George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Searson, 9 April 1798

From John Searson

Philad[elphi]a 9th April 1798


When I last return’d to this Country in August 1796, your Excellency being then President of the United States, from the Amiable Character I had heard of you, your Humane And Beneficent Disposition to the Distressed took the Liberty to wait on your Excellency presenting you a Poem I publish’d in Ireland, which you were so Condescending as to Accept of, and in Augt 1797 you were so good as to order Col. Biddle to forward one of the Poems publish’d in Philada to you at Mount Vernon, for which I retain the most lively Gratitude.1

When the Epidemic Fever broke out here I like many Others Went to New york to Evade Infection, by which lost a great part of the Benefit of my Subscribers, but got some in that City to purchase a number of them, And whilst there, made application to Governor Jay Soliciting his Favour for a clerks place in Some of the Publick Offices at Albany, where he then was And as your Excellency pays no Postage, beg leave to Enclose it for your Inspection, When a youth have been Book-keeper in Some of the first Compting Houses in New york and this City, as also many years a Mercht in Wholesale trade on my Acct having Married reputably here, But in 1772 Saild with my Motherless Daughter for Londonderry, three years before the Commencement of the late American War. and had it not in my Power to return to America ’till 96, for Pecuniary Reasons. but was master of an Academy near Londonderry Several years have good Certificates from thence and Gentlemen of respectability in this City. Pardon great and worthy Sir the mention of my trifling affairs. Tis to Gentlemen of Ability I Can only Address my Self, Seeking for friends from Humane Motives, and Gratitude Sincere, is all I have to offer, my old friends here being long Since gone to the House appointed for all living May real Happiness ever await you Excellency & family is the Sincere Prayer of your Excellency’s most Grateful and most Devoted Humble Servant

John Searson

your Exellency can Enclose under Cover Governor Jays Letter. P.S. my address is to the Care of the Postmaster Philadelphia.


1John Searson’s petition to GW from Philadelphia, 19 Aug. 1796, in which he identifies himself, reads: “That Petitioner, a native of Ireland, formerly Intermarried a Reputable female of the City of Philadelphia, liv’d in the Character of accomptant with a principal Merchant of that City, who gave Petitioner £100 per annm for some time That Petitioner was afterwards, a wholesale mercht in the City on his own Account, ’till by a series of unforeseen misfortunes in Trade, And decease of his Wife, he took to the Education of youth, hath been Reputably Employd both in America & Ireland, as master of some of the first English Schools, having good Certificates to that Purport, And being lately arrived in this City from Ireland, And being generally Inform’d of the great Beneficence, and known Disposition of the President of the united States, to diffuse Learning, the Arts & Sciences, and every publick good through the States: Petitioner most Humbly lays his Case before the Honorable President, so that if from Principles Humane, he should Succeed, the most lasting Gratitude, should not be wanting. Petitr Teaches, Reading the best English Authors with Propriety ⟨mutilated⟩ Distinction, Writing, a plain Business-hand, Arithmetic, in a new ⟨mutilated⟩ Concise manner, Book-keeping in the latest, and most Improv’d manner Navigation and Some other Practical Branches of Mathematicks—would Engage on proper Encouragement, either as Private Tutor, to a Gentlemans Children⟨;⟩ Public School, or as Book keeper in a Public office, or to a Merchant, Doubt not of good Recommendation, even from this City—Petitioner hath a friend in Alexandria somewhat Connected with his Family viz. Jesse Taylor Esqr., to whom Petr writes by this Post . . .” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW wrote Searson on 20 Aug. 1797: “If you are pleased to send one of your Poems to me Colo. [Clement] Biddle will receive, pay, and forward it.”

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