George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joshua Barney, 21 February 1791

From Joshua Barney

Philadelphia Feby 21st 1791


Congress having this day determined that they will not make me an allowance for claims I have against the U.S. for monies expended in making my escape from prison in England, and expences in returning to America, nor will they grant Commutation to me as an Officer of the Navy, I beg leave to mention to your Excellency that the monies claimed as above amounting to the sum of 896 dollars which was Absolutely expended, were more in Value than I ever received from the United States for near Nine years service, exclusive of what it has cost me, in making this application. Under these hard circumstances, I am advised by my friends to Solicit your Patronage for an appointment under the General Government. I have therefore taken the liberty to inclose a Memorial to that effect hoping your Excellency will be pleased to grant the prayer.1 The length of time I have been from my friends in Baltimore, and not expecting that such an application would be necessary prevented my obtaining letters from my friends to your Excellency on this head, but flatter myself that the recommendation which my very particular friend Doctr McHenry gave me on a former occasion will now have its due weight—The Legislature of Maryland at thier last Session appointed me One of the Auctioneers for Baltimore, but an Association having taken place in that town among the Merchants & others, not to purchase at Vendue, have rendered that Office of no consequence. I was also appointed Clerk to the Federal Courts for Maryland, but that Office I must resign having expended near 50 dollrs in the last year more than the amount of ⟨my⟩ fees. The only motive for my application is the support of a Wife and five children, untill it shall please my Country to call me into Actual Service, when I shall most cheerfully Obey, And Am Your Excelly Most Obt Servt

Joshua Barney


For the background to this letter, see Barney to GW, 15 Sept. 1790.

1The enclosed application, also dated 21 Feb. 1791, reads: “A Law having passed Congress for the purpose of raising a revenue on ‘Spirits distilled within the United States’ and Authorising your Excellency to appoint proper Officers to superintend the Collection thereof in the different Districts, I therefore beg leave to offer myself as a Candidate for the District of Maryland Assuring your Excellency that the Strictest punctuality and Exertions shall mark my Conduct if I am so fortunate as to meet with your Patronage” (DLC:GW).

Barney had applied in 1789 for the post of U.S. marshal for Maryland. That letter, which is undated, reads: “perceiving by the Bill for Establishing the Judiciary, there will [be] an Officer stiled a Marshall, I most humbly Solicit that your Excellency will be pleased to appoint me to that office for the State of Maryland, Assuring your Excellency that every exertion shall be used, to fill that office with punctuality, and Integrity” (DLC:GW).

Barney did not receive an appointment in the excise service from GW, but on 3 June 1794 GW nominated him for a naval captaincy; this appointment was confirmed the next day (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 3 June 1794; Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 160–61).

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