George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jeremiah Olney, 7 October 1793

From Jeremiah Olney

Custom-House, District of Providence
7th October 1793.


Permit me respectfully to address you on the subject of appointing a Person to succeed the late William Channing Esquire, deceased, in the Office of District Attorney for the State of Rhode-Island. I have been informed that some Merchants and other respectable Characters have recommended to you David Howell Esquire, to succeed to that Office; and from a full conviction in my Mind that the leading Merchants in this Town have long had, and still have, an undue influence over him, I am induced, Sir, to step forward and discharge (with great deference, and in confidence) what I conceive to be my Duty, by giving this information for your consideration. It appears to me of the first importance that the District Attorney should be a Gentleman of Independent Principles, and that he should cooperate, on all occasions, with the Officers of the Customs, so far as the exercise of their Duty shall be perfectly consistent with the Law, and their Instructions from the principal Officer of the Treasury Department. I should have remained silent on the subject (because I feel a delicacy in an interference) had not the Gentlemen recommended a Man who, I am perswaded, should he be appointed, will for the reason offered, rather embarrass than support me in a just and impartial execution of my Duty; in the exercise of which I have heretofore experienced very great opposition from an unfriendly Disposition manifested by some influential mercantile Characters, who have taken unwearied pains to swerve me from my Duty, and thereby establish practices in this District, which were inadmissible by Law, and which, had they obtained, would have very much endangered the collection of the Revenue; of which the Secretary of the Treasury has a perfect knowledge, and will, if necessary, acquaint you with.1

I now beg leave, Sir, most respectfully, to mention David Leonard Barnes Esquire of this Town, Attorney at Law, as a Gentleman well qualified to fill the Office of District Attorney: he ⟨is⟩ justly esteemed for his independent Principles, probity and tallents in the Law, and will do honor to the appointment, should he fortunately obtain it; and who, I am perswaded, will on all occasions, co-operate with the Officers of the Customs in a faithful and impartial executi⟨on⟩ of the revenue Laws, so essential to the support of the National Government. I have the honor to be, Very respectfully, Sir, Your Most Obedt and Most Hume Servant

Jereh Olney Collr


1For discussion of Olney’s differences with the merchants of Providence, see Arthur Fenner to GW, this date, and notes 1 and 2 to that document.

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