George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 12 May 1791

From David Humphreys


My dear SirLisbon May 12th 1791

Lest my letters to the Secretary of State on the subject of the Persons executing the Duties of the Consulate here, should have been so inexplicit as to leave your mind in doubt respecting the merits or pretensions of those persons, I take the liberty to add a few facts; not because I feel myself interested in the decision, but because I wish to remove embarrassments from your mind.1

The family of the Dohrmans ought certainly to be considered by the Americans as having great merit for their conduct in time of the war & since; Mr Jacob Dohrman does not seem much to expect an appointment, but earnestly wishes that Mr Harrison, may be appointed, as Vice-Consul, untill some native of America shall be named. Mr Dohrman is very desirous to obtain a share in the consignment business if possible.2

Mr Samuel Harrison has for some years past, done all the business of the American Consulate in this Port; and, I believe, to very good acceptance. I have had occasion lately to employ him in one way or another a good deal myself; and I have found him, so far as I am able to form a judgment, active, faithful & intelligent in business. I should conceive him very competent to act as Vice Consul until & even after some American shall be established as Consul here. Indeed this will now, of course, be the case until Orders may be received to the contrary.

Mr John Bulkeley is my very good friend.3 He has taken uncommon pains to shew civilities to me, & continues to do the same. On every occasion evincing his politeness, hospitality & disposition to to serve me. He is one of the wealthiest Merchants of the Factory & a man well versed in business. I understand he has applied for the American Consulship. Indeed he has intimated the same to me, & produced to my view a letter from Mr Thomas Russel of Boston in answer to one from himself on the subject. Mr Bulkeley has made a principal part of his fortune in the American Trade; and from a desire of extending his connections in it, has doubtless been useful to othe[r] Americans as well as to me. I conceive him to be a good Englishman & a true Merchant, in heart. In the time of the war, he conducted in general prudently: not, however (as I have understood) without being concerned in an English Privateer.

Truth, & the interest of the Republic are my only objects. I write at the desire of no Person—nor with the knowledge of any one. For I can have no possible interest in the matter, nor the remotest byas to an option, distinct from what may comport with the public weal. With sentiments of the purest esteem & respect I have the honor to be My dear Sir Your devoted Servant

D. Humphreys

P.S. At St Ubis, Bellem &c. it will be necessary for somebody or another to act in behalf of our Citizens. At the former is a Mr Bush, a Hambourgoise, now acting—at the latter, a Portuguese by the name of Bonventura Joze Morera, who is Vice Consul for, at least, half a Dozen nations.


1For David Humphreys’s earlier letters to the secretary of state concerning consular appointments, see Humphreys to Thomas Jefferson, 31 Mar., 3 May 1791, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 19:643–44, 20:361–62.

2The Dutch merchant Henry Arnold Dohrman (Arnold Henry; 1749–1813) resided in Lisbon at the commencement of the American Revolution. During the war he provided relief and the means of repatriation to American sailors captured by the British, for which he was rewarded by the Continental Congress in June 1780 with the position of agent for the United States in the kingdom of Portugal (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 17:541–42; Madison Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends , 2:34, n.4). In 1786 he left his brother Jacob in charge of his office and embarked for America, where he petitioned Congress for reimbursement of his expenses and reasonable compensation for his services (DNA:PCC, item 178). Henry eventually settled in Steubenville, Ohio, on the land Congress granted him on 1 Oct. 1787. Jacob Dohrman continued to act as his brother’s agent until at least 1792 (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 30:415, 32:119–21, 216, 291–92, 33:586–88; 6 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 43–44, 193, 573; Humphreys, Life and Times of David Humphreys, description begins Francis Landon Humphreys. Life and Times of David Humphreys: Soldier—Statesman—Poet, “Belov’d of Washington”. 2 vols. New York and London, 1917. description ends 2:91, 143).

3John Bulkeley of the successful Lisbon firm of John Bulkeley & Son came from a prominent family of New England Loyalists and established himself at Lisbon during the Revolutionary War. Although Massachusetts congressmen also recommended Bulkeley for the Lisbon consulate, the post was instead offered to Stephen Moylan and then to Edward Church. In early 1797 Humphreys married Bulkeley’s daughter Anne Frances.

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