George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 27 September 1790

To Alexander Hamilton

Mount Vernon Septr 27th 1790.


Mr John Cogdell having resigned his appointment as Collector of the port of George town in south Carolina, I have to request that you will make enquiry respecting a proper person to succeed him.1

Mr Corbin Braxton having also resigned his appointment as Surveyor of the ports of Richmond and Manchester—Colonel Heth informs me that he has nominated Mr Z. Rowland to do the duties of the Office until another appointment is made2—Colo. Heth’s letter together with one from Colonel Griffin on the same subject, are herewith transmitted.3

I enclose to you, a letter from Mr Thaddeus Burr to Colonel Humphreys, recommendatory of Capt. John Maltbee to the command of a revenue Cutter, and a recommendation of Capt. Montgomery by some Citizens of Philadelphia, to a similar station.4 These papers are not intended to influence your opinion in favor of these persons farther than as they may serve to form a comparison of their merits with other candidates.5 I am, sir, Yr most Obt Servant

Go: Washington


1For GW’s appointment of merchant and slave owner John Cogdell (1729–1807) as collector for the port of Georgetown, S.C., see GW to U.S. Senate, 3 Aug. 1789. No 1790 letter of resignation from Cogdell to the president has been found, and Cogdell at this time may have just indicated his intention to resign, for he still held the collectorship the following summer and did not return his commission until August 1791, after GW had appointed him an inspector of excise, which office he declined (see GW to Hamilton, 8 May 1791, LB, DLC:GW; Cogdell to GW, 2 Aug. 1791, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; 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 2:16, 22, 542; Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 8:331).

2For GW’s appointment of Zachariah Rowland to the surveyorship, see John Hague to GW, 10 Sept. 1790, n.1.

3The enclosed 13 Sept. 1790 letter from William Heth, collector of the customs at Bermuda Hundred, Va., noted his and his wife’s ill health prevented his learning of Braxton’s resignation until 11 Sept. and recommended Zachariah Rowland as the best-qualified successor, adding: “Mr John Hague, who was Searcher under the State Government, at this port, may possibly offer himself—as the emoluments—trifling as they are—would be almost so much clear gains, as he lives on the spot—and I should, believing him to be an honest man—without hesitation, have given him the preference; but, as he owns a wharf—is engaged in some little traffic—& is concerned in a river craft or two, I conceived it would be improper to employ him as an Officer of the Customs” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed letter from Samuel Griffin, dated Richmond, 14 Sept. 1790, covered a letter of application from Rowland, who was then employed by Edward Carrington to compile the census for Henrico County and the city of Richmond and was “reputed to be a sober Industrious Man, well acquaintd with arithmetick.” Griffin also recommended Hague, formerly appointed state revenue searcher at Rocketts Landing by Edmund Randolph, who could vouch for his character and abilities (DLC:GW).

4No 1790 letter from Burr to Humphreys has been found, but Burr again wrote from Fairfield, Conn., on 1 Jan. 1791 to recommend Maltbie: “I find by perusing a Copy of a letter addressed to you the 27th July 1789, recommending my friend Capt. Jonathan Maltbie of this Town, I made a mistake in giving him his rank in the Navy. He stands in the Books first, first Leut., instead of first second Leut. As I am informed that there is a probability that some appointments to Cutters will soon be made, I hope you will not consider me too forward in renewing my request in behalf of Mr Maltbie, who is an honest discreet Man; and considering his services in the Navy during the War, and the misfortunes he meet with when this Town was burned, he realy stands in need of some relief; and I am confident he will not disappoint the expectations of Government—should he be appointed to the command of one of the Cutters—For further recommendation of him, I beg leave to refer you to the Senators of the State, Col. Wadsworth and Mr Sturgis” (DLC:GW). John Maltbie (Jonathan Maltbee; 1744–1798) of Fairfield, Conn., was commissioned a lieutenant on the Continental frigate Trumbull in October 1776 and was captured by the British in 1781 (Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, description begins Charles E. Claghorn. Naval Officers of the American Revolution: A Concise Biographical Dictionary. Metuchen, N.J., 1988. description ends 193; D.A.R. Patriot Index, description begins D.A.R. Patriot Index. Centennial Edition. 3 vols. Washington, D.C., 1990. description ends 2:1882). For the enclosed recommendation of Capt. James Montgomery, see GW to Hamilton, 20 Sept. 1790 and note 1.

5For Hamilton’s acknowledgment of GW’s 27 Sept. letter, see Hamilton to GW, 5 Oct. 1790. He wrote to the president again a few days later with the results of his inquiries into Maltbee and Rowland (see Hamilton to GW, 8 Oct. 1790).

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