George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Kirwan, 2 February 1792

From John Kirwan

Baltimore 2d february 1792


Without the Honor of an Acquaintance take the liberty of Addressing you. hearing of some Changes or New appointments (from Information) likly to take place among the officers of Government in this District, Use this Mode to sollicit your Attention on Such occasion, whether any Oppening may offer, Either in the revenue of this Port, the Office of Marshall of the federal Court, or an Agent, if found necessary, for the federal City to supply the Commissioners or Directer there with Materials for building, from this place, & beg leave to observe should Slates be liked for the covering of Houses, that such a Quarry may be found. this I have from good Authority.1 shd any appointment or Vacancy as mentioned take place, Wish to offer my Services to such Station, With respect, your Excellencys most Obedient and very humble servt

John Kirwan


John Kirwan established himself in Baltimore in the late 1770s and served in the Baltimore troop of light horse under Lafayette in the 1781 Virginia campaign. After the Revolutionary War Kirwan suffered reverses in trade that made him an eager and persistent applicant for federal office. He renewed his application to GW on 13 Aug. 1793, writing: “Having had the pleasure of some Conversation with you last October, at Collonel [Gabriel Peterson] Van Horns on your way to this place, beg leave to address you on the same subject. The distress myself & family are in Call’s for assistance. should be very happy to receive any appointment of the United States in your Gift” (DLC:GW). James McHenry recommended him to GW on 11 Aug. 1793, noting that Kirwan “by misfortunes in trade is placed in circumstances which would make an office that more ambitious men would not covet, an object of consequence to him” (DLC:GW). Kirwan again wrote GW from Baltimore on 20 July 1794, surmising “from the death of General [Otho Holland] Williams, which happened on Tuesday last on his way to the springs” that “some Appointments in your Gift will take place.” Kirwan offered himself for any post at that time and noted particularly an appointment as U.S. marshal or one in the revenue service (DLC:GW). Kirwan wrote to GW from Baltimore on 13 Oct. 1794, seeking appointment as U.S. marshal for Maryland or collector at Annapolis. In that letter he states that he had lived in Baltimore “upwards of fifteen Years” (DLC:GW). McHenry, writing GW from “Fayetteville Near Baltimore,” 13 Oct. 1794, once more recommended Kirwan to GW (DLC:GW). Kirwan never received an appointment from GW, and in 1800 he was included among the insolvent debtors offered relief by a Maryland law (Kilty, Laws of Maryland description begins William Kilty. The Laws of Maryland . . .. 2 vols. Annapolis, 1799–1800. description ends , 2, Nov. 1799 Session, ch. 88).

1For the suggestion that fireproof roofing should be required in the Federal City, see GW to David Stuart, 23 Nov. 1791. Kirwan’s use of the word “Directer” suggests that he had discussed the affairs of the Federal City with Pierre L’Enfant or someone acquainted with L’Enfant’s plans for developing the city, which L’Enfant presented to GW on 17 Jan. 1792.

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