From Thomas Pinckney
London 12th. March 1793.
Mr. Albion Cox having been recommended to me to fill the Office of Assayer of our Mint I made all the requisite Enquiries concerning his Abilities and Integrity and received a satisfactory account of both, but as he has been under Misfortunes in America I thought it prudent not to make a final Agreement with him unless his Character should bear the Test of Enquiry there as well as in this Country and for this reason you will observe a Clause in our Agreement stipulating that it shall be void if not approved by the President. I inclose a Copy of his Receipt for the Money furnished him in part of Salary and for Articles bought. He had been employed some time in procuring these Articles and conceived his Salary should commence from the time in which he was so engaged. Though I saw the Equity of the Proposal yet being limitted by my Instructions I told him all I could do would be to state the Matter to you. I believe you must go on with the other Officers you have as Mr. Morris thinks he cannot procure Droze, and I cannot obtain others in conformity to my directions. I have the honor to be with the utmost respect Dear Sir Your faithful and obedient Servant
RC (DNA: RG 59, DD); in the hand of William A. Deas, signed by Pinckney; at foot of text: “The Secretary of State”; endorsed by TJ as received 4 May 1793 and so recorded in SJL, which notes its delivery “by Albion Coxe.” PrC (ScHi: Pinckney Family Papers). Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DD). Tr (DNA: RG 104, Records of the Bureau of the Mint, General Correspondence); extract in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., made on 2 Jan. 1794, consisting of all except the passage “but as he has been … for this reason,” the final sentence, and the complimentary close. Enclosures: (1) Memorandum of agreement by Pinckney and Cox, witnessed by Deas, London, 8 Mch. 1793, in which Pinckney promises that Cox will be appointed assayer of the United States Mint for three years to begin on the date he leaves London for America, Cox pledges to perform the duties of the office faithfully, to take instructions from the President and the Director of the Mint, to give such securities as the law requires, and to instruct others in the art and business of assayer as directed, and both parties agree that Cox’s appointment will be null and void if the President disapproves. (2) Receipt from Cox, 8 Mch. 1793, for Pinckney’s order on Bird, Savage & Bird for £50 sterling on account of salary and £34.15 sterling for articles purchased for the Mint on account. (3) Certificates of Cox, Merle & Company, refiners and bankers, Little Britain, 24 Jan. 1793, recommending Cox as an experienced assayer and refiner of “Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, &ca.” who has been in business for many years and whose knowledge is equal to that of any person in the country, and from William Cox, Piddlehenthyde, 25 Feb. 1793, stating that the losses of his relative, Albion Cox, whom he had prosecuted in America, arose chiefly from an unfortunate business connection, that his integrity was not impeached during the incident, and that his abilities are equal to the appointment (Trs in DNA: RG 104, Records of the Bureau of the Mint, General Correspondence; in Deas’s hand). Other enclosure not found, but listed in Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 129, as “List of Accts. pd. by Mr. Cox for things for the Mint.” Enclosed in TJ to George Washington, 5 May 1793, and returned by Washington the next day (same).
A native of England, Cox had minted copper coinage for New Jersey in 1786 but returned to Britain after escaping from debtors’ prison, to which he had been consigned as a result of a suit brought by a former business partner. Owing to concern about this incident and Cox’s general reputation for carelessness, TJ, the President, and Director of the Mint David Rittenhouse met on 16 May 1793 and decided to employ Cox as an assayer for the Mint “but without a regular appointment.” In April 1794, however, Washington commissioned Cox to serve as assayer, a post he held until his death in December 1795 (Taxay, Mint description begins Don Taxay, The U.S. Mint and Coinage: An Illustrated History from 1776 to the Present, New York, 1966 description ends , 103–4; Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 141, 297; Tench Coxe to TJ, [11 May 1793]). The articles bought by Cox for the use of the Mint consisted of “five cases of glassware, assay scales, weights and other articles” (Frank H. Stewart, History of the First United States Mint: Its People and Its Operations [Camden, N.J., 1924], 88).