George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Duane, 10 March 1794

From James Duane

New York 10th March 1794.


I reflect with the utmost sensibility on the frequent instances I have experienced of your attention and benevolence, and particularly in the manner in which you was pleased to confer on me the office of Judge of this district. It manifested a mark of your esteem which I shall always prize as a distinguished honor.1

The disorder which I contracted by a sedentary habit, the effect of close application to business, is obstinately fixed in my stomach, and I have reason to believe that, if at all, it can only be mitigated by a relaxation from sollicitude and by regular exercise. I therefore propose to retire to my paternal estate where two of my children are already established, and which is too remote, if my health should be reinstated, to admit of the execution of any employment connected with even a periodical residence in this city.2

Upon these considerations, Sir, I most respectfully entreat your permission to resign my office, and shall deem myself happy if it meets your approbation which to me is of inestimable value.3

The appointment of a successor not later than the middle of April when the season will probably Favor my embarkation would be most convenient, and as soon as your pleasure is intimated I shall forward my commission or a more formal surrender if necessary.4

Permit me to add that however I may be disposed of, it will always be my fervent prayer that you may long continue to preside over our country, in health tranquillity and glory, supported by what you now so justly and eminently enjoy, the confidence attachment and affections of a grateful people. I have the honor to be with the most perfect attachment esteem & respect Sir your most obliged most faithful and most obedient servant

Jas Duane

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; DfS, NHi: Duane Papers. The docket on the draft reads, “Sent per Post 12th.”

1For Duane’s nomination as a federal judge for the District of New York, see GW to U.S. Senate, 25 Sept. 1789.

2Duane was preparing to retire to the family estate located just west of Schenectady, New York. During the 1760s, James Duane added over 30,000 acres to the 6,000-acre tract purchased in 1741 by his father, Anthony Duane (1682–1747). In 1765, New York State approved the creation of the township of Duanesburg from these lands. Duane’s daughter Maria (Mary; 1761–1813) and her husband, William North (1755–1836), and James Chatham Duane (1770–1842) and his wife, the former Marianne Bowers (Mary Ann; 1773– 1842), were already living in the township. See Edward P. Alexander, A Revolutionary Conservative: James Duane of New York (New York, 1938), 9, 41, 54–57, 216, map of Duanesburg facing 220, 235.

3In his reply to Duane of 23 March, marked “Private,” GW wrote: “I am sorry to find by it, that it no longer comports with your convenience to remain judge of that district; and am concerned that ill-health should be the cause of your resigning an Office, the duties of wch I am sensible require a residence in, or a very constant attendance at, the City of New York.

“For the flattering expressions of your letter, and the kind sentiments contained in it, I pray you to accept my best thanks. I wish, sincerely, that relaxation from business, in ease & retirement, may have the effect you hope” (ALS, NHi: Duane Papers; ALS [letterpress copy], DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW).

4For the appointment of Duane’s successor, see GW to U.S. Senate, 16 April (second letter). For Duane’s official resignation, see his letter to GW of 8 April.

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