George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Oliver Bowen, April 1789

From Oliver Bowen

[Savannah, Ga., April 1789]


It is not, I presume, unusal or improper for persons to offer themselves as candidates for publick appointments. Under this impression, I take the liberty of mentioning to your Excellency, that I shall be happy to contribute my services in some office of the revenue department for the town and port of Savannh in the State of Georgia. From my long residince in that State, and from a diversified intercourse both in publick and private life, it has been in my power to acquire an intimate knowledge of its inhabitants and situation. If services or sacrifices in the cause of my country give any weight to an application of this kind, I can chearfully submit my pretentions, in those respects to an investigation. I refrain from making any remarks calculated to raise an opinion of my merits; as the honourable William Few of the Senate and the honourable James Jackson one of the Congress from Georgia are old inhabitants and acquainted with my charactor.

I hope the liberty I have taken in addressing a letter on this occation will be excuseable. I remain Sr with the highest respect Your Excellencys most obediant Servant.

Oliver Bowen


Oliver Bowen (1742–1800), a native of Providence, R.I., moved to Georgia in the early 1770s and served in the First Provincial Congress of Georgia in 1775 and as a member of the council in the same year. During the Revolution he was in the Georgia Naval Department. His Revolutionary career was stormy, involving him in frequent conflicts with the Georgia executive. During the 1780s he returned to Providence where his brother Jabez Bowen was deputy governor. In recommending his brother to GW on 21 April 1789, Jabez Bowen wrote that he had “resided There [Georgia] for near Twenty Years, and had acquired a hansome property, but by the Spirited part he took in The late Revolution he lost it all” (DLC:GW). In order to be on the spot to press his application, Bowen went to New York and on 18 May again wrote GW concerning an appointment: “I will remark upon my situation & services so far only as may be requisite to evince the propriety of proposing myself a candidate for a publick Office—In the first period of the War, I was appointed by the State of Georgia to command an armed Vessel, both for the purpose of defending our own Navigation & annoying that of the Enemy. My success in this undertaking will appear by a reference to the military stores & other supplies which were furnished from my Captures. . . . Upon raising the first Battalion in Georgia I was appointed a Captain & soon after promoted to a Majority. . . . In a little time afterwards, I was prevailed on to leave the Battalion & accept the command of six Gallies, ordered by Congress to be equipped for the defence of the Sea Coast of Georgia. . . . while I belonged to the first batalion I advanced large sums of money for its support. The most of the property that I had engaged in Commercial purposes was appropriated in this way. These advances have only been in part reimbursed, & even that in publick securities. My landed Estate likewise has suffered in com⟨pari⟩son with the other old inhabitants of Georgia from the depredations of the Enemy” (DLC:GW). The post of collector at Savannah was eagerly sought, and Bowen did not receive the appointment. In May 1796, however, GW appointed him United States marshal for the district of Georgia (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 1:210, 211).

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