George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Tilton, 25 April 1789

From James Tilton

Dover [Del.] 25 April 1789.


However unexceptionably I may have conducted the business of the continental loan-office of Delaware, I have reason to think I shall not be without a competitor in the appointments to be made under the new constitution of the United States. It is not surprising, indeed, amidst the present rage for office, that the modification necessary under the new government, should afford a pretext for a change of the officer, although the duties of the office may be substantially the same. As I believe & am confident, Sir, that you will act without favour, affection or partiality, in this important business; that your view in appointments will constantly be directed to the public good; with an eye to the encouragement of virtue & the suppression of vice; and that talents & integrity are the qualifications you will especially insist upon; I have only to intreat your Excellency, to give so much attention to my case, as to examine & determine for yourself; whether my past conduct shews me deserving of a continuance in my office, however modified hereafter.

I believe the Honble Commissioners of the Treasury have been well satisfied with my past transactions; and I trust, they would not recommend a change. The Honble Robert Morris, while Financier, was pleased to express his good opinion of me, both as to talents & Integrity; I hope nothing has happened to change his Judgment of me, in one respect or another. The officers of the late Delaware Regiment, who are more interested in the appointment of a Loan officer, than any other class of citizens, I am persuaded would be unanimous for my reappointment. And I believe, that every disinterested untainted revolutionist in the state would favour the expectations I have of continuing in office. When through these channels it shall appear, that I am not unworthy of trust, & confidence, I shall hope for Your Excellency’s nomination to the office I now hold, and that I shall not be rejected by the Senate.

It may be observed, that I do not refer your Excellency to the Delegates of Delaware; and I hope the reasons are obvious: for even in your private retreat, I am persuaded your fatherly regard for the common good & interest of America, has penetrated the continent, and that your patriotic attentions have extended to the politics of little Delaware, as well as the more important states. With the greatest respect, I have the honor to be, Your Excellency’s most obt Servt

James Tilton.


James Tilton (1745–1822) was born in Kent County, Del., studied medicine at the College of Philadelphia, and before the Revolution established a medical practice in Dover. He served as a surgeon in the Continental army from 1776 to the end of the war. A leading critic of the cramped and unsanitary conditions in army hospitals, Tilton devised and put into operation a system of well-ventilated log buildings. In 1781, acting as senior hospital physician and surgeon, he was in charge of a hospital at Williamsburg during the Yorktown campaign. After the war he returned to his practice in Dover. Tilton was a member of the Continental Congress, 1783–85, and of the Delaware legislature. He became increasingly interested in agriculture, becoming an honorary member of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture and writing occasionally on the subject. From 1785 to 1789 he was commissioner of loans for Delaware. In the fall of 1788 Tilton became involved in an acrimonious dispute with Thomas Rodney over the political implications of the Biographical History of Dionysius, Tyrant of Delaware (Philadelphia, 1788), in which Tilton, writing as “Timoloeon,” implied Presbyterians were largely responsible for the success of the Revolution. In August 1790 GW appointed Tilton federal commissioner of loans for Delaware, a post he held until his resignation in June 1795.

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