George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Lynch, 21 July 1789

From John Lynch

Baltimore July 21st 1789


I am sensible how much I intrude on your Excellencies time & patience but my knowledge of your feeling and benevolent disposition has emboldened me (tho’ an obscure Person to address you as a familiar friend). Your Excellency may Remember that a few weeks ago I petitioned you for the office of surveyor of the Port of Baltimore, being nearly similar to that which I now hold in that Port, which will [be] superceeded in consequence of the new Government1—My Petition I expected wou’d be accompanied with letters & Certificates from several respectable Characters, friends of mine, that your Excellency has a knowledge of, and in whose recommendations I know you cou’d Confide; but I fear that a worthy friend of mine, Viz. Majr McHenry of this Town, has been prevented from mentioning me thro’ the hurry of business and his peculiar regard for a Brother’s health, with whom he went to the warm springs,2 he was well acquainted with my services during the war, and of my attachment to the Fœderal Government; the want of his representations, & intercession, obliges me to solicit and intreat your Excellency to enquire my Character of the Honourable Charles Carroll of Carrollton, whose opinion of me, with the Certificates & Recommendatory Epistles already sent to you, I hope will induce you to, & justify you in bestowing upon me such an office as you in your Wisdom and goodness thinks fit.3 I have the honour to be with all due respect, your Excellency’s Most Obdt Hble & Devouted Servt

John Lynch

P.S. I forgot to refer you to Coll Grayson, that Gentleman I hope does not forget my services whilst Commanded by your Excellency—May God Preserve your health.


John Lynch (c.1752-1796) began military service in the 4th Maryland Battalion of the Flying Camp in June 1776 and ended the war with the rank of major. After the war he settled in Baltimore and in May 1788 was appointed harbor master for the port (certificate of appointment, 3 May 1788, DLC:GW). Lynch was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

1In an undated letter to GW describing his services, Lynch stated that he had “served in the Army from the year 1776 untill the close of the War, a part of which time was to the Southward, where he was taken Prisoner. That he entered a Cadet in Captain Wodfords Company, and ended with a Majors Commission. That he had very little when he became a soldier, and as little when he ceased to be One,” and friends had secured him the appointment as harbor master of Baltimore. Lynch then requested a post in the Baltimore customs under the new government, although he “is a poor Man and can have no great influence, however he is well known to the Senators from this State, and to Major McHenry of this Town” (DLC:GW). During the 1780s Lynch claimed that he had lost all of his army certificates “to the Amount of £2665” in the failure of Baltimore speculator and entrepreneur Richard Ridgely (Lynch to Alexander Hamilton, 16 Aug. 1793, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). It is probably Lynch’s undated letter that Charles Carroll of Carrollton mentions in his letter to GW of 4 July 1789: “I received by yesterday’s post the inclosed from Major John Lynch of Baltimore Town—Altho’ the major mentions nothing of this letter, in his to me, yet it coming sealed, I presume, it was his intention that it should be delivered to you. I therefore think it my duty, as I conjecture it relates to an application for office to comply with that intention” (DLC:GW). On 29 June 1789 John Eager Howard recommended Lynch to GW on the basis of his character as an “attentive officer—He is at present out of employ, and the appointment would I believe be very convenient to him, as his late appointment of Harbour Master for the Port of Baltimore has been superceded in consequence of the new Government, and he has a family to support” (DLC:GW). A certificate from John Gunby, 25 June 1789, attesting to Lynch’s gallantry during his army service was also sent to GW (DLC:GW).

2For James McHenry’s comments on Lynch and for his trip to Warm Springs, see his letter to GW, 2 July 1789.

3Lynch received only the minor position of measurer for the port, and this appointment was given to him by the collector, Otho H. Williams (Daniel Delozier to Williams, 18 Nov. 1792, MdHi: Otho H. Williams Papers). When Robert Ballard, surveyor for Baltimore, died in August 1793, Lynch wrote to GW on 10 Aug., reminding him that he had been recommended for the surveyor’s post in 1789 and that “Your petitioner, having been Employd by General Otho Williams, As a Custom house Officer, whereby he has become Acquainted with the duties of a Surveyor; humbly Solicits the Appointment, And respectfully Tenders Mr Charles Carroll And Coll Howard As Guarantees for his Faithfull discharge Of the Office” (DLC:GW). Daniel Delozier received the appointment. After the death of Otho H. Williams in 1794, when it was generally supposed the present customs officers would be promoted, Lynch again applied for the surveyorship. “I cou’d with this,” he wrote GW on 9 Sept. “as with my former application to your Excellencency for the same office I now solicit, transmit to you a number of respectable recommendatory letters but being satisfied that those formerly offer’d, no more than my Services with you in the Field thro’ the War can be forgot, I trust the event to my own Application to you. Shou’d my name have escaped your recollection I beg leave to refer you to Coll Alexander Hamilton who knows me” (DLC:GW). Lynch had earlier, on 16 Aug. 1793, written Hamilton asking for the surveyorship (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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