George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Bowdoin, Jr., 3 December 1791

From James Bowdoin, Jr.

Boston December 3d 1791


The Regard, I am persuaded, your Excellency entertained for my late Father: the Respect, which his private, as well as public Character induced, whilst it should inspire a general Desire, to emulate his Virtues, ought in a peculiar Manner, to create in me, a Disposition, to tread in his Footsteps.1

These Considerations, added to a supposed Ability, to serve the United States, ⟨mutilated⟩ in the Character of their Minister, at the ⟨mutilated⟩ London, induce me to make a Tender ⟨mutilated⟩ Services, to your Excellency.

After having partaken of the Honours of Harvard College in Massachussetts, I passed to Great Britain, and received the Remainder of my Education at Christ church College in Oxford, where I was personally, and particularly, acquainted with the honble Mr Geo: Grenville, now the Marquis of Buckingham, the Earl of Winchelsea, Lord Buckley, the present Lord Clive, and Others, some of whom, are respectable characters in the present Administration in that Country:2 I afterwards took the usual Tour of the Continent of Europe, which gave me a further Introduction to many distinguished Persons of the English Nation. Since my Return to my own Country, I have been, for a number of years, a Member of the Genl Court of Massachussetts, and have been qualifying myself for public Life.

Upon these Grounds, I have presumed upon making an Offer of my Services to your Excellency, not with a View to the Emoluments of such an Appointment, having a competent Fortune, to support myself, either in England, or my own Country, in the Character of a Gentleman.

As I wish my Views, may not, at present, be made public; I am to request the Favour, they may, so far, rest with your Excellency, as not to superceed those Enquiries, with respect to my Abilities, and character, which you, Sir, may deem fit, and necessary.

Attached to your Person, and devoted to your Interest; you’ll permit me, with Sentiments of the most profound Respect, to subscribe myself, Sir, Your most obedient & very humble Servant

James Bowdoin


James Bowdoin, Jr. (1752–1811), was the only son of the late Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin. The younger Bowdoin graduated from Harvard in 1771, studied at Christ Church, Oxford, traveled in Europe, and established himself as a merchant in Dorchester, Mass., during the early years of the Revolutionary War. After the war he served in the Massachusetts General Court from 1786 to 1790, the state ratifying convention in 1788, and the state senate in 1794 and 1801. He received no appointment from GW. Bowdoin subsequently became an outspoken Republican, and Thomas Jefferson appointed him minister to Spain in 1804.

1For the death of James Bowdoin, Sr., see GW to Eliphalet Pearson, 14 Nov. 1791, n.1.

2George Nugent-Temple-Grenville (1753–1813), first marquis of Buckingham, entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1770. George Finch (1752–1826), ninth earl of Winchilsea, studied at Oxford from 1767 to 1771. He subsequently served with the British army in the Revolutionary War, and he was lord of the bedchamber in the royal household from 1779 to 1812. Thomas James Bulkeley (1752–1822), seventh Viscount Bulkeley of Cashel, and from 1784 Baron Bulkeley, studied at Oxford from 1769 and subsequently made the grand tour with George Grenville. Edward Clive (1754–1839), later earl of Powis, was the eldest son of the first Baron Clive of Plassey, governor of Bengal. The younger Clive succeeded to the Irish barony of Clive at his father’s death in 1774.

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