George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Peck, 15 February 1790

From William Peck

Providence [R.I.] Feby 15th 1790


A Convention being at length Ordered and Delegates appointed for deciding on the New Federal Constitution, there are many reasons to hope that the Accession of this State will compleat the Union in a short time. That event will probably induce the Appointment of Sundry Officers for Collecting the Federal Revenue in this State. The Note1 accompanying this letter will more fully disclose the particular object of it, and point out to your Excellency the Grounds of my present Application for the Appointment of Naval Officer of this Port.2 With great deference and the Most perfect Esteem & Veneration I am your Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant

William Peck


William Peck (1755–1832) describes his military career in the enclosure to this letter. He did not receive the post of naval officer for the port of Providence, which he requests in this letter. It went instead to Ebenezer Thompson. Peck received the appointment of federal marshal for the Rhode Island district on 2 July 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 2:83).

1The enclosed “Resumé of Affairs,” dated at Providence, R.I., on 15 Feb. 1790, reads: “Mr Peck joined the Continental Army in December 1775, as first Lieutenant and Adjutant in the Seventeenth or Colo. Jedediah Huntingtons Regt. In Feby 1776 he was Appointed a Captain—in the July following, he was presented with a Commission of Major and was sent to Rhode Island as Aid de Camp to the Honble Major General Spencer the ensuing December. In August 1777 he was by a Resolution of Congress, appointed a Deputy Adjutant General, in the Rhode Island, or Eastern Department, with the Rank of Lieutenant Colonel—he held said appointment during the Commands of the several Generals Spencer, Sullivan, Gates & Heath untill the Arrangment of the American Army in December 1781, at which period he retired from service, his Compensation for the Depreciation of the Continental Money was paid him by a Note from the Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island, which Note by Act of Government was now forfeited instead of having real Estate as the other officers had set off to them. Upon peace being proclaimed he entered into a Mercantile pursuit in the Town of Providence—at the unhappy Establishment of the present paper Money Administration of this state, he judged it prudent to withdraw the small Stock which he possessed, from Trade, lest the fate of the Currency should Materially affect the property. A continuation of the same State politics, has obliged him to remain in the same inactive situation. The support of a family for four Years without business has nearly consumed the property he possessed. Soliciting an Appointment among the Revenue Officers he is Happy in having Assurances of support from almost every Gentleman of the Town of Providence who can claim any right to influence with your Excellency” (DLC:GW).

2Peck also wrote from Providence to Henry Knox on 15 Feb. 1790, incorrectly predicting that the state convention meeting on 1 Mar. might ratify the Constitution and noting: “The Consequence of an adoption of the Constitution by this State will probably induce the appointment of Revenue-Officers for the Port of Providence—I have Already addressed the President of the United States upon the Subject; and have requested the honor of being appointed Naval Officer of this Port—I now take the liberty of Asking such assistance from you, Sir, in obtaining the appointment, as your knowledge of, or friendship for me, may suggest, at the same time assuring you that I believe there is no gentleman in the United States, to whose recommendation the President will pay more attention than to yours—I do not make this application without assurances of support from almost every Gentleman of this place who can presume upon having any influence with the President. I am happy to find the Gentlemen of this Town are Generally in favor of the Appointments in the Revenue, being given to the Officers of the late Army” (NNGL).

After Rhode Island’s acceptance of the Constitution on 29 May 1790, Peck traveled to New York and presented to GW a letter of recommendation from Ezekiel Cornell of Scituate, R.I., 8 June 1790, and probably also those of William Greene, 7 June 1790, Joseph and William Russell, 8 June 1790, Welcome Arnold, 10 June 1790, and the firm of Clarke & Nightingale, 14 June 1790, all of Providence. These documents are all in DLC:GW.

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