George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Cochran, 1 May 1789

From John Cochran

New York May 1st 1789.

Dear Sir

Permit me to congratulate you & my Country on your Appointment to the chief Presidency of the united states of America by the unanimous voice of its Citizens. That you may be happy & successful in the discharge of this important Trust is my most ardent Wish.

A reliance on the Benevolence of my Countrymen & Necessity have compelled me to make an application, which I could wish I did not stand in need of. A short detail of my present Condition will justify my request. On the eight Day of May 1786, I was appointed by Congress, Receiver of the Continental Quota of Taxes for this State, and Commissioner of the Loan Office for the same with a Salary of one Thousand Dollars per Annum: this with the Assistance of my professional Income, Afforded me a comfortable subsistance for my Family, until Congress by an Act of the 23rd of March 1787 deprived all the Loan officers, of their Office rent, Clerks and every other charge, except that of Stationary, which from the vast multiplicity of Business transacted in my office, being at the seat of Congress, has left me by no means an adequate compensation for my Trouble.1

The Practise of Physic is become no longer an object with me, for my late Indisposition has confined me so long that my Business has fallen into the hands of others & it would be difficult to recover it again, should I ever be able to go through the Drudgery attendant on that Profession.

The principal part of my property consists in uncultivated & unproductive Lands. This situation induces me to look up to my Country for a Contin[u]ation in their service, by holding an Appointment best suited to my Abilities. My Appointment under the late arrangement, being connected with the Collection of the revenue of this State, such an Employment under the new Constitution, would be very agreeable to my Wishes & I have a confidence that, I am sufficiently Competent to discharge the several Duties of said office with propriety. How far my former Services & present situation may entitle me to this request, is best known to your Excellency & with you,2 I leave the issue, persuaded that I shall not be forgotten.

If anything improper in this Application has escaped me I trust your forgiveness. I have the honor to subscribe myself Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble servant

John Cochran


Dr. John Cochran (1730–1807) was a native of Sadsbury, Pennsylvania. Cochran served as surgeon general of the Continental army in 1777 and director general of army hospitals in 1781. He had important family connections in New York: his wife, Gertrude Cochran, was the sister of Philip Schuyler and the aunt of Alexander Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth. Cochran maintained close ties with both families. From 1786 to 1789 Cochran was commissioner of loans for New York, and in August 1790 GW renewed his appointment (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 1:57).

1When the loan officers were appointed in September 1783, the salary annexed to the post was $500, but presumably expenses for clerks and other office expenses were paid by the Confederation government (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 25:580). In March 1787 “the present deranged condition of the national revenues and the numerous demands on the federal treasury” resulted in numerous reductions in the expenses of the civil list. At that time salary for the commissioner of loans in New York was designated as $ 1,000, but the sum was “in full for all services and duties which are or may be annexed to their respective Offices and also in full for Office rent clerks and every other charge except that of stationary” (ibid., 32 : 128–30).

2On 10 July 1789 Cochran wrote to GW, in anticipation of the establishment of the federal revenue system, that a post in the New York customs office “would be extremely agreeable to me & from the best information I can obtain, respecting the Duties of said Office, I flatter myself that I am altogether competent. I am the more induced to make this request, as there has been no such Office instituted in this state, since the Revolution, therefore there will be no interference with any other Person holding an Office under the former Government” (DLC:GW). Enclosed in this letter was a certificate from Joseph Nourse, register of the Treasury, that Cochran had accounted for all the money in his charge during his tenure of office as commissioner of loans (ibid.).

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