George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Barton, 3 September 1789

From William Barton

Providence Sep. 3d 1789.


I feel myself under peculiar difficulties in attempting to address you on a subject upon which perhaps I ought to have been silent & waited an introduction in some other way, but as an opportunity offers, & Reflecting that the wounds I received in the service of my country are such as injure me in pursuing my business on the Profits of which a very large family depend for support I am induced to present myself as a candidate for some office in the customs for the port of Providence.

Pardon my anticipation Sir, as I fully beleive this State will soon accede to and adopt the federal Goverment. If the President should not think my request improper, for particulars respecting my character and situation I would beg leave to refer him to the Revd Doctor Manning who has done me the honor to be the Bearer of this.1 I am, sir, with Reverance and respect your most obedient humble Servant

William Barton


William Barton (1748–1831), a lawyer and merchant in Providence, served with Rhode Island forces during the Revolution and as adjutant general of its militia in 1788. He was a justice of the peace from 1775 to 1791, a member of the Rhode Island general assembly in 1782 and 1788, and a delegate to the state’s ratifying convention. GW had already nominated Barton as a judge for the Northwest Territory on 18 Aug., but he declined the appointment. He became surveyor for the port of Providence in June 1790 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 2:27, 28, 38, 80).

1James Manning had just delivered a petition to GW from the citizens of Providence. See his letter to GW, 29 Aug. 1789. Barton’s application was supported by a letter to GW from David Rittenhouse, 14 Sept. 1789, recommending “Mr William Barton, my Sisters Son. . . . His Education and abilities certainly qualify him for discharging some public office with reputation, and his Integrity and Goodness of heart will endear him to those who know him. He was bred to the Law but an aversion to wrangling at the Bar has hindered him from so successful a pursuit of that Business as is necessary for the support of a growing family” (DLC:GW).

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