George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Sullivan, 27 September 1789

From John Sullivan

Durham in New Hampshire

much Esteemed SirSeptember 27th 1789

Sensible that your Excellencys exalted Station drew with it an Increase of Cares difficulties and ill judged applications I therefore amidst the dealing out of offices & making the necessary appointments have remained Silent untill your Excellencey saw the proper opportunity of reminding me that my Services were not forgotten but being informed this day by Letter from the Honble Judge Livermore that myself and Mr Pickering are both in nomination as District Judge for this State your Excellency will pardon me for putting in my Claim. I have nothing to say against the other Gentleman in nomination we are nearly of the same Standing in the Law Department I have been for a number of years attorney General, and repeatedly solicited to accept the office of chief Justice of our Superior Court & as often refused he is Now Actually appointed to that office but has not given his answer we were both zealous for Establishing the present Constitution but in the revolution he & I differed so much in Sentiment that he would not Act or appear in the American Councils for a number of years—your Excellencey knows where I was and the part I was Acting at that time—if all other things are equal in your Excellenceys mind perhaps this consideration would give the preference to my Claim which will ever be Acknowledged with gratitude by your Excellenceys most obedience & very Humble Servant

Jno. Sullivan

P.S. as to my office as President of this State I can no Longer bear the Expence of it.


After his stormy career during the Revolution, John Sullivan (1740–1795) returned to New Hampshire, serving from 1782 to 1786 as attorney general and in 1786 and 1787 as president of the state, a post to which he was reelected in 1789. Both Sullivan and John Pickering were under consideration for the post of district judge for New Hampshire. Tobias Lear wrote John Langdon on 24 Sept. that he had “just returned from the Senate where I have been to give in the President’s nominations—a list of which you have enclosed—The Gentlemen from New Hampshire were of opinion that Genl Sullivan would accept the office of District Judge if he should be appointed thereto—as the sallary annexed to it was larger than that of President of the State—that it would leave him a very considerable portion of time to attend to his private affairs—and that it was a permanent provision not depending on the popular view, & a dignified office. Upon these considerations—the idea of his not being willing to accept the appointmt was removed, & the President conceived that he would be a proper man for that office, & accordingly put him in nomination” (NhHi: Langdon-Elwyn Family Papers). After Sullivan’s death in 1795, John Pickering succeeded him in the post (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:172).

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