George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Caleb Gibbs, 11 March 1789

From Caleb Gibbs

Boston March 11th 1789

Suffer me Dear Sir to congratulate your Excellency on the appointment to the first seat in this Republic, more especially when called to fill this important station by the united voice of a free people. In this Office by the tener of the constitution, It is with your Excellency, from whence will orriginate many appointments under the New Government; and in the distribution of which, may an old servant flatter himself that he shall not be forgotten. I have no family except the most amiable of Women for my wife. Business at present I am not so engaged in but what with the least disadvantage could leave and at the shortest notice. If it is possible I shall visit New York and take Mrs Gibbs with me by the first or second week in April, when I once more promise myself the real happiness of seeing your Excellency, and satisfying Mrs Gibbs in this pleasing event; In the mean time If ought in my life claims your Excellency’s least attention may I venture at a lasure hour of being honored by a Line from you. If this should meet your Excellency at Mount Vernon I pray you t⟨o⟩ offer me in terms of Respect to Mrs Washington & family. With the sincerest attachment I have the honor to be Dear Sir Your Excellency’s Most Obedient humble Servant

C. Gibbs


Caleb Gibbs (1748–1818) of Boston served as captain in Washington’s Guard from its organization in 1776 until he transferred, with the rank of major, to the 2d Massachusetts Regiment in January 1781. Gibbs, who apparently had a considerable agency during these years in the purchases made for GW’s official family, was wounded at Yorktown but remained in the army until June 1784. Gibbs was a perennial but unsuccessful office seeker during GW’s administration. On 25 May 1789 he wrote the president from New York, suggesting he “could wish I may be so fortunate” as to have the appointment of naval officer or deputy collector of the port of Boston or some nearby port (DLC:GW), and on 26 May GW replied with his usual statement that “I hold myself altogether disengaged from making any promises or giving any encouragement to any candidates whatsoever” (PU). By 15 June 1793 Gibbs was soliciting “anything in your power to give me consistent with your own feelings and the publice good that I may be had in your rememberance” (DLC:GW). For Gibbs’s appeals to Alexander Hamilton for a place in the Treasury Department, see Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 7:435–36, 8:344–45, 12:350–51, 14:85, 15:18–20, 678–79. In 1798 during the Quasi-War he applied, again unsuccessfully, for a commission in the army. “Gibbs,” Secretary of War James McHenry asserted, “I think would have made a good officer but it is a fact, that his character is very low in Boston, that he is looked upon as a triffler, and has no weight whatever in that quarter of the union” (ibid., 22:473).

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