George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hills, 21 August 1789

From John Hills

Philada Aug. 21, 1789

Honble Sir

Having made it my constant Study, for several Years, to be fully acquainted with the Geography of this Country, (which necessary knowledge I apprehend few, (if any) have obtained)—& being particularly attached to this Science, induced me to make a general Collection of the Plans, Sketches &ca of great part of this Continent during the War—I likewise have procured all that were in the possession of the different British Generals, as well as those that were in the hands of many individuals—all the Surveys that were made for the use of the British Army, & all the Surveys that were made for the Board of Trade & Plantations before the Commencement of the War, came also into my possession, by which, I have a general & very particular knowledge of the United States—It being my most ardent wish, to render as much service as possible to the Union, principally enduces to make a tender of my Services; flattering myself they can be rendered very beneficial, and am ready to furnish any Draft now in my possession, whenever so required.

The Papers alluded to are Drafts of the greatest part of New Hampshire & New York, with the connexion of Canada—part of Connecticut—Rhode Island—the greatest part of East & West Jersey—a large Collection of Surveys of Pennsylvania—the Three Lower Counties of Delaware—part of Maryland—Virginia—North & South Carolina, with part of Georgia—also a Survey of the Missisipi from the Balize to Yazoo River—the Wabash of Eel River to Port St Vincent, with a general Sketch of Genesee Country.

As those Plans will take up some time, to reduce them under one General head, I take the liberty of mentioning, that they shall be furnished with all expedition, and any seperate part that may be deemed necessary to explain, shall be forwarded when so ordered.

In respect to my abilities I request permission to refer to Govrs Clinton, Livingston & Mifflin—and the Honble Rob. Morris & Willson, who are possessed of Spe[c]imens of performances made by me since the conclusion of the War1—with the utmost Respect I am Your Excellency’s most devoted & Obedient Servant

John Hills

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 78.

During the 1780s John Hills of New York was a partner in the firm of Vancouver & Hills. In a notice in the New York Independent Journal: or, the General Advertiser, 7 Sept. 1785, offering its services in “Land Surveying, Architecture, Drafting, Levelling, and Drawing Sections of Rivers, or Given tracts of Country,” the firm boasted that “they consider it almost unnecessary to profess themselves qualified for the execution of such business, as the works of Mr. Hills in the New-York and Jersey States, and those of Mr. Vancouver in Philadelphia, show such unquestionable testimonies of their abilities.” In 1785 Hills was engaged in making a general survey of confiscated Loyalist estates. During the 1790s he was occasionally employed by the War Department in surveying and drawing up plans for fortifications. See his recapitulation of his services in his letter to GW, 26 Feb. 1796, applying for a surveyor’s position (DLC:GW). Hills’s letter of 21 Aug. was sent to GW by Robert Morris on 29 August. Morris “intended to have had the pleasure of delivering the letter from Capt. Hills in person, but has been prevented by engagements of business & therefore prays the President to excuse the liberty he takes in sending it enclosed herewith” (DNA:PCC, item 78).

1On 23 Aug. Robert Morris wrote James Wilson that “Cap. Hills called upon me & has sent me some Maps which are now with the President, but he was also to have sent a letter to the President, and I ⟨promised⟩ to deliver it. . . but as I have not had an oportunity of Conversing with the President on this Subject it will yet be in good time” (PHarH: Willing, Morris, and Swanwick Manuscripts Collection).

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