George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Pettit, 24 May 1789

From Charles Pettit

Philadelphia 24th May 1789


Having at length obtained a Settlement of the Accounts of the extensive public Trust in which I was connected with General Greene, so as to ascertain a Balance in our favour, I can with the greater Freedom offer my future Services to the United States, if there should be any Department in which they can be usefully employed.

While the moderate Share of Property, which I derived from Industry in earlier Life, is with held from me by the debilitated State of the public Funds, I can neither command the Use of it as a Capital in Business, nor derive from it the Income it ought to produce. Under these Circumstances I must own that some Emolument from Office would be convenient to me; and, provided I can be placed in a Situation to render the Public adequate Service, desireable. I avoid suggesting any particular Station as the Object of my Wishes, because I doubt not that in the necessary Distribution of Employments your Excellency will find Occasion to select Men for some purposes from an Idea of their fitness for the Occasion rather than from their Choice of an Office. Neither do I approach you armed with Recommendations nor the Solicitation of Friends, because I feel a Confidence that such Means are not necessary to procure from Your Excellency as favourable Notice as I ought to receive. The different Stations in which I have moved, and my Conduct in those Stations are the only Credentials I offer. If these, fairly examined, are insufficient to recommend me as worthy of Public Confidence, I must suppose, however mortifying the Supposition, that I ought not to enjoy it. With the most perfect Respect, I have the Honor to be, Your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble Servant

Chas Pettit


Charles Pettit (1736–1806) was a Philadelphia lawyer before the Revolution, and during the 1760s held a number of local offices in New Jersey. Although he was an aide to Gov. William Franklin in 1771, Pettit sided with the colonies during the Revolution, serving as aide to Gov. William Livingston of New Jersey in 1776 and as assistant quartermaster under Nathanael Greene from 1778 to 1781. Pettit’s advancement owed something to his marriage to Sarah Reed, the half sister of GW’s wartime military secretary Joseph Reed. After the war Pettit was an import merchant in Philadelphia. He was elected to the Pennsylvania assembly in October 1784, and from 1785 to 1787 he was a member of the Continental Congress. Pettit was opposed to the Constitution in the late 1780s and became a strong supporter of republican policies on both the state and national levels. Pettit’s political rival William Maclay noted that many found him “smooth, artful, and insinuating” (Maclay, Journal, description begins Charles A. Beard, ed. The Journal of William Maclay: United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789–1791. 1927. Reprint. New York, 1965. description ends 317). He did not receive a federal appointment.

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