George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James McHenry, 13 August 1792

To James McHenry


Dear Sir,Mount Vernon Augt 13th 1792.

Your letter of the 17th of July came duly to hand. I could, with pleasure, spend a day in Baltimore on my return to Philadelphia, if time & circumstances would permit; but it is not for me at this moment to say whether either would suit me; besides, I shall confess to you candidly, I have no relish for formal & ceremonious engagements, and only give into them when they cannot be avoided—among other reasons because it oftentimes—if not always—proves inconvenient to some of the party bestowing, if it is not to the party receiving the compliment of a public dinner—and is a tax which I am as unwilling to impose as many are to pay, if false delicacy would allow them to express their real sentiments.

If it should so happen that I can, conveniently, spend a day in Baltimore as I return it would give me pleasure to dine with yourself & a few other friends in a social way; & on this footing let the matter rest, as no previous notice of my coming is necessary in that case.

Having begun a letter to you, I will add something to it of a public nature. Mr Potts, the District Attorney of Maryland, has resigned that Office.1 Who, in general estimation is best qualified to fill it?

Mr Robert Smith has been spoken of. Mr Hollingsworth has been mentioned. and Mr Tilghman and Mr Hammond have also been thought of,2 but the two last living on the Eastern shore, and Baltimore being the theatre for the Courts, it might be inconvenient to both those Gentlemen to attend them; and the appointment no inducement to their removal. Which then of the other two would be most eligable? Would Mr Smith if the preference is given to him accept? or is there any other person more preeminently qualified than either of the Gentlemen I have named?3 Your sentiments, freely given, on these enquiries will much oblige Dear Sir—Your Most Obedt & Affecte

Go: Washington

ALS, CSmH; ADfS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. The letter-book and draft copies are both dated 12 Aug. 1792.

1For Richard Potts’s resignation as Maryland district attorney, see Potts to GW, 12 June 1792.

2Baltimore lawyer Robert Smith (1757–1842) declined GW’s offer of the position of Maryland district attorney in the summer of 1792 (see GW to Smith, 31 Aug. 1792). Eastern Shore attorneys William Tilghman (1756–1827) and Nicholas Hammond (c.1757–1830) withdrew their names from consideration in the fall of this year (see McHenry to GW, 4 Oct. 1792 [first letter]). Tilghman, who served in the lower house of the Maryland legislature 1788–90 and in the state senate 1791–94, moved to Pennsylvania in the mid–1790s. He was appointed chief judge of the third judicial circuit in 1801, judge of the court of common pleas for Philadelphia and surrounding counties in 1805, and chief justice of the Pennsylvania supreme court in 1806. Hammond later served as president of the Farmers Branch Bank at Easton, Maryland.

William Vans Murray had recommended Baltimore lawyer Zebulon Hollingsworth (c.1762-1824) to GW in a letter dated 1 Aug.: “A long acquaintance with him enables to say that he is a man of integrity; & I conceive of parts exceedingly brilliant, with a knowledge of his profession which has raised his consequence at the bar, & increased his fortune. He is about thirty years of age & a marry’d man—An early, spirited & constant attachment to the government over which you, Sir, preside, has among other valuable qualities distinguished his merits as a good Citizen of America” (DLC:GW). GW nominated Hollingsworth on 19 Nov., and the Senate confirmed his appointment two days later (ExecutiveJournal, 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 1:125–26).

3On 16 Aug., McHenry provided GW with a written evaluation of these candidates and the name of another prospect for the position of Maryland district attorney.

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