George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brown & Francis, 7 January 1792

To Brown & Francis

Philadelphia, Jany 7th 1792.


I have received your letter of the 13th of December, requesting that I would furnish Mr John Francis with such letters to Amsterdam, or other parts of Europe, as might enable him to obtain a loan of money for your house, to the amount of about 100,000 dollars, to make it co[n]venient for you to build and fit out such vessels as you mention for the East India trade.1

I have taken this matter, Gentlemen, into serious consideration, and am sorry to inform you that, with every disposition and wish to promote the commercial interests of our Country, and to countenance the laudable undertakings of its enterprizing citizens; yet I can not think it wou’d be proper for me, situated as I am, to comply with your request. In my public capacity you will readily see that such a thing could not be done; and abroad, it would be almost impossible to separate my private from my official character, in a case of this kind. moreover, should I, from the disposition I might have to oblige you, open this door, it is easy to foresee the many applications of a similar nature which it wou’d produce, and which I should find impracticable to avoid. I am therefore persuaded, Gentlemen, you will do that justice to my motives for declining this matter which they really merit—and will in no wise impute it to the want of inclination to promote your interest—or through you, the interest of commerce. With great regard & esteem I am, Gentlemen, Your most obedt Servt

Go: Washington.

LB, DLC:GW; Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Records.

1The mercantile firm of Brown & Francis wrote GW from Providence, R.I., on 13 Dec. 1791: “Having it in contemplation to build another Large Ship for the India Trade, and thereby do as much Honour & reputation to the noble Art of Ship building in the United states, or more if may be than was done in the Ship President Washington, which our J[ohn] B[rown] had the honour of waiting on you on board Of before She was near finished and which Ship afterwards when at New York was Acknowledged by all to be as Handsome and as good a Ship as any that had been in that Harbour belonging to any nation whatever. We having yet the same builder who lives in this Town we feel a Degree of Anxiety that your Flagg may be born by a Larger and Better ship if possible than any Merchant ship hitherto Owned by the subjects of England or any other parts of Europe. All her Timbers above her floor we propose to have of Live Oak & Red Cedar from Georgia, by having two such ships, one may be Fitted out & One return Annually but to Accomplish this Object large funds are necessary we therefore have taken the Liberty of asking your patronage so farr as to favour us with such Letters to Amsterdam or Other parts of Europe as may enable our Mr John Francis, (in behalf of John Brown & John Francis) who has been gone for Europe 15 or 16 Days to contract a Loan of money to the Amount of about One Hundred Thousand Dollars to be drawn for within Two Years say about half the first & half the second Year & to be made repayable in not less than 7 Years & not exceeding Ten. We hope you will have no fears of suffering by such recommendation as Our J[ohn] B[rown]s Estate already Acquired is at least Three times this sum clear of every Demand against it and nearly One half, in Real Estate, Whatever Letters you may please to favour us with shall add to the profound Esteem & veneration we already bear for your exalted & universally respected Character, whose Usual Goodness will pardon this Freedom” (DLC:GW). GW had toured the President Washington when he visited Providence in August 1790 (see GW to the Corporation of Rhode Island College, 19 Aug. 1790, source note).

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