George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Burrall, 15 May 1793

From Charles Burrall

General Post Office Philadelphia May 15th 1793.


I think it my duty in the absence of the Postmaster General to inform you that Thomas Sloss Gantt who was imprisoned in Baltimor⟨e⟩ on a charge of robbing the Mail, has lately made his escape under such circumstances as to excite a suspicion, that the means of securing him hav⟨e⟩ been voluntarily neglected.1 I have the honor to enclose for your perusal a copy of the correspondence between the postmaster General and the postmaster at Baltimore, of the advertisement published by the Sheriff of Baltimore, and of a letter which I have written to the Attorney of the Disstrict o⟨n⟩ the occasion:2 And I respectfully submit to your consideration how far the aid of a reward offered by the Government is necessary, either to express the public indignation of the offence, or to ensure the retaking of the offender.3 I am, with perfect respect, Sir Your most obdt and most Humble servant

Chas Burrall
Asst. Postmr Genl

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836. The letters in angle brackets are from the letter-book copy.

Charles Burrall served as assistant postmaster from 1791 to 1800. He unsuccessfully applied for the job of postmaster general in 1795 (Burrall to GW, 6 Jan. 1795, DLC:GW).

1Postmaster General Timothy Pickering was absent due to his appointment as a peace commissioner for the Indian treaty at Lower Sandusky (GW to U.S. Senate, 1 Mar. [second letter]). Thomas Sloss Gantt (born c.1768) was a physician from Maryland. For GW’s prior knowledge of this robbery, in which money and other items were pilfered, see Tobias Lear to Henry Knox, 30 Jan. 1793. Lear replied to Burrall on 16 May: “I am directed by the President of the United States to acknowledge the receipt of your letter to him of the 15th inst relative to the escape of Thomas Sloss Gantt, who was imprisoned in Baltimore on a charge of robbing the mail—and enclosing a copy of the correspondence between the Postmaster Genl & the Post master of Baltimore on the subject of said robbery (which is herewith returned); And to inform you, that the President, considering the Post Office as a branch of the Revenue of the U.S. and consequently appertaining to the Treasury Department, desires that communication⟨s⟩ from the General Post office may be made to the Secretary of the Treasury, who will, if the subject requires it, lay the same before the President” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). No correspondence between Alexander Hamilton and Burrall or between Hamilton and GW regarding this matter has been identified.

2No letters from Baltimore postmaster Alexander Furnival to Pickering have been identified, but Pickering discussed the Gantt case in his letters to Furnival of 30 Jan., 6, 18 Feb., and 29 April (DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836). In the enclosed advertisement Baltimore sheriff Robert Gorsuch promised that anyone who returned Gantt to the Baltimore jail would be “generously rewarded for their trouble, agreeably to the number of miles brought” (Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 26 April, 3 May). On this date Burrall sent a letter to Richard Potts, apparently not realizing that Potts had resigned as the district attorney for Maryland in June 1792 (Potts to GW, 12 June 1792; Burrall to Potts, 15 May 1793, DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmasters General, 1789–1836).

3On 27 May, Burrall informed Furnival that “the President of the United States has directed the Postmaster General to offer a reward of $500 for apprehending Thomas Sloss Gantt” (DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836). Pickering’s advertisement of this reward, dated 27 May, soon appeared in newspapers (ibid., 14, 25 June; Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 1 June). In April 1794 someone anonymously sent per 110 of the money robbed from the Baltimore mail to Burrall, who then forwarded it to Pickering (ibid., 11 April 1794).

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