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To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 26 July 1796

From Timothy Pickering

Department of State July 26. 1796


In the letter with which you honored me, bearing date the 27th of June, your expressed your approbation of John Davis, the late Comptroller, to be appointed to the office of District Attorney of Massachusetts, provided his professional knowledge (of which you had no correct information) should be deemed adequate to the discharge of its duties, and he would place himself in a situation to render them conveniently to the public.

I was hence induced to write to Stephen Higginson, Esqr. of Boston, a private letter, requesting him, by enquiring among gentlemen of law-knowledge, to ascertain Mr Davis’s professional talents. Mr Higginson’s answer I received yesterday, and have now the honor to inclose.1 I also wrote to a nephew of mine in Boston for the same information; and his answer corresponds with Mr Higginson’s.2 Both being so decidedly in favour of Mr Davis, I have this day transmitted to him his commission; it appearing to the Secretary of the Treasury & to me, upon comparing your letters to us, that you desired no delay in the commissioning of Mr Davis, when we should be satisfied of his professional abilities.3 With the highest respect I am, sir, your most obt servant

Timothy Pickering

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

1Stephen Higginson had written Pickering from Boston on 20 July that Judge John Lowell “& all whom I consider as the best Judges, think very handsomely of mr Davis in his profession; &, taking his whole character into view, They think him the best man in the District for the Office. … he has qualities important in that Office, beside professional Talents.” Higginson added that Davis had contemplated “the Subject, he has decided upon moving here, & will take the office” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2Timothy Williams (1765–1846), a merchant, was the son of Pickering’s sister Lydia Pickering Williams.

Williams had written Pickering from Boston on 13 July 1796 that he knew John Davis better “from others—that he is a man of genius as well as talents, that he is well-bred to his profession; his private character perhaps irreproachable” (MHi: Pickering Papers).

3GW discussed Davis in his letters to Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr., dated 24 June, found at Wolcott to GW, 20 June, n.12, and 4 July, found at GW to Wolcott, 6 July, n.1.

GW replied to Pickering on 1 August.

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