George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Nicholson, 6 May 1790

From John Nicholson

Philad[elphi]a May 6th 1790


It is not with a view that your mind should descend to the Matters which concern an individual that I beg leave to present the inclosed for your perusal: but As the subject relates to the interests of the states over whose concerns you preside And as the public paper both here And at the seat of General Government have exhibited representations of one side of the affairs therein refered to A desire to stand Justified in the Eyes of A personage whose Judgment I so highly revere makes me wish that if you have read Any of the others you would Also Audi Alteram partem. I have the honor to be with the highest respect your Most obedient most humble servant

Jno. Nicholson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

John Nicholson (1757–1800) was the principal financial officer of Pennsylvania and a prominent speculator in public securities. After serving as clerk to the Continental Board of Treasury from 1778 to 1781, he was appointed state comptroller general in 1782 and given responsibility for settling all the accounts to which the state was a party. In 1785 he was also appointed receiver general and in 1787, escheator general, responsible for liquidating the estates of those attainted of treason. In politics Nicholson was a defender of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 and a prominent Antifederalist. In the late 1780s his political leanings combined with his extensive powers to make him the object of criticism from Federalists in the state legislature. In 1790 he was charged with abuse of his authority, and an attempt was made to remove him from public office. The enclosure has not been found but may have been a copy of Nicholson’s defense, Address to the People of Pennsylvania Containing a Narrative of the Proceedings against John Nicholson (Philadelphia, 1790). In 1793 he was impeached by the Pennsylvania house of representatives for redeeming his own state certificates instead of funding them in new federal certificates. He was acquitted in the Pennsylvania senate in 1794 but resigned all of his offices. Nicholson was later involved with Robert Morris and James Greenleaf in investing in lots in the new federal city, which along with other speculations led to the collapse of his finances in 1797 and subsequent imprisonment for debt.

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