George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Smedley, 11 July 1789

From Samuel Smedley

New York July 11th 1789


I beg leave to Request you will be pleas’d to Nominate me to the senate & with them Appoint me to the Office of Collector at the Port of Fairfield—I trust sir the Testimonials I have the Honor to present you will shew that the Interest of the Nation may be well served by such Appointment1 and that it will be Agreable to the People in General as well as Afford some Means of support to one who has Faithfully served his Country while passing thro’ the distressing Scenes of War and on Account of many Unfortunate Circumstances Concurring Received but little Compensation for All those services and who has sufferd the Loss of the greater part of his Paternal Inheritance by the Ravages of A Cruel Enemy. I am sir A Native of the Town Where the Office is established and am Acquainted with All the shore Creeks and Harbours, have been Concern’d in Navigation both as an Owner And Master of A Vessel and trust my experience in that line of Life will be of Special service in the Discharge of the duties of the Office. If sir Any further Evidence relative to my Character should be Necessary I beg leave to refer you to the senators and Representatives from Connecticut who I presume are All Acquainted with my General Character and some of them Perticulerly Acquainted with me. I have the Honor to be sir with greate Respect & Esteem your most Obet Humbe servt

Saml Smedley


Samuel Smedley (1753–1812) of Fairfield, Conn., was one of the state’s most prominent sea captains during the Revolution. He served in 1776 aboard the brig Defence as a second lieutenant of marines and by 1777 as captain. In the space of three years his ship brought home thirteen prizes, worth some $500,000. In March 1781 while Smedley was captain of the Hibernia he was captured and put in the Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England, from which he escaped the following August. By September 1782 he was back in the United States in command of the Heer Adams, a charter ship carrying a large consignment of goods purchased by Commodore Alexander Gillon for the use of the United States (Robert R. Livingston to John Jay, 12 Sept. 1782, DNA:PCC, item 79; Middlebrook, Maritime Connecticut, description begins Louis F. Middlebrook. History of Maritime Connecticut during the American Revolution, 1775–1783. 2 vols. Salem, Mass., 1925. description ends 1:51–59). After his colorful naval career Smedley returned to Fairfield and rebuilt his house which had been burned by the British in July 1779. In August 1789 GW appointed him collector for the district of Fairfield, and in 1792 he was named inspector for the port (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:10, 12, 103, 111).

1Smedley brought with him to New York two letters supporting his application. Thaddeus Burr assured GW in a letter of 7 July 1789 that Smedley’s naval services had been “highly approved of by the Governor and Council of safety, who had the immediate management of the Ships of War.” After Smedley escaped from the British prison in Plymouth, he had, according to Burr, “got to France, and by the interest of Doctr Franklin and other Friends the command of the Ship Here Adams was given to him, and was employed by Mr Adams to bring dispatches to Congress, which business he performed to their intire satisfaction. In 1779, when the Town was burnt by the Enemy, he lost two Houses & almost all his moveable property, which has much reduced him—He is a Man well acquainted with Men and mankind, and the duty of a Collector; a person that will be very agreable ⟨to⟩ the People here; And a Man, who I am persuaded, will be actuated by the strictest principles of honor and honesty” (DLC:GW). The other letter that Smedley carried to GW attesting to his services during the war, also dated 7 July, was signed by Burr, Gold Selleck Silliman, Samuel Bradley, and eight other residents of Fairfield (DLC:GW).

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