George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Ralph Hart Bowles, 4 October 1790

From Ralph Hart Bowles

Machias [Maine District of Massachusetts]
4th October 1790

May it please your Excellency,

Sometime previous to the appointment of Officers, for the collection of the public imposts—I was requested to make application for that appointment, by my freinds in this quarter—I accordingly wrote to my good friends Generals, Knox, Jackson & Lincoln also the Secretary of this State, but my Letters were too late,1 & your Excellency appointed our Old Naval Officer collector to this Port.2

It would be presumption in me, & I fear troublesome for you to read, was I to inform you of my fatigues and pleasures during the American Revolution, my good Generals above mentioned were knowing to my conduct, more than your Excellency possibly could be—have only to say I served my Country from 1775 till the expiration of the war, and never left the field, the word furlough or leave of absence never was placed against my name. I served from a private soldier in eight grades, the last was Capt. by Brevet & acting as Brigade Major in the City of New York—I now live in Machias in the rising County of Washington the Eastermost of the United States, and if your Excellency will place any business to my care, I will attend to it with the same pleasure as when under your command as a soldier. I have the Honor to be your Excellencies most Obedient Servant

Ralph H. Bowles


Ralph Hart Bowles (1757–1813) was born in Boston to Joshua and Mary Hart Bowles and served as a private and corporal in a Massachusetts regiment at the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775. He was promoted from ensign to lieutenant and adjutant of the 1st Massachusetts Regiment during the war and was retained in Col. Henry Jackson’s Continental Regiment in November 1783. After his resignation in June 1784, Bowles moved to Machias, where he served as town clerk and clerk of county courts (Whittemore, Massachusetts Cincinnati Memorials, description begins Bradford Adams Whittemore. Memorials of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati. Boston, 1964. description ends 52).

1No 1789 letters of Bowles to Henry Knox, Henry Jackson, or Benjamin Lincoln have been found, but in a 16 Sept. 1790 letter soliciting an excise post, Bowles wrote “as an old soldier” to Knox: “I cannot wish to trouble the President, or in other words I know he has so much to attend to, that I am fearfull of offending him, should I presume to send him a Letter, but . . . my great and good General said at the public building, he would do all in his power for his army (then retiring) if they were good Citizens, & it did not injure his Country, and you my good sir desired me to ask you for any thing that it was in yr power to bestow, is the reason of my now troubling you” (NNGL: Knox Papers).

2GW appointed state naval officer and town selectman Stephen Smith of Machias as collector for the port in August 1789 (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 3 Aug. 1789).

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