George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, 14 August 1791

To Benjamin Lincoln


My dear Sir,Philadelphia August 14th 1791

As it never has been my intention to bestow double Offices on the same person, and my design that those Marshalls who have received Appointments under the late Revenue Act should hold the former (i.e. the Marshalls office) until the first of the present month (the time by which the Census was to be returned, or until this business should be accomplished) and no longer, it behooves me to look for a successor to Mr Jackson in the Office of Marshall, for the District of Massats.1

How beneficial this Office may be, I know not—At present, the mere emolument of it cannot be, I should suppose, an object; but as a step, it may be desired by such as have nothing better in prospect.

The purpose of this letter, my good Sir, is to request the favor of you to discover—first—whether General Cobb would accept of the Appointment—and 2dly, in case he is disinclined to it, if General Brooks would Act in it.2 I do not incline to issue the Commission to either of them, or to any other on an uncertainty; because, the refusal of Commissions make a bad impression on the public mind. Having observed this, and it occurring to you that the first of August is passed, the expediency of an early answer will readily appear; and I shall be thankful for receiving it accordingly.3 I am always—and sincerely Your Affectionate

Go: Washington

ALS (photocopy), NjP: Armstrong Photostats; LB, DLC:GW.

1On 14 June Christopher Gore recommended to Tobias Lear Deputy Marshal Samuel Bradford for the post of U.S. marshal for Massachusetts, describing him as “a firm federalist” and “a gentleman of education, improvd by a visit of Several years . . . to most of the civilized parts of Europe.” After returning from Europe in 1780, Bradford had established himself as a merchant; commercial misfortunes “deprived him of his estate, but left his honor unsullied—and his character elevated in the minds of even those, who, by being his creditors became involved in his losses.” Gore referred Lear to John Jay and William Cushing for additional information and asked him to place Bradford’s “character in a favorable light before the illustrious President” (DLC:GW).

2David Cobb (1748–1830), speaker of the Massachusetts house of representatives from 1789 to 1793, was a surgeon with a Massachusetts regiment before being appointed lieutenant colonel in the Continental army in 1777. Serving to the end of the war, he was brevetted brigadier general in 1783. He served in Congress from 1793 to 1795. John Brooks (1752–1825), a physician from Reading, Mass., led a company of minutemen in April 1775 before being commissioned major and lieutenant colonel in the Continental army in 1776. GW appointed him subinspector under Inspector General Baron von Steuben in 1778, and Brooks resigned in 1783 to resume medical practice in Medford, Massachusetts. On 11 Sept. Lear requested Henry Remsen, Jr., at the State Department to complete a marshal’s commission for Brooks and date it 12 Sept. (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters), and Lear sent the temporary commission to Brooks on 12 Sept. 1791 (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW formally nominated Brooks marshal after the Senate convened (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 31 October). GW appointed him a major general of the U.S. Army in 1792.

3Lincoln apparently replied to GW on 25 August. A letter from Lincoln to GW of that date was offered for sale by The Collector (Nov. 1952), p. 205, entry R1765. According to the abstract, Lincoln explained that he could not answer GW’s question at present because Cobb was out of town acting as “a Commissioner settling the line between this State and the State of Rhode Island.” Lincoln also wrote to Lear sometime in the summer, as Lear transmitted to Alexander Hamilton on 7 Sept. a “letter from Genl Lincoln to T. L. (which has been submitted to the President’s inspection) to be laid before the Secretary, as it points to the same subject [uncompensated duties of port inspectors] relative to the Inspector of the port of Boston” (DLC:GW).

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