George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Belli, 5 March 1792

From John Belli

Philadelphia. March 5th 1792

Honoured President

The letter I had the pleasure to carry from Mr McDowell to you,1 was not of Sufficient magnitude to delever you in your own hands, consequently, destitude, of the opportunity of makeng you acquainted with my wishes—I now take the Liberty Sir, by this Present to Let you know I would be glad to have Some office in the Regular Army, if any adequate to my abilities Sould offer, my acquaintance in the western country for Some years passed, and the confidence I have acquired there, will enable me to obtain Supplies for the army on the very best terms, as to my capacities I appeal to Genl Knox Mr Brown2 Maj. Howell3 and Sundry other caracters of distinction in the city, and flatter me self will prove Satisfactory—excuse this freedom,4 and believe me to be Honoured President Your very humbe & obt St

John Belli


John Belli owned land in Danville, Ky., before 1788 and served as paymaster for the Kentucky mounted volunteers that accompanied Lt. Col. James Wilkinson’s expedition of August 1791 against the Indian villages along the L’Anguille (Eel) and Wabash rivers (see the Ky. Board of War to Henry Knox, 30 Aug. 1791, in Henry Knox to GW, 22 Sept. 1791, note 2).

1This letter, which has not been identified, may have been written by Samuel McDowell, Jr., the federal marshal for Kentucky, from whom GW received a census return no later than 7 Mar. (see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 3 Mar., n.1).

2Congressman John Brown of Virginia wrote GW from Philadelphia on 12 Mar., recommending “Mr John Billi of the District of Kentucky,” who “has requested me to make known to you his desire to obtain some employment in the Army.” Brown wrote: “From his acquaintance with Business, his long residence in Kentucky and knowledge of the resources of the Western Country in general, he has been induced to believe that he is qualified to discharge the duties of Deputy Quarter Master, with credit to himself, & advantage to the United States. Should he be honored with the appointment, & should Sureties for the due execution of the Trust be required of him, he will have it in his power to offer such as must be deemed unexceptionable. I beg leave to add that I have been acquainted with Mr Billi since the Year 1784 and cannot hesitate to recommend him as a Gentleman of Character, whose integrity, & punctuality in Business have, during that time been conspicuous” (DLC:GW).

3Belli apparently is referring to Joseph Howell, Jr., the acting paymaster of the U.S. Army.

4GW nominated Belli deputy quartermaster general on 9 April 1792. When Belli’s appointment was considered on 11 April, however, the Senate ordered that it be postponed pending further inquiry. The Senate resumed consideration of Belli’s appointment on 16 April and confirmed it that day (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 9 April; Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:117–20). Belli returned to Philadelphia in April 1793 with his military accounts, and he resigned his commission in November 1794 (see Knox to Anthony Wayne, 13 April 1793, in Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 217–19).

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