George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Godwin, 21 July 1790

From William Godwin

New York Goal July. 21. 1790.

The Humble Petition of William Godwin late a Private Soldier in the first New York Regiment Most humbly Sheweth.

That Your Excellencys Petitioner served in the American War upwards of Six Years. and was honorably dischargd by Your Excellency on the Eighth day of June 1783.


That from a variety of Losses and a severe Sickness for upwards of Seven Months. he hath been greatly reduced and is now Confined in Prison for the value of a Boat which was lost during his Illness. hath a Wife and two small Children to support who are destitute of the common necessaries of Life.

He therefore most humbly prays Your Excellency for some small Donation.1 and as in Duty bound he will ever pray.

William Godwin

N.B. A Copy of the Discharge is annexed.2

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

William Godwin (Goodwin; 1756–1803) served in the New York City militia in 1775 and in the 5th Company of Col. Goose Van Schaick’s 1st New York Continental Regiment from December 1776 to the end of the Revolutionary War. Although his name does not appear in the 1789 and 1790 city directories, Godwin is listed in the Federal Census of 1790 as the head of a West Ward household (Muster and Pay Rolls description begins Muster and Pay Rolls of the War of the Revolution, 1775-1783. 2 vols. New York, 1916. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 47-48. description ends , 2:350, 356, 380, 384, 503; Heads of Families [New York], description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: New York. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1966. description ends 136; D.A.R. Patriot Index, description begins D.A.R. Patriot Index. Centennial Edition. 3 vols. Washington, D.C., 1990. description ends 2:1179).

1No direct reply of GW’s has been found, but as he removed from the capital in August 1790, he instructed Tobias Lear “to deposit in the hands of the Society established in New York for the relief of distressed Debtors confined in Prison, Twenty guineas, which he requests may be applied in such manner as will best answer the benevolent purposes of the Institution” (Lear to John Rodgers, 30 Aug. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2The enclosed copy of Godwin’s 8 June 1783 discharge signed by Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., notes that he served faithfully as a private in the 1st New York Regiment for six years and six months and had enlisted for the duration of the war only (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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