George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel A. Otis, 3 September 1789

From Samuel A. Otis

New York September 3d 1789

Permit me, Sir, encouraged by your indulgence to solicit the appointment of my Son, Harrison G. Otis, to be Attorney for the district of Massachusetts, being a practitioner of Reputation in the Supreme judicial Courts of the State, qualified for the business, and high in the estimation of his fellow Citizens.1 Sensible that he has no dependence for his advancement in life on any thing but his own circumspection, and the exertion of his abilities, improved by education, his habits are so formed that I have the highest confidence, he will justify the good opinion of the public, and any distinctions with which Government may think fit to honor him. And although under thirty, his talents and discretion may justly class him with men of more experience. But I beg leave to refer you to more impartial judges of his Character, than it is possible the affection of a father, to a very dutiful and worthy Son will permit me to be; I in full confidence that this affection, will, with a generous mind, be my excuse for any indelicacy in the mode of application, from one who is with every Sentiment of veneration & Respect Sir, Your obedt hume servt

Sam. A. Otis


Samuel Allyne Otis (1740–1814), a 1759 graduate of Harvard, was a Boston merchant and a brother of James Otis and Mercy Otis Warren. During the Revolution he was a member of the Boston clothing firm of Otis & Henley. See David Henley to GW, 28 May 1789, source note. During the 1770s and 1780s Otis served in the Massachusetts legislature and in 1787 and 1788 in the Confederation Congress. He encountered serious business and financial problems after the war and by 1789 was virtually bankrupt. An outspoken supporter of a strong federal government, Otis hoped for election to the new Congress. When he was not chosen, he secured the post of secretary of the United States Senate. For his later attempt to gain federal employment, see his letter to GW, 10 April 1792.

1Harrison Gray Otis (1765–1848) graduated from Harvard in 1783, read law with John Lowell, and was admitted to the Boston bar in 1786. Already engaged in a successful law practice in Boston by 1789, he was destined to become one of Massachusetts’s leading Federalist politicians during the later part of the decade and the first half of the nineteenth century. The younger Otis did not receive an appointment from GW in 1789, but in 1796 the president made him United States attorney for Massachusetts (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 1:212).

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