George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Hudson Muse, 20 March 1789

From Hudson Muse

Virginia Urbanna March 20. 1789

May it please your Excellency

I have the favour to request of you to continue me in my present appointment as Naval Officer for The District of Rappahannock River flattering myself from the ⟨exper⟩iance I have had it will be in my power to discharge the du⟨ties⟩ of the ⟨of⟩fice as well, if not better than others who have not had ⟨the same⟩ oppertunity—and with Gentlemen acquainted with the Cir⟨cum⟩stances may I presume it would appear in my favour; it having been hitherto the pleasure of our Assembly so frequently to remove the Office backwards and forwards from Tappahannock, to this place (which is the present Port of Entrance & Clearance for all Vessels) as to occasion me considerable expence & trouble in moving & processing Lotts & Houses Suitable for the purpose. Add to which, shoud a recommendation of my past, or present conduct be requisite, I have not a doubt, but I coud readily procur one from the Gentlemen in Office before whom my Accots have been laid, to satisfie the Honorable Gentlemen, that not an Office in the State has been better attended, or conducted with more propriety, Since I have had the management⟨.⟩1 The favour will be most thankfully acknowledged by Your Excellencys Most Obedt Servant

Hudson Muse

ALS, DLC:GW; ALS (marked copy), DLC:GW. The words in angle brackets have been taken from the copy.

Hudson Muse (d. 1799), a merchant and a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1776, had been naval officer on the Rappahannock River since 1782. In August 1789 he was appointed collector for the district of Rappahannock, Urbanna, Port Royal, and Fredericksburg (De Pauw, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 2:16).

1Muse received several recommendations for his continuance in office. “Having heard that Mrs Lewis is going to Mount Vernon,” Charles Yates of Fredericksburg wrote to GW’s sister Betty Lewis on 2 April 1789 asking her to mention to GW that Muse had requested him to support his application and to inform him that Yates had the highest opinion of Muse’s integrity “from a very long acquaintance” (DLC:GW). Mrs. Lewis evidently passed the letter on to GW since it bears his endorsement. Ralph Wormeley wrote to GW, 30 Mar. 1789: “This is only to advise you that I have a favor to beg of you in behalf of a friend of mine Mr Hudson Muse now Naval Officer of this River. He has put himself to great Expence in buying & Building necessary Houses. but besides that He is a very honest hospitable Gentleman & good Neighbour, such a One as I know you wou’d like Therefore give me leave to Sollicit your favor for his Continuing in the Office” (DLC:GW).

These estimates of Muse’s abilities proved to be inflated. Writing to Madison, 8 Feb. 1794, Muse confessed that “I have acted imprudent in granting indulgences, and by my returns from this office, made myself lyable for m[o]ny in expectation of it’s being ready when calld for; by which means has lately been presented draughts for three thousand dollars, that I was not prepared to pay, and consequently were returned. and as such is conduct for which I am lyable to censure, Shall esteem myself much obliged to you for doing me kindness to speake to the President, and Secretary of the Treasury, on the occasion, & apologize for me; assuring them, they may relye on the Money being ready for their order in the course of next month, and that I shall take care in future never to be in the like situation” (DLC: Madison Papers). On 27 Jan. 1794 Muse wrote to GW admitting that he had “been imprudent in giving Gentlemen Credit at the Office for duties, and have made myself liable by my returns” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). An investigation by Alexander Hamilton showed Muse’s accounts to be short by some $3,000, and although the shortage apparently proceeded “from no ill motive in the Collector,” Hamilton advised that he be replaced (Hamilton to GW, 10 Feb. 1794). In March 1794 Muse’s kinsman Lawrence was appointed to replace him. In mid–1795 Muse was apparently able to repay the shortage (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 8:254, 264).

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