George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Pinckney, 22 October 1789

From Thomas Pinckney

Charleston 22d Octr 1789


I embrace the earliest opportunity of conveying to you my most grateful acknowledgements for the appointment of Judge in the fœderal Court of this District; and at the same time of expressing the extreme regret with which I am constrained to decline this flattering testimony of your approbation.1

I am well aware, Sir, that with You no considerations arising from personal inconvenience will, or ought, to justify a Citizen in withholding his Services from his Country; but, Sir, when you are informed that I have a numerous family & that my affairs are so situated as to require my own immediate & unremitted exertions, I trust I shall be exculpated from the censure of a criminal neglect of duty to my Country, and of an undue sense of the honor conferd by the appointment, in declining a favor, the remembrance of which I shall ever cherish with the most grateful sensations. With every sentiment of respectful affection I remain Sir Your much obliged and most obedient Servant

Thomas Pinckney

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Acceptances and Orders for Commissions.

Thomas Pinckney (1750–1828) of South Carolina studied law at the Middle Temple and was admitted to the English bar in 1774. Upon his return to South Carolina he began a law practice that was interrupted by extensive and distinguished military service during the Revolution. Much of his property was destroyed by the British in the course of the war, and upon his return he began a successful legal career in Charleston. In 1787 he was elected governor and served two one-year terms; in 1788 he was president of the South Carolina Ratifying Convention. Undeterred by Pinckney’s refusal of the post of district judge, GW appointed him minister to Great Britain in November 1791, and in 1795 he served as envoy extraordinary to Spain, negotiating the treaty that bore his name.

1GW had written Pinckney a pro forma letter on 30 Sept. offering him the post of United States judge for the district of South Carolina (LS, privately owned).

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