George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Otho Holland Williams, 10 October 1789

From Otho Holland Williams

Baltimore 10th October 1789.

Dear Sir

The appointment of Coll Harrison to the Office of Judge in the supreme Court; and that of Mr Hanson to the Office of Chancellor, in this State;1 have created vacancies in the Commission of our general Court which, it is expected, will be filled by some of our most antient law Characters, to whom that situation will be most agreeable.

The resignation of Mr Thomas Johnson,2 which is here spoken of as a matter of certainty, induces me to mention these circumstances: and to embrace the opportunity of introducing to your Notice, Mr Robert Smith, of this town, as a Gentleman eminently Qualified to succeed Mr Johnson in the Office of district Judge.3 The facility with which recommendations are to be procured by any body, and from, almost, every body, renders that mode of judging of merit little worthy of your confidence; But, Sir, if the most Flattering sentiments in Mr Smiths favor, expressed by the most learned, and respectable, Men in Maryland will justify the liberty I now take, there will be no difficulty in obtaining that Testimony. In the mean time I beg leave to inform you that Mr Robert Smith is the Son of Mr John Smith, Senator in this State: and Brother to Colonel Samuel Smith, who has the honor to be known to you.4 Mr Smith studied Law five years in the Office of Mr Robert Goldsborough, the elder,5 with the professed design of qualifing himself as a Councellor and has been, since, six Years in very successful practise in the most considerable Courts of Law and Equity in this state. He is much esteemed as a gentlemen; and, as a Citizen very much respected; particularly by the friends of the present government, in the support of which his exertions have been sensibly felt by its adversaries.

The great object of an established System being secured, Mr Smith, and his brother Coll Smith have been principally instrumental in composing the Political differences, in this town; in consequence of which the late Election here was determined without a contest. These matters, Sir, are mentioned not only to give Some testimony of his abilities, but to evince the Estimation of his Character in the opinion of the public.

As this is a private letter I beg Your permission to add a line on another Subject.

Mrs Carroll prevented my intended visit to Mount Clare, by doing me the honor to call at my House in town. We recapitulated all circumstances respecting the fruit trees: and agreed that it is most eligible, at Present, to send only the small ones. I expect to Ship half a dozen, for Mount Vernon, tomorrow.6 I am, Dear Sir, Your Most Obedient and Most humble Servant

O.H. Williams

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, MdHi: Otho H. Williams Papers.

1For Robert Hanson Harrison’s appointment, see GW’s letter to him, 28 Sept. 1789. Mr. Hanson is probably Walter Hanson (1712–1794), a prominent Maryland jurist and the uncle of Samuel Hanson of Samuel.

3For Robert Smith’s application for office, see his letter to GW, 5 Sept. 1789. Writing to William Jackson on 10 Oct., Williams submitted “to your perusal the enclosed private letter to the President. Its contents will inform you of my Wishes. Bob Smith is related to Mrs Williams, it is very true. But you will not believe that therefore I think him fit to be a Judge. I sincerely believe that he has talents to reflect an honor on the Office[.] You know best how to Seal and deliver my letter to the President, and to your conduct, which I know can influence its fate I commit it” (MdHi: Otho H. Williams Papers). For GW’s comments on Smith’s application for a post in the Judiciary, see his letter to Williams, 22 Nov., and to James McHenry, 30 Nov. 1789.

4John Smith (1722–1794) emigrated with his parents from Ireland to Pennsylvania around 1728, where the elder Smith established himself as a merchant in Philadelphia and served in the Pennsylvania assembly. He moved to Baltimore in the late 1750s where he and William Buchanan founded the mercantile firm of Smith & Buchanan. In 1774 he took his sons into the firm, and it operated under the name of John Smith & Sons, during and after the Revolution. Smith’s eldest son, Samuel (1752–1839), had served as captain, major, and lieutenant colonel during the Revolution. In 1793 he was elected to the House of Representatives and represented Maryland until 1803 and from 1816 to 1822. From 1822 to 1833 he served in the United States Senate.

5Robert Goldsborough (1733–1788) of Cambridge, Dorchester County, Md., studied law and was admitted to the bar in London in 1757. After his return to Maryland in 1759 he served on a number of state courts, in the legislature, and as the state’s attorney general. In 1788 he attended the Maryland Ratifying Convention.

6For the background to the shipment of plants from Margaret Tilghman Carroll’s greenhouse, see GW’s letter to her, 16 Sept. 1789.

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