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To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 15 February 1796

From Timothy Pickering

Department of State Feby 15. 1796.

The Secretary of State respectfully lays before the President of the United States, the letter of resignation of Mr Benjamin Joy, late consul of the United States at Calcutta; and the recommendations of Mr William James Miller late of Philadelphia, now established at Calcutta, as a fit person to succeed Mr Joy in the Consulate.1

In addition to the testimonies inclosed in favour of Mr Miller, the Secretary begs leave to say, that John Miller, a respectable merchant in Philadelphia, & brother of the gentleman recommended for Consul,2 has shown him divers letters from his brother, by which it appears that he has become a partner in a very respectable mercantile house at Calcutta; which implies clearly a permission from the local government to reside there. And the 13th article of the treaty with Great Britain declares that without such permission no citizen of the United States is to be considered as entitled to such residence. By the 16th article, before a consul can act as such, he is to be approved by the party to whom he is sent:3 if then any person whom the President shall be pleased with the advice and consent of the Senate to appoint Consul at Calcutta, shall be so approved, it would seem that Mr Joy’s objections to the appointment of a British subject would be superceded:4 for Mr Miller appears already to be well received by the officers of the Government in India as well as by the body of merchants. Mr Miller’s standing as an American citizen was of about ten years before his departure for India. His letters mark him as a man of business, correctness and good sense. These observations are respectfully submitted.

Timothy Pickering

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1Benjamin Joy’s letter to Pickering from Boston resigning the post at Calcutta, India, because of his health is dated 24 Jan. (DNA: RG 59, Consular Despatches, Calcutta). Two recommendations of William James Miller, both dated 13 Jan., are filed in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. One is signed by a number of Philadelphia citizens, mostly merchants, who stated that they could “with the fullest confidence recommend his Character, Talents, and Manners; Which we have no doubt, have made the Same favourable impressions upon the minds of the people he is now settled among, as they did upon his acquaintances universally here.” The other is from Andrew Smith, who had known Miller in India and claimed in the letter that Miller’s conduct at Calcutta and Madras “is such as to have gained him the entire confidence and approbation of the officers of Government, and the whole Mercantile body of both places.”

GW nominated Miller to the Senate on 19 Feb. (LS, DNA: RG 46, entry 52; LB, DLC:GW), and the Senate confirmed the nomination on 22 Feb. (Senate Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 199–200). Miller served until 1801.

2Pickering may be referring to John Miller, Jr., who frequently advertised goods from Bengal and Calcutta for sale at his store at number 8 Chesnut Street.

3For the thirteenth and sixteenth articles of the Jay Treaty, see Miller, Treaties, description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends 255–56, 258. American newspapers later reported that Miller functioned as consul for two years before he was offically recognized by the British authorities in India (Commercial Advertiser [New York], 9 April 1799).

4In his resignation letter, Joy urged that the new consul be an American, “for should a subject ⟨o⟩f the king of Great Britain be appointed it would be quite in the power of the Government there to send him to Europe a ⟨p⟩risoner when ever they saw fit … their India act gives full ⟨po⟩wer to the Governor of any of their settlements to send any British Subject from the otherside of the Cape of Good Hope that is not actually in the service of the British King.”

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