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To George Washington from Oliver Wolcott, Jr., 15 August 1789

From Oliver Wolcott, Jr.

Hartford, August 15th, 1789

Sir,

I beg leave, with diffidence, to offer myself as a candidate for an appointment under the government of the United States. If I may be allowed to judge of my own qualifications, they are most suitable to some business in the Finance or Treasury Department.

The gentlemen who represent the State of Connecticut, in the Senate and House of Representatives, are best acquainted with the degree of merit on which I venture to found this application. If they do not concur in a proper recommendation, I cannot hope and do not wish to succeed.

In case this request shall on inquiry be found to have originated in no improper estimate of my own merits, and shall be favorably received, sentiments of personal gratitude will be added to those, which duty and patriotism have already excited, which will strongly prompt me to contribute whatever may be in my power, to the success and prosperity of your administration.

Gibbs, Administrations of Washington and Adams, description begins George Gibbs. Memoirs of the Administrations of Washington and John Adams, Edited from the Papers of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury. 2 vols. New York, 1846. description ends 1:20.

Oliver Wolcott (1760–1833) was the son of Gov. Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut. After serving briefly in the Revolution, in 1784 he was appointed with Oliver Ellsworth to represent his state in the settlement of accounts with the Confederation government, and in May 1788 the legislature appointed him comptroller of state accounts. In the Treasury appointments in September 1789 GW named him auditor of the treasury, and he replaced Nicholas Eveleigh as comptroller in 1791. When Hamilton left his Treasury post in March 1795, GW appointed Wolcott secretary of the treasury.

Wolcott’s letter to GW was brought to New York by Jeremiah Wadsworth who was currently exerting his influence in New York in Wolcott’s behalf. Although Wolcott was actively seeking a job in the Treasury, he had some misgivings at first not only about the auditor’s post but, like many new federal appointees, also was concerned about the cost of living in New York City. Wadsworth, who had evidently already mentioned to Wolcott the possibility of securing the auditor’s post for him, wrote Wolcott on 9 Sept. asking if he would accept the position “at 1500 dollars per ann. You must move with the national government. It will not be what I wish, but it will be in the way of something better, and I think you may live cheap and snug as you please.” Wolcott replied on 10 Sept. that the “office of Auditor will not answer the ideas of an appointment which I had contemplated as proper for me. I must therefore decline it, though my objections do not arise from the salary, but from its dependence on another office, and from the nature of the service to be performed.” When GW presented Wolcott’s name to the Senate on 11 Sept., Wadsworth immediately wrote him: “I did not like this, as it was my wish and hope you would have been Comptroller. Col. Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, is very anxious you should accept; thinks you can live here or in Philadelphia as cheap as at home. That is not the case, yet with economy you may, I think, save something, and be in the way of doing better; but on this too much reliance is not to be placed. . . . If you refuse, I think Mr. Burrall will certainly have it, as he has been long in service and expected it. . . . I shall say nothing about your refusal, but let your appointment go forward” (Wadsworth to Wolcott, 9 and 13 Sept., and Wolcott to Wadsworth, 10 Sept. 1789, in Gibbs, Administrations of Washington and Adams, description begins George Gibbs. Memoirs of the Administrations of Washington and John Adams, Edited from the Papers of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury. 2 vols. New York, 1846. description ends 1:20–21). On 14 Sept. 1789 Tobias Lear officially informed Wolcott of his appointment and of GW’s wish that he should come to New York as quickly as possible (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). A draft of Wolcott’s letter to GW, 17 Sept., acknowledging Lear’s letter and informing the president that he would come to New York immediately to “give information whether I accept or decline the appointment,” is in CtHi: Wolcott Papers.

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