George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Davis, 20 June 1789

From William Davis

Boston 20th June 1789

The petition of Wm Davis, of Boston, humbly sheweth that, whereas, since the Year 1776, yr Petitioner has met with a series of misfortunes, in his business, whereby he has sunk a considerable of his own property, and to a considerable amount, whereby he is reduced; he therefore sollicitts yr Excellency that, he may stand a Candidate, & be preferr’d to one of the Offices, either in the Customs, or Revenue, under the new Arrangemts of Congress, or in any other Line, that yr Excellency shall see fitt to place him, & as in Duty bound, shall ever pray

William Davis

Most Worthy sir.Boston 20th June 1789

With the greatest respect I now address you, and I do in confidence attempt to lay before you, my present seituation, at the same time most earnestly solliciting an employment, in a public line, and request that I may stand a Candidate for a place in Boston, in the new arrangement, to be made as an Officer of the Revenue. I have been in the Mercantile line, for near Forty years; and since the Year 1776 at which time, I was honor’d by being chosen Chairman of the Committee of Correspondence in this Town; since which I have met with a series of misfortunes in which, I have lost upwards of six Thousand Pounds of which I was then possess’d, and am now reduced, in so much that, I find it very difficult to maintain my family at this my advanced age, I therefore do most urgently request, that yr Excellency would be pleas’d to take my seituation into consideration, and afford me relief, by an appointment in the Revenue Office—and am, with the most profound respect, Hond sir your most obedient servt

William Davis

P.S. That your Excelly may have a competent knowledge of me; shod you indulge me with that satisfaction; the worthy the Vice President, is possess’d with my Character, and with humble submission, I wish to be referr’d to him, or to the Hone J. Langdon, or the Hone Mr Dalton of the Senate.

I hope I shall not be thought to intrude upon your Excy in thus addressing you; & I wish that my present seituation will plead an excuse.


William Davis (c.1727–1812) graduated from Harvard in 1745 and settled in Boston as a merchant and ship captain. He was active in Boston Patriot circles in the years before the Revolution. Davis had been prosperous in the prewar years, but by the early years of the 1790s a series of economic and personal misfortunes had reduced him to the status of a small shopkeeper. Anxious to secure federal employment, he again wrote GW on 9 July: “Permit me again to address you, as parent, & Guardian of my Country, and to lay before you my present seituation, and to repeat my earnest request that, I may have an appointment here, under the new Establishmt. I am well known to the Vice President, who, (if yr Exelley pleases to make enquiry of me) will satisfy you, as to my person, & Character in buisness, & my being from the beginning a staunch, and active friend to my Country. I was honor’d, by being chosen Chairman of the Committee, of Correspondence in Boston, soon after the Town was Evacuated, & had much buisness to do for a long time, & without expectation of Fee, or reward, & recived neither. I gave my time cheerfully, as I could then afford it. . . . I have been many Years in Buisness as a Mercht here, and am now one of the oldest, but not in buisness now, having been greatly reduced, by many, and various repeated misfortunes. but I desire to be thankful I enjoy a great share of health; and little did I think when Mrs Davis & myself had the honor of paying you a Mornings Visit at Cambridge, in the year 1775 that I should have been so reducd in my circumstances, as to make application for any public office for a support; but I endeavor to bear up under my misfortunes, and to be cheerful, any appointmt that shall be allotted me, will be accepted with gratitude & shall use my best endeavors to do my Duty” (DLC:GW). Davis received no federal appointment and on 24 Oct. and 22 Nov. 1791 again wrote GW in the vain hope of obtaining a government post in Boston. Both letters and a brief, undated petition from him are in DLC:GW.

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