George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Moylan, 23 February 1781

To John Moylan

Head Quarters [New Windsor] 23d Feby 1781.


I am favd with your Letter of the 18th1—I have never recd any intimation of Mr Wilkinsons intention to resign his present Office, but from your letter, and from a hint which he himself sometime ago dropped in one to Mr Tilghman.2 I cannot therefore with propriety go into the recommendation of a new Officer, untill I am officially informed of the resignation or removal of the old one, or indeed without my concurrence or opinion is asked by those who have the right of appointment. This much I can assure you with much truth3—that your conduct, since you have been in the department, has been perfectly agreeable to me, and that if, upon the application of yourself or your friends to Congress for the succession to Mr Wilkinson, I should be consulted, I shall with pleasure give you that character which I think your past conduct intitles you to & any assistance in my power to procure you the Office.4 You are at liberty in the mean time to make any use of this letter which you may think proper.5 I am &c.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Moylan’s letter to GW, dated 18 Feb. at Newburgh, N.Y., reads: “Some few Weeks ago I recd Advice of Mr Wilkinson’s Intention to resign, & that he, & several other Friends had, unsollicited by me, been pleased to recommend me to the notice of Congress, as a proper person to succeed him in the Department. I cannot, sir, Conceal my wish to continue in public Employ, & in that Line which Experience points out to me I can be most Usefull in but I wou’d readily decline Any Apointment that did not proceed from yr Excellency’s Approbation of my Conduct. my Friends have repeatedly Urged me to this mode of obtaining it, natural Diffidence & Delicacy have hitherto prevented me from doing it, & the same motive woud still Induce me to Silence, had I not been lately made happy by the flattering assurance Colonel Hamilton gave me of yr Good opinion, wch it shall Ever be my Study to Cultivate.

“I do not, Sir, think my self Unequal to the Dutys of the office, I wish for it only because I wish to serve my Country, & that your Excellency thinks so, it will give me Infinite pleasure to learn. an Enquiry into the Advantages I have declined Since my Arrival on the Continent will best prove that I can be Actuated by no view of private Emolument. I must therefore request, Sir, that Whatever be yr decision, this Application may not be Ascribed to Any other motive than that I have Allready mentioned, & that there is no other I as Sincerely Aver” (ALS, DLC:GW).

2For clothier general James Wilkinson’s letter to GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman on 18 Dec. 1780, in which he mentioned his plan to retire and recommended Moylan as his successor, see Lafayette to GW, 4 Dec., n.6.

3GW wrote the previous three words on the draft.

4GW wrote the previous eleven words on the draft.

5Congress accepted Wilkinson’s resignation as clothier general on 27 March 1781 and named Moylan as his replacement on 17 April (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 19:313, 402; see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 29 April, DLC:GW).

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