George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John White, 28 May 1789

From John White

New York May 28th 1789


I take the liberty of laying before your Excellency the inclosed letter.1

Having been employed several Years in the adjustment of the public accounts in various departments, & of those of several of the States against the Union, it has rendered the public service habitual and detached me from other pursuits for the support of a growing family, It is this consideration that has induced me to offer myself as a candidate for employment under the new Government.

I would not presume to ⟨s⟩ay any thing of myself further than to observe to Your Excellency that the commencement of my service in the public accounts was in the spring of the Year 1779 in the Auditors office at Camp, where I continued between two and three Years, after which I was employed by the late Mr Pierce Paymaster General, from whom I received an appointment to proceed to Maryland and settle the accounts of the Continental troops belonging to the line of that State, when this business closed I was Commissioned to settle the accounts of Maryland and the individuals thereof against the Union—a new system having been adopted in 1786 by which the accounts were directed to be settled by a Board consisting of three persons, the Legislature of Maryland appointed me their Agent to attend the said Board on her behalf, but the mode of settling the accounts of the States against the Union being again alter’d in May 1787, the continent was divided into five districts, and I was appointed Commissioner for the district of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, for the purpose of receiveing and Stating their respective claims against the United States, this Commission being limited to fifteen months Expir’d last September.2

My character and conduct in the several offices I have held is pretty well known to a number of gentlemen now in Congress, particularly those from the State of Maryland, and also to the Commissioners of the Board of Treasury.

As the foregoing circumstances are those only on which I can Expect to merit the confidence of Your Excellency, and the public, I hope they will be permitted to plead my apology for intruding thus particularly upon You. I have the honor to be with great respect Your Excellency⟨s⟩ obedient & huble Sert

John White

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MdAA. The draft is dated 27 May.

1White later wrote GW, on 29 July 1789, stating that when he “had the honor to address Your Excellency on the 27th of May the inclosed letters were not in my possession. I therefore now take the liberty of laying them before you and beg leave to observe that the original letters from the Honorable Board of Treasury Mr Pierce and Mr Burrall from which the within copies were taken are in the hands of William Paca Esquire in Maryland” (DLC:GW). White enclosed letters of recommendation addressed to him by John Eager Howard, 4 July 1789, Thomas Harwood, 8 July, James Tilton, 8 July, Eleazer McComb, 9 July, and John Nicholson, 13 July. Also included were letters from John Pierce, 15 Nov. 1780, the Board of Treasury, 16 Nov. 1786, and Jonathan Burrall, 25 Nov. 1786. All of these letters are in DLC:GW. Another letter, one from Alexander C. Hanson to GW dated 14 April 1789 attesting to White’s good character and stating that “in a variety of employments relating to the public accounts, he has served for near ten years, and I verily believe he has acted in all, with fidelity, attention zeal and expertness,” may have been forwarded by White in his letter of 28 May (DLC:GW). On 26 Aug. White again wrote to GW, saying “as I did not . . . mention any particular office to Your Excellency the duties of which I conceived myself qualified to discharge, I am once more induced to intrude upon You with a request that You will be pleased to nominate me Marshall for the district of Maryland. . . . I flatter myself I shall stand excused for Expressing my anxiety to be continued in the public employ, it being the only means by which I have subsisted my family for several Years past” (DLC:GW).

2White is referring to the ordinance of 12 Oct. 1786, revising the method of settling state accounts with the Confederation government. Commissioners to settle accounts with individuals had been appointed in 1782, and after new accounts had been settled the commissioners were to examine the accounts of the states. Apprehensions, particularly on the part of the Board of Treasury, about the impartiality of the commissioners as well as the problems caused by a lack of common standards for settlement led to the passage of a new ordinance in October 1786. But instead of tightening procedures, the new orders gave the commissioners greater latitude in settling the states’ accounts. The ordinance stipulated that the new board would consist of three members to act on behalf of the 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 31:772–76). The states appointed their own commissioners to negotiate with the federal commissioners, and White represented Maryland. An ordinance of 7 May 1787 provided that “five Commissioners be appointed by the Board of Treasury, whose duty it shall be to go to the several States in the districts hereafter mentioned, for which they may be respectively appointed, for the purpose of stating the Accounts of the States within those districts, against the United States.” The commissioners were to collect within the period of six months any appropriate vouchers and other documents offered by the states to validate their claims (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 32:262–66).

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