George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Reynolds, 26 June 1789

From James Reynolds

New York June 26th 1789

The Petition of James Reynolds of New York Most Humbly Sheweth

That your Petitioner understanding that the Impost will soon be in the possession of the Congress of the United States, and that a regulation therefor will Shortly take place.

That your Petitioner humbly informs that he has been employed in the Service of the United States in the late War with his Sloop in the North River upwards of two years, that he afterwards was employ’d in the Commissarys Department to the close of the war, which duty he discharged to the entire approbation of his employers.

That your Petitioner humbly conceives himself qualified to discharge the Duty or Office of Tide or Land Waiter and will give Sufficient Security for the faithful discharge of such Trust if required.

Your Petitioner therefore humbly prays to be appointed either Land or Tide Waiter as in your Wisdom shall seem meet. And your Petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray &C.1

James Reynolds

Copy, in unidentified writing, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

James Reynolds was the son of David and Mary Reynolds of Orange County, New York. During the Revolution Reynolds and his father were employed in the commissary department, and after the war both father and son made numerous attempts to secure compensation for alleged losses during the war years. See, for example, David Reynolds to Congress, April 1786, DNA:PCC, item 41; 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 30:250, 31:736–37, 34:526. The younger Reynolds did not secure federal employment in 1789, and by 1790 he was deeply involved with other New York speculators in purchasing pay claims of Revolutionary War veterans in Virginia and North Carolina. In 1792 he was charged with fraud involving a deceased soldier’s estate and arrested. While incarcerated in Philadelphia Reynolds claimed that he could make disclosures injurious to the reputation of a member of the president’s cabinet. The ensuing investigation eventually resulted in Alexander Hamilton’s public disclosure of his “amorous connection” with Reynolds’s wife Maria. For discussion of the Reynolds affair and Reynolds’s attempts to blackmail the secretary of the treasury, see Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 21:121–44, and Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 18:618–88. For Julian Boyd’s use of Reynolds’s letter of 26 June to GW to support his contention that Hamilton forged the “Reynolds Pamphlet,” see Jefferson Papers, 18:681–82; for the rebuttal by the editors of the Papers of Alexander Hamilton, see Hamilton Papers, 21:142–44.

1Accompanying Reynolds’s petition is a statement, in the writing of William Malcom and signed by Malcom, Hendrick Wyckoff, John Blagge, Robert Troup, and Robert Boyd, stating that “We are well aquainted with the petitioner and recommend him as an honest industrous Man, well Qualifyed for the Office which he sollicits” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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