George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Buchanan, 21 August 1793

From George Buchanan

Balt. August 21 1793

Hon’d Sir,

Having just published a small work which Interests the States at large, I have thought it my duty to transmit you a copy, as it is incumbent upon every American to pay every respect to your worthey Character that he may have in his power.1 I am also happy Sir in having so good an excuse for writing to you, as my Friends have solicited me to offer as a Candidate for the office lately vacated by the death of Col. Balard2 I am one of the sons Sir, of the late Andw Buchanan Lieutenant General of Baltimore County, whose firm attachment to the Interest of his Country during the last war gained him your applause & approbation; & after having spent a great part of his time & fortune in the service of his Country without seeking for pecuniary reward; he died leaving a large family of 9 Children out of whom 5 are now entering to the militia to follow the footstep of their worthey father.3 I have several times Sir had the honor of being introduced to you by Dr Shippen, & my Father in Law Chief Justice McKean, both of whom would speak impartially to you of my conduct & character: also Mr Jefferson, the Right Revd Dr White Dr Ewing, Mr Bingham, Mr Charles Pettit,4 & if necessary Sir, can procure a Character from the greatest part of the Inhabitants of Baltmore but having just got out of a sick bed, I have not had time to speak to any one, trusting that the evidence of the respectable Gentlemen above mentioned would be sufficient.

If therefore Sir it may please you to place a reward due to the memory of my Father, upon one of his sons who has but for his families support, the exercise of his profession, which is not adequate to the expenses—no exertions shall ever be wanting on his part to fill the office with dignity, exactness, & consistant with the Publick good; & for which I could immediately procure a security for any specifyed sum.

Being a Physician I could supply the deficiency of a Port Physician, without any additional expence to government, & which would give g[r]eat satisfaction to our Inhabitants, as they are annually subject to infectious disorders brought by Vessels from foreign ports, which caused their Petitioning to government about two years ago for the establishment of Hospitals & Port Physicians.

Hoping Sir that you may find me worthey the office, & capable of fulfilling its functions with exactness, I have the Honor of subscribing myself with much respect your very humble servant

Geo: Buchanan


Maryland native George Buchanan (1763–1808) studied medicine with Dr. William Shippen of Philadelphia and at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He practiced medicine in Baltimore from 1789 until 1806, when he moved to Philadelphia, where he died of yellow fever. In 1789 he married Letitia McKean (1769–1845), the daughter of Thomas McKean, the chief justice of Pennsylvania, 1777–99.

1The enclosure was An Oration upon the Moral and Political Evil of Slavery. Delivered at a public Meeting of the Maryland Society, for promotiing the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes, and others unlawfully held in Bondage. Baltimore, July 4th, 1791. By George Buchanan, M.D. Member of the American Philosophical Society (Baltimore, 1793). This pamphlet and Buchanan’s Treatise upon the Typhus Fever: published for the benefit of establishing a Lying-in-Hospital, in Baltimore (Baltimore, 1794) were in GW’s library at the time of his death (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends , 35–36).

2For the other applicants who applied for the position of surveyor of customs for the port of Baltimore following the death of Robert Ballard, see David Plunket to GW, 7 Aug. 1793, and note 1. On GW’s appointment of Daniel Delozier to the vacancy, see GW to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 25 Aug. 1793.

3Baltimore merchant Andrew Buchanan (1734–1786) served as a captain of the 1st Company of Baltimore County militia, 1774–75. He was promoted to brigadier general on 6 Jan. 1776 and placed in command of the state’s middle military district. He served in the Maryland legislature, 1776–81. He married Susanna Lawson (1743–1798) on 20 July 1760 and together they had nine children who lived to adulthood—Dorothy (b. 1762), George, Alexander Pitt (1765–1827), Andrew (b. 1766), Elizabeth (b. 1770), Archibald (b. 1772), Lloyd (b. 1774), Susannah (b. 1776) and James (b. 1780).

4Buchanan’s references, with the exception of Thomas Jefferson, were all prominent residents of Philadelphia. William White was a bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, while the Rev. Dr. John Ewing was pastor at the First Presbyterian Church and provost of the College of Philadelphia. Lawyer and merchant Charles Pettit, like Buchanan, was a member of the American Philosophical Society, as was banker, merchant, and politician William Bingham.

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