George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Henry Lee, 27 July 1789

From Richard Henry Lee

New York July the 27 1789

Dear Sir

I intended this morning to have personally delivered you the letters that I now enclose and had hopes of being indulged with a private conversation on the contents of them; but I was hindered by the company then present. Your ill state of health as well as my own, and the business that surrounds us both, may perhaps under this mode of conveyance the most convenient—The letter that I have now the honor to enclose from Mr Charles Lee has been in my possession more than a fortnight, and would have been sooner presented had I not been restrained by the consideration of your state of health which appeared to me not to admit of being troubled with business of any kind.1 My sons letter came here on Saturday last—Mr Scott, of whom Mr Charles Lee speaks, I well know, and I verily believe that his capacity for business, particularly in the line he is recommended for, his diligence and sobriety qualify him eminently for an office in the Customs.2 And I incline to think that the Surveyors place of Alexandria will be more profitable than the Collectorship of Dumfries—And he already resides at the former of these places. I send my sons letter more from a desire to comply with his request, than from any opinion I have of the place being worth the acceptance of any trustworthy person—I do not however undertake to judge for him, and I am sure that you are a much better Judge of the affair than I am. Great responsibility, extensive duties of office, and constant confinement are required from the Collectors, or a deputy with salary must do the business in case of absence. And at Dumfries the duties of Collector, Naval Officer, and Surveyor must all be performed by the former—At the same time that the profit of the office, so far as I am able to judge, will not exceed £52. annual from which must be deducted the expences of the office. Whatever you are pleased to do Sir in this affair will be perfectly agreeable to me.3 It is in consequence of the strongest recommendations from our friend Colo. Henry Lee of Stratford and from many other respectable persons that I mention Mr Musco Livingston who has resided some time at Norfolk and who is desirous of serving in the office of Surveyor for the district of Norfolk & Portsmouth.4 He is a native of Essex County in Virginia, has been in trade and is well acquainted with Ship business—He was a Lieutenant in one of our frigates in the late war. He is certainly a Gentleman and a Man of business, and I think that he will discharge the duties of the Office he sollicits with very great propriety.

With the sincerest wishes for the complete reestablishment of your health, and with very great respect and esteem I have the honor to be Sir your most affectionate and obedient

Richard Henry Lee


2See Thomas Lee to GW, 20 July 1789. For Richard Marshall Scott’s application for office, see his letter to GW, 15 June 1789.

3Lee had earlier approached GW about Virginia customs appointments. Writing to Charles Lee on 7 June 1789, he reported that in an interview with the president he mentioned two principles which “I had the pleasure to hear him approve of. The first that State Officers in similar lines who had behaved well deserved preference in the service of the U.S. and 2dly that having discharged these duties undivided, now that they become divided, the same officers were entitled to the best—He assigned some strong reasons in support of both these ideas. So that it seems probable your wishes for any one of them will be gratified. And when the time comes for application if you choose to write to the P. I will wait on him with your letter and give it all my assistance. . . . These applications are so exceedingly numerous, and often so respectable, that they must distress the P. & many others concerned—I do not see in the progress of this business that the Senate will have much to do in the affair of appointmts but if it lays in my way to aid Mr. Scott I shall not forget him” (Ballagh, Letters of Richard Henry Lee, description begins James Curtis Ballagh, ed. The Letters of Richard Henry Lee. 2 vols. New York, 1911-14. description ends 2:489–92).

4Musco Livingston (d. 1798) of Essex County, Va., may have been a distant connection of Gov. William Livingston of New Jersey (see William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., 20 [1911–12], 300). Before the Revolution, Livingston was a ship captain, and for some years he lived in Jamaica. At the beginning of the Revolution he went to France and received a commission in the American navy, settling after the war in Norfolk where he commanded a number of merchant ships sailing from that port. He appears to have returned to Essex County in 1792 or 1793. For Henry Lee’s recommendation of Livingston, see his letter to James Madison, 9 April 1789; see also Livingston to Madison, 12 April 1789, in Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 12:67, 77–78.

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