George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lachlan McIntosh, 14 February 1789

From Lachlan McIntosh

Savannah in Georgia 14th February 1789

Dear General,

From circumstances which made me Sufficiently easy and Independent I am reduced, by the fortune of the late War, to Apply the first time in my Life, and much against my grain, for some public Office, which a Man past Sixty two years of Age,1 as I am, can execute for the support of myself and the helpless part of my Family during the short remainder of my Life.

It is unnecessary to trouble you my dear General with the particulars of the Loss of my Active Property, which I readily foresaw from the beginning was Unavoidable, as I was the Southern frontier Settler in the United States who stood forth early for our present happy Revolution, amongst a great Majority of diferent Sentiments and Principles. I will only mention that I have little else now left, than some Lands I held before the War, which I am not able to improve and the Tax upon them is far beyond my Ability to pay, and must Shallow the whole up in a short time being. I conceive much Overated, as the predicament we stand in, with the Spaniards, and our imprudent Quarrel with the Indians, both of whom bound us on the South & West, have rendered Lands in these Quarters of our State of Little Value, and altogether Unsalable for my present relief.2

I have had, it is true, Certificates for the Comutation of my half pay, and arrears of pay, with Moneys I advanced for raising and Supporting our quota of Continental Troops when our State was not able, or not so willing as I could then wish to do it.3 These Certificates have at times appreciated above twenty for one, yet I have been obliged to part with most of them for a scanty Subsistance, which I still stand in need of.

I cannot complain of the Gratitude of my Country who have amply acknowledged the small services I was Capable of, which had little other merit than the early and continued efforts and Zeal with which they were performed. Most of our public Offices did not suit my time of Life, and all of them, in the gift of this State, have lost much of their respectability in the Mode of Annual Elections by the Legislature, and the Management and Intrigues by which they are generally obtained, which some Men cannot Submit to.

I therefore take this Liberty of Applying directly to you without the interferance of any others, as there can be no doubt of you being Unanimously Elected President of the United States, for the Appointment of Collector of the Customs for the Port of Savannah, or all the Ports in this State, which I conceive myself Qualified for, if you can place Sufficient Confidence in my Integrity from your former experience and knowledge of me.

I am informed that Mr Reuben Wilkinson a young Man of North Carolina, the present possessor of that Office and several Gentlemen from other States are making great Interest for it,4 but I will Submit to you alone Sir whether a Residency Since the first Settlement of the State, now fifty Six years, Long and hard Services Since I was a Boy in all its Struggles and difficulties untill I am worn out, and now unfit for any Active department with the Losses and Suffering which have brought me to distress in my old Age, does not deserve some Consideration. I am my Dear General Your faithful and most Obt Humble Servt

Lachn McIntosh

ALS, DLC:GW. A duplicate signed copy of this letter is in DLC:GW.

After returning to Georgia at the close of the American Revolution, Lachlan McIntosh (1727–1806) served in 1786 on the controversial and abortive congressional commission to negotiate with the southern Indians and on the commission to settle the long-standing boundary dispute between Georgia and South Carolina. In 1787 he was elected for one term to the Georgia assembly.

1For a discussion of the discrepancies in McIntosh’s birth date, see Jackson, Lachlan McIntosh, description begins Harvey H. Jackson. Lachlan McIntosh and the Politics of Revolutionary Georgia. Athens, Ga., 1979. description ends 157–58).

2By the beginning of the Revolution Mcintosh was one of Georgia’s wealthiest planters with extensive holdings on the Altamaha River near Darien. His plantations, like those of other Georgia planters, suffered heavy losses in property and slaves during the war, and his attempts to secure compensation for his property losses from the Georgia assembly after the war were unsuccessful. He applied the money and credits he received from the Georgia legislature in compensation for his disbursements on behalf of the state during the war to new land purchases rather than to renovation, and by 1789 he had turned much of his Altamaha property over to his sons. In 1783 he received from the legislature 3,450 acres in the tract between the north and south forks of the Oconee River that was set aside as military bounty lands. His request to GW for a government post was probably precipitated by the growing demands of his creditors and by the devastating crop failures in Georgia in 1786, 1787, and 1788, which struck a heavy blow to the dwindling prosperity of his plantations.

3For commutation of pay, see Anna Welsh to GW, 12 Nov. 1788, n.3.

4McIntosh was one of a considerable number of applicants for positions in the Savannah customs office. See William Pierce to GW, 1 Nov. 1788, Francis Willis to GW, 3 April 1789, Reuben Wilkinson to GW, 30 April 1789, Oliver Bowen to GW, April 1789, John Berrien to GW, 10 May 1789, Edward Church to GW, 11 May 1789, Benjamin Fishbourn to GW, 12 May 1789, and James Seagrove to GW, 24 July 1789, all in DLC:GW. Of these, Berrien, Fishbourn, and Wilkinson had served as either collector or naval officer under the Confederation. There was a fierce struggle for the Savannah post, and the level to which the competition descended is well illustrated by a letter from James Seagrove to Samuel Blachley Webb in New York. After asking Webb to work on his behalf in the capital, Seagrove noted that “there will be four Candidates for that office from Georgia—so that it must be determined by a Vote of the Senate—the Bearer Colo. [William] Few will nominate me with the others. Our other Senator [James Gunn] I expect on [no] Friendship from; I despise the Man as altogether unworthy of the appointment he has—and as I warmly opposed him in hope of getting in Genl Wayne—I know he will wish to disappoint me. His Man will be a Wretch who now fills the Office of Collectorship at this place—his Name is Ruben Wilkinson—he is from our back Woods low and illiterate as possible, but served our Honorable Senator Gunn in geting him Votes at the Election, by which he is bound to him. Majr. Wm. Pierce & Majr. John Habersham are also for it—A beast a sot Villain & Drunkard—a Wm Gibbons Senr. brings up the rear. I have wrote all my friends that I can think of to remember me” (Ford, Correspondence of Samuel Blachley Webb, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 3:123–24). GW eventually nominated John Habersham (1754–1799), Savannah merchant and member of the Continental Congress, to fill the post of collector and chose Berrien and Fishbourn for surveyor and naval officer respectively. When the Senate failed to confirm the last nomination in August 1789, GW chose Mcintosh to replace him (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:16–17). In the same year he appointed McIntosh a federal commissioner to the southern Indians. In January 1794, when the office of marshal for the state of Georgia fell vacant, McIntosh applied unsuccessfully for the position: “Alltho personally unknown to Your Excellency,” he wrote, “I ground my pretensions on a long course of trying and unimpeached Services, on wants impressed on me, by such Services, which placeing the conveniences of life beyond the grasp of individual exertion or the Savings of Oeconomy, leaves too frequent room to regret, that the Years Devoted to Service had not been employed in the acquirement of property” (McIntosh to GW, 15 Jan. 1794).

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