George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Clark, 2 September 1791

From John Clark

Borough of York [Pa.] September 2d 1791.


A few Days since, when I had the pleasure of seeing you at McAlisters Town, on your return from the Southward; I did not expect that I should have occasion to write you so soon; but my Friend Colonel Hartley, having informed me that he believed the Office of Auditor was vacant, by the refusal of Mr Smith, whom I had understood was appointed; I beg leave to propose myself a Candidate for that Office.1

If my conduct as an Officer in the Military line, and while an Aid to the late Honbe Major General Greene, or as an Auditor of Accounts in the main Army, should have merited your esteem; I trust since my retirement, that my character in the line of my Profession, will add to it; and as to the former, I beg leave to refer you to a copy of a Letter you did me the honor (while lingering with a wound that I had received) to write the then President of Congress;2 and for the later, either the Honble Judge Wilson, or Chief Justice McKean if necessary, will give you the fullest information. Should you vouchsafe to honor me with this appointment, every thing within the compass of my power shall be exerted to execute the Office, so as to merit your, and the public esteem. If I should be unfortunate in this application, perhaps there may e’er long, be a vacancy, that you may think me deserving off; and I beg leave to assure you, it will be agreeable to me, to do every thing in my power, that may tend to support a Government you have rendered so respectable by presiding over it. With Compliments and best wishes for your future health and happiness as well as that of your amiable Lady, I have the honor to be Sir, Yr Most Obdt Hble Servt

Jno. Clark


Maj. John Clark (1751–1819) earned his commission in the 2d Regiment of the Pennsylvania flying camp troops in September 1776 for his bravery as a first lieutenant at the battle of Long Island and became an aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene in January 1777 (Clark to Greene, 8 Nov. 1776, n.1, Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 1:342; see also GW to John Hancock, 5 Oct. 1776, n.6). Clark impressed GW with his successful intelligence-gathering missions before injury to his right shoulder before the Battle of Brandywine incapacitated him. In February 1778 Clark accepted appointment as auditor to the army, serving until November 1779. After the war he was admitted to the state bar and unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1819 (“Clark Memoir,” description begins “Memoir of Major John Clark, of York County, Pennsylvania.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 20 (1896): 77–86. description ends 77, 78, 85).

1GW breakfasted on 2 July 1791 eighteen miles from York at Hanover, Pa., founded in 1763 by Col. Richard McAllister (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:168). William Smith did decline the appointment of U.S. auditor, and GW named Richard Harrison to the office in November 1791 (see Tobias Lear to GW, 19–20 June, n.9).

2GW wrote a letter of introduction for Clark from Valley Forge to Henry Laurens on 2 Jan. 1778, describing him as “active, sensible, and enterprising.” GW concluded: “It is somewhat uncertain, whether the State of the Major’s Health will admit of his remaining in the military line, if it should, I may perhaps have occasion to recommend him in a more particular manner to the favor of Congress at a future time. At present I can assure you that if you should, while he remains in the neighbourhood of York, have any occasion for his Services, you will find him not only willing, but very capable of executing any of your Commands” (LS, DNA:PCC, item 152).

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