupt you for a Moment in solliciting a Favour for myself, which I would grant to you, were I in your Situation and you desired it. To you alone I communicate my desire; I will never trouble you by the Importunities of others on my Account: ’Tis even with Reluctance that I make Application to you, for some honourable & lucrative Employment under the Government, suitable to my declining Years, which, by the Casualties to which my fortune & family have been exposed under the Revolution, would be highly acceptable and convenient to me.

Unaccustomed to sollicit Appointments of any kind, I do it with a very ill Grace, because my feelings are much wounded; and altho’ I claim no extraordinary Merit from the time & Services I have devoted to my Country, which circumstances hath contributed greatly to reduce me & my family to an uneasy Situation; I hope it may be considered as a foundation & Apology for my request.

Were it necessary for me now to say in what Line my Talents would lead me to be most useful to my Country with greatest Ease to myself, I should sollicit an Appointment in the Judiciary or in the Customs within this State; but if there be any other in which you think I can be more serviceable to my Country, with equal advantage to my Family, I shall chearfully submit to your Judgment, and endeavour to discharge the duties required of me. I have the Honor to be with the highest respect, Your most obedt & most hble Servt

M. Smith


For an identification of Smith, see the source note to his son George William Smith’s application for office, this date. John Jay informed GW about Smith’s hopes for public employment, although, as he wrote Smith, “whether they will be realized is a Question not in my power to decide. . . . The President will I am persuaded do what he may think right—but he did not express to me his sentiments on the Subject, nor say any thing whereon I might found Conjecture” (Jay to Smith, 26 Aug. 1789, NNC: John Jay Collection). Smith received no federal appointment, and on 4 Feb. 1790 he wrote Jefferson that he had “suffered my Zeal during the late revolution to carry me far beyond the bounds of prudence, to the great injury of my private affairs. My Sufferings and my Services which were once esteemed, are equally forgotten. I submit, however, to the decrees in favor of Men who perhaps may be more usefull as well as more deserving; and, altho’ I may not again become an object of public favor, I have the Consolation arising from conscious Rectitude” (DLC:GW).

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