George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, 22 January 1794

To Charles Cotesworth Pinckney


My dear Sir,Philadelphia Jany 22d 1794

Although I am not encouraged by the joint letter which I had the honor to receive from you, and our friend Mr E. Rutledge (under date of the 12th of June 1791); yet, in a measure to which I am strongly prompted both by judgment and inclination, I am unable to restrain myself from making a second application to you, similar to the former one.1

I have cause to believe that, the private concerns of the Gentleman who is now at the head of the department of War, will occasion his resignation of that Office unless imperious circumstances (which heaven avert) should force us into a war with any of the Belligerent Powers; and, under such circumstances, he should hold it dishonorable to retreat from his post.2

Towards, or at, the close of the present Session of Congress (which is hardly to be expected before April, if then) this event, if it takes place, is likely to happen.3

Will you, upon this hypothesis, allow me to endulge a hope that you would fill his place? It is not for the meer detail duties of the Office I am in pursuit of a character; these, might be well executed by a less important one than yours: But, as the officer who is at the head of that department is a branch of the Executive, and called to its councils upon interesting questions of National importance; he ought to be a man not only of competent skill in the Science of War, but possessing a general knowledge of political subjects; of known attachment to the government we have chosen; and of proved integrity. To whom then can I turn my eyes with more propriety than on you? I mean not to compliment, but to express the real sentiments and wishes of my heart.

The intention of writing this letter, and the purport of it, is unknown to any one but myself; the result may be equally so, since it is placed upon a hypothetical base, and declared to be confidential. No more therefore than you chuse need be disclosed until the event, which has given rise to the application, shall have taken place; although it is essential I should know in the mean while on what ground I rest; without which inconveniencies might result from the vacancy of the Office.4 With much truth & sincerity I am Dear Sir Your Affecte Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, ScC; ADfS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. The postal stamps on the cover read “22 JA” and “FREE.”

1In their joint reply to GW of 12 June 1791, Pinckney and Edward Rutledge declined GW’s suggestion, contained in his letter to them of 24 May 1791, that one of them accept an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

2Henry Knox’s resignation as secretary of war became effective on 31 Dec. 1794 (Knox to GW, 28 Dec. 1794, DLC:GW).

3The first session of the Third Congress ended on 9 June 1794 (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 3d Cong., 1st sess., 784).

4For Pinckney’s refusal, see his letter to GW of 24 February.

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