George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Stoddert, 4 October 1799

To Benjamin Stoddert

Mount Vernon Octr 4th 1799.


Your polite attention to my recommendation of a Son of General Spotswood to be a Midshipman in our Navy; has opened the door for another application of a similar kind in behalf of Mr John ⟨Henley nephew⟩ to Mrs Washington.1

In April last, Mr Bassett, ⟨one of⟩ our Senators, and Cousin german to this young Gentleman, presented a letter from me to you respecting ⟨a younger⟩ brother of Mr Henley’s.2 The favourable reception it met with, and the appointment of young Spotswood (who is his Cousin also) to be a Midshipman, has inspired ⟨desires in⟩ John Henley to be a Midshipman ⟨on the Frigate⟩ Building at Norfolk.3

I have heard a ⟨illegible⟩ this young man, but have no ⟨personal⟩ acquaintance with him. ⟨Whatever you are⟩ pleased to say, or do, respecting ⟨illegible⟩ so good as to make me the ⟨medium of con⟩veyance.4 His wish is, to enter the Service immediately. With very great esteem I am Sir Your Most Obedient and Very Humble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), NN: Washington Papers.

1GW’s letter to Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert recommending that George Spotswood be made a midshipman in the U.S. Navy is dated 10 July 1799. See also the references in note 1 of that document. Eighteen-year-old John Dandridge Henley was the son of Martha Washington’s sister Elizabeth Dandridge Aylett Henley and her second husband, Leonard Henley of James City County who died in November 1798.

2Burwell Bassett conveyed a letter from GW to Stoddert dated 31 Mar. 1799, in which GW told the secretary of the navy of Robert Henley’s wish “to obtain a birth as Midshipman in one of our Frigates.”

3The keel of the ill-fated Chesapeake, a thirty-six-gun frigate, was laid on 10 Dec. 1798 at the Gosport navy yard at Portsmouth across from Norfolk in Virginia. The frigate, launched in December 1799, put to sea in May 1800.

4GW forwarded to Mrs. Henley, under cover of a letter dated 20 Oct., Stoddert’s letter of 14 Oct. notifying John Henley that he had been appointed a midshipman. He also sent her a draft of a letter written by himself for Henley to use as his letter of acceptance to the secretary of the navy. In the War of 1812 Robert Henley distinguished himself at the battle on Lake Champlain, and his brother John, at the Battle of New Orleans.

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