George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Shaw, 2 July 1789

From James Shaw

July 2. 1789.


Altho I have not the honor of being personally known to your Excellency, yet I flatter myself from the benevolence of your disposition, that my present solicitation for an appointment under the new Government will not be considered as impertinent or improper.

The Clerkship of the district Court in Maryland, altho I apprehend the profits of it will be inconsiderable for some time to come, yet if a man more deserving than myself does not apply for it, I should be thankful for this appointment.

To the representatives from Maryland now in Congress, particularly to the honble Mr Henry, I am well known, to whom I refer for my Character and conduct during the revolution, and in the different trusts with which I have been honored.

The patronage of your Excellency will be sincerely felt and acknowledge by him who has the honor to be with every Sentiment of the most perfect respect and Esteem your obdt Servt

James Shaw


This is probably the James Shaw (c.1747–c.1795) who immigrated to Maryland from Glasgow around 1769 and settled in Vienna, Dorchester County. Shaw built up modest holdings as a merchant in Vienna and served a number of terms in the state legislature. In 1788 he represented Dorchester County in the Maryland Ratifying Convention. John Shaw (1745–1829), the prominent Annapolis cabinetmaker, was his brother. Shaw presented no letters of recommendation and apparently did not receive the post he sought. It might well have been an unpopular appointment since he seems to have invoked considerable animosity from his fellow Marylanders. His appointment in January 1776 as a lieutenant in the Dorchester County militia was protested to the council of safety on the grounds that he was “a man odious to the people,” and he apparently engaged in a number of questionable mercantile practices during the Revolution. At the time of his death, Shaw was deeply in debt and accused of what amounted to fraud in his handling of several estates for which he was responsible (Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, description begins Edward C. Papenfuse et al., eds. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635–1789. 2 vols. Baltimore, 1979–85. description ends 2:728–29).

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