George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Walker, 3 April 1784

From Benjamin Walker

New York 3d April 1784

My dear General

Your favor of the 12th of March reached me the day before yesterday.1

Walmsley shall be spoke to on the subject you desire, tho’ I believe he had no thoughts of returning to Virginia, he has his Wife here, and three or four days ago he informed me that he intended to quit Colo. Smith, with whom he has lived during the Winter, and commence Hair dresser in Town.2

I am surprized at your not having received any Answers to the Circular Letters. I kept those for the Eastward of this about a Week after I arrived here, when, finding no better conveyance, I forwarded them by the post;3 least however any accident should have happend, I wrote yesterday, to the several persons to whom they were addressed, mentioning the purport of them, and desiring to know if they were received and if their Delegates will attend—the inclosed will shew you how far the Society in this State have proceeded.4

Our Legislature have been sitting here these three months, and have done little or nothing except the Impost bill (which is horrid imperfect) they have past no bill of any consequence—they had began a bill to raise Troops for their Frontiers, but the two Houses differed as to the Number, and now I believe the matter rests till they hear from their Delegates 5—they must by this Time have arrived at Congress—Mr DeWitt and Judge Paine—are gone—the latter took it in his head to Preach in Mr Gano’s Meeting the Sunday before he sat out—and a Motion was made in the Assembly to chuse another Delegate—as no Minister of the Gospel can hold an Office under our Constitution—but it failed.6 The chief politics of the day here is whether the Tories shall be sent away or not—I was in hopes these matters would have subsided by degrees—but I see little prospect of it. The Tories have acted the most imprudent part possible—It never could be supposed that Men who during Eight Years have been taught to consider those people as their greatest Enemies, as the murderers of their Friends, and as the worst of people, could drop their resentments in a day, and receive them as their friends, time and a proper conduct on their part could alone work such a change, and this would have done it. If the Tories had kept themselves quiet and not interfered in public Matters, all the liberal and judicious of the Whigs, would have been so far their friends as to have assisted in burying animosities, and in the course of time, when their conduct had proved they might be trusted—they would have shared in the Government with their fellow Citizens: but instead of adopting such a Conduct, they no sooner got over the first impression of fear, than they laid claim to every attention—and very foolishly contested with the Whigs of the Church in the Election of a Rector supporting with all their influence Mr Moore against Mr Provost and such has their conduct continued 7—the consequence is such as might have been expected—Resentments are rather heightend than decreased, and many of the most liberal of the Whigs, who came in with the most conciliatory disposition, are now their Enemies—it has helped to carry the spirit of Resentment against them into the Legislature, and two bills are going thro the House which if passed, must drive great part of them away.8

The Winter here has been exceedingly severe, much more so than in 1780—and the very great number of poor who had flocked from all parts into Town made it extremely distressing—the River was still close at Esopus a few days since, but a Rain we have now must Open it.

When I left Mount Vernon I mentiond my hopes of getting the appointment of Collector or Naval Officer for this port—but I found so many Candidates whose sufferings and large families gave them better claims that I dropped it—Genl Lamb has the appointment—Willet is Sheriff and Mr Benson Clerk of the City and County the best Office—Colonel Smith put in for it but failed—Till I can get into business which is my ultimate determination I have accepted the Governors invitation to be his Secretary 9—a return of his fever has confined him these few days past to his Room and Mrs Clinton has also been unwell —Washington recovers fast—I beg my respectfull Compliments may be presented to Mrs Washington—and to the rest of the family and that you would believe me, your very obliged and affectte hum. Servt

Ben Walker


1Letter not found.

2Philip Walmsley was GW’s chief steward in 1782 and 1783. He accompanied GW to Mount Vernon in December 1783 before returning to New York. See Walmsley’s receipt, 27 Dec. 1783, DLC:GW. See also James Milligan to GW, 9 Mar., n.3. Colonel Smith is GW’s former aide William Stephens Smith.

3GW wrote Walker on 24 Mar. that he had just learned that Walker was one of Gov. George Clinton’s “Family” and complained that he had “obtained no answers yet to the Circular Letters you took with you for New Jersey, New York & New Hampshire.” See Circular Letter to the State Societies of the Cincinnati, 1 Jan. 1784.

5The New York legislature, which convened in New York City on 21 Jan., remained in session until 12 May. It did not pass the bill “for raising Troops for garrisoning the Forts on the Frontiers of this State.” See Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, at Their First Meeting of the Seventh Session, description begins Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, At their first Meeting of the Seventh Session, begun and holden at the City-Hall in the City of New-York, on Tuesday the sixth Day of January, 1784. New York, 1784. description ends 2 April 1784, p. 106. See also Henry Knox, 26 July 1784, n.1.

6The legislature of New York on 3 Feb. 1784 elected five men to represent the state in Congress. Only two attended: Ephraim Paine produced his credentials in Annapolis on 25 Mar., and Charles DeWitt did so two days later. When Paine was a member of the New York senate in 1782, Alexander Hamilton described him as “a man of strong natural parts and as strong prejudice.” Hamilton also said of Paine: “his zeal is fiery, his obstinacy unconquerable. He is as primitive in his notions, as in his appearance. Without Education, he wants more knowledge, or more tractableness” (Hamilton to Robert Morris, 13 Aug. 1782, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 3:139). Charles DeWitt, of Ulster County, was one of the “popular Whigs” in New York politics. John Gano (1727–1804), a clergyman who in 1762 became pastor of the Baptist church in New York City, was a military chaplain during the Revolution but returned to his New York church at the end of the war and remained there until emigrating to Kentucky in 1788.

7Samuel Provoost (1743–1815), from 1766 to 1771, and Benjamin Moore (1748–1818), from 1775 to 1783, were assistant rectors of Trinity Church in New York City. Provoost supported the American cause in the Revolution while Moore remained loyal to Britain. In 1783, shortly before the British evacuation of the city, Moore was made rector of Trinity Church. Early in 1784, after the evacuation, the vestry removed Moore and elected Provoost. Provoost soon thereafter became the first Episcopal bishop of New York state, and Moore became the second bishop after Provoost’s resignation in 1801.

8The New York assembly passed on 27 Mar. “An Act for the immediate Sale of certain forfeited Estates,” which the council of revision rejected. At the end of the session the house passed, over the objection of the council of revision, a senate bill entitled “An Act for the Speedy sale of the confiscated and forfeited Estates. . . .” The other bill Walker is referring to was first entitled “An Act declaratory of Citizenship, and for the Naturalization of Foreigners.” On 8 April the bill became “An Act declaring Descriptions of Persons without the Protection of the Laws of this State. . . .” The house finally passed this bill on the last day of the session, over the rejection of the council of revision, under the title “An Act to preserve the Freedom and Independence of this State . . .” (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, at Their First Meeting of the Seventh Session, description begins Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York, At their first Meeting of the Seventh Session, begun and holden at the City-Hall in the City of New-York, on Tuesday the sixth Day of January, 1784. New York, 1784. description ends pp. 93, 115–16, 166–67).

9General Lamb was the old Revolutionary John Lamb (1735–1800) who was brevetted brigadier general in 1783. He received GW’s appointment in 1789 to continue as collector of customs in New York under the new government. Marinus Willett (1740–1830) served as sheriff of New York City and county until 1788. Egbert Benson also was attorney general of the state, from 1777 to 1787.

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