George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Mumford, 9 May 1789

From William Mumford

New York May 9th 1789.

The Memorial of William Mumford, most Humbly and Respectfully Sheweth,

That he officiated as Deputy Secretary of the State of Rhode Island & Providence Planatations, from the commencement to the close of the late War, which gave Independence to America; and a considerable part of that Time as Clerk to the Council of War and Deputy Intendant of Trade for the Port of Providence, that the two first mention’d Offices were Places of great Trust and Confidence, as he had the Custody and safe keeping of all your Excellencys Letters, and all other Letters, and confidential papers relative to the War, from the beginning to the close thereof, that the Duty and Employment of these several Offices were very arduous, as the Council of War during the Recess of the General Assembly sat every Day, Sundays not excepted, and the greater Part of the Business of these several Offices was conducted solely by him: that for several years previous to the late War, he enjoyed the Office of Deputy Marshall of the Court of Vice Admiralty for the then Colony of Rhode Island the emoluments and profits of which he was deprived of by the Revolution, that he was also at said Time in the Practice of the Law which he reliquish’d in order to take a more active part in the Cause of his Country, and he conceives he was of more real Service in the execution of the Offices before mention’d than if he had taken an Employment in the Army or Navy.

He further represents that in March 1783 he quitted the State of Rhode Island and went to Philadelphia where he was employd by Benjamin Stelle Esqr., Commissioner of Accounts for the State of Pennsylvania as a Clerk in his Office in which Business he continued from the commencement to the close thereof which took place 1st April 1787—being a little more than four years;1 from these exertions and services being upwards of Twelve Years in public Business he humbly conceives he has some claim on the Public for Employment in Proof of what he has above set forth he begs leave to refer to the credentials herewith presented; He has now been out of Employ upwards of Two Years, has a Family to maintain, and no other way to gain a Subsistence.

He therefore most humbly solicits your Excellency to take his Case into Consideration, and to grant him some Office or Employment under the new Constitution, and as in Duty bound he will ever pray &c.

William Mumford


1On 1 Aug. 1789 Mumford again wrote to GW requesting an appointment in the revenue service but added: “should my request in this not be complied with, I would beg leave to solicit some Employment in the Judicial Department; the Offices I would suggest are either Marshall of one of the Districts, or Clerk of the Supreme, or one of the District Courts. . . . should I fail in these applications, I have then to solicit your influence to procure me the place of a Clerk in some of the public Offices: I would further beg leave to observe that having spent upwards of Sixteen Years of the prime of my life in public Service, and being now considerably advanc’d in life think it high time I was in some Employment to gain a competent subsistance” (DLC:GW). On 2 June 1790 he again wrote GW, reminding him that he had written twice earlier on the subject of an appointment, “but his Applications have as yet been unsuccessful: He therefore Most Humbly solicits your Excellency for an Appointment to the Office of Surveyor for the Port of Providence, or such other Appointment in the said State as your Excellency may think proper to confer on him” (DLC:GW). Not meeting a response he again wrote from New York on 7 July: “Necessity has no Law, which obliges me once more to take the Liberty of addressing you; and when I have related to you my Situation I hope it will be a sufficient apology for my troubling you on a Subject both painful and disagreeable in the extreme; my situation calls loudly for releif, the means of which I trust are in your Power, and I will yet hope that your known goodness and benevolence will be extended to an unfortunate Man in the Hour of difficulty and distress: I have by the advice of my Friends made several Applications to you for Appointments in the State of Rhode Island and was encouraged to hope for success but unfortunately and very unexpectedly have been disappointed and I must acquiesce in my fate although I conceive that my pretensions are at least equal if not superior to some that have been appointed, no Man made greater exertions in the War than I did, and no man received less for those exertions: I trust I was as useful in the Departments in which I was placed as if I had taken an active part in the Field; I served the public faithfully Sixteen Years and at the End of that Period found myself without a Shilling in my Pocket; thus situated I came on to this Place at the first meeting of the new Congress and have from that until the present moment been supported by my Brother, and having waited such a length of time and not meeting with success in my applications for employment has exhausted his patience as well as mine: I received a Letter from him yesterday in which he informs me that it is not in his Power to support me here any longer, and advises me in case I have not an immediate Prospect of Business to come immediately on to Newport, and that Mrs Mumford go to her Mothers in New Jersey; this separation however cruel it may seem I must acquiesce in except I can obtain immediate employment in some of the public Offices which will afford me a bare Subsistence which is all I ask, as I had rather live upon Bread and water with my Wife than to enjoy all the luxuries of Life in a State of separation which for any length of Time would be insupportable both to her and me: in this Situation we look up to you as our common Father able to help and to make us happy, and this may be effected by a few lines from you, all I ask is to give me a Letter or recommendation to the Commissioners for settling the public Accounts to give me the Place of a Clerk in their Office” (DLC:GW). Mumford evidently received no federal position. His request to join the clerical staff of the commissioner for settling accounts was probably not aided by the fact that he had recently petitioned Congress for additional compensation for his services as a clerk to Benjamin Stelle (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 3 :305, 307, 319). Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton reported adversely on his petition on 8 Mar. 1790 (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 6:294).

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