George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Duane, 3 October 1789

From James Duane

New York 3d October 1789.


I want words to express, as I ought, my grateful acknowledgements for the high honor of your communication this day enclosing my Commission as district Judge.1

Happy in seeing, thro many difficulties, the first object of my wishes accomplished by the establishment of our national government, I aspired after no personal emoluments or promotion; but was contented to contribute the little in my power to it’s prosperity in the public stations I possessed, or in private life. Unexpectedly, and I fear from too partial an estimate of my abilities; ranked among those distinguished Characters on whom you are pleased to rely to give stability and dignity to our national government; I can only promise that if my success shall any wise equal the rectitude of my intentions, and the fervor of my desire to promote the happiness of our Country and the glory of your administration, my appointment will not prove a misfortune.

That you may long continue to preside over our Nation in glory and tranquillity, is the earnest prayer of him who has the honor to be with the utmost respect and most inviolable attachment Sir Your most obedient most obliged and most faithful Servant

Jas Duane

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ADfS, NHi: James Duane Papers. There are minor differences in wording between the draft and the ALS.

James Duane (1733–1797), who came from a substantial New York mercantile family, studied law with James Alexander and began his successful legal career with his admission to the bar in 1754. Duane combined his law practice with extensive and profitable ventures in land speculation. During the Revolution he was a member of the Continental Congress, and in the 1780s he served in the New York senate. From 1784 to September 1789 he was mayor of New York City. Duane wrote to GW from New York City on 28 Sept. thanking the president for his appointment (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters), although he was not officially notified until he received GW’s pro forma letter of appointment, 30 Sept. 1789.

1No letter from GW to Duane of 3 Oct. has been found, but a photocopy of an LS of GW’s pro forma letter of 30 Sept., enclosing Duane’s commission, is in NHi: Duane Papers.

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