George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Reynolds, 20 October 1789

From William Reynolds

Virginia York 20th October 1789


The vicissitudes of fortune all Men are subject to, and perhaps few have experienc’d the truth of the observation more severely than myself. A small inheritance from my Father, somewhat accumulated from five years close and successfull application to business previous to the War, had encouraged me to look forward with satisfaction. but a series, I may say of almost uninterrupted ill success in trade during the War, in addition to receiving most of my specie debts in paper, hath reduced my funds so low, as to prevent my attempting to retreive those losses by pursuing the same line of business, finding myself at present posses’d of little else except a large family depending on my efforts for their support. under those circumstances I was induced to request our Representative Colo. Griffin to offer my name as a Candidate for yr favour to some appointmt under the Federal Govermt.1 I rely on your goodness, in construeing this in the light I mean it which is truly to convey to you, the reasons which prevaild on me to ask employment of my Country, and to assure you it did not proceed from a desire of adding to a fortune already easy but purely to aid me in the support of an unfortunate family. I am with the greatest respect, & esteem sir Yr mo. Obedt Servt

Wm Reynolds


In 1768 William Reynolds (d. 1802) was sent to London by his guardians to serve as an apprentice in the London countinghouse of John Norton & Sons. He remained in London until 1771 when he returned to Yorktown, setting up as a merchant in the town. In 1777 he was one of three paymasters for Virginia troops. He later served as an alderman of Yorktown and a member of the town’s council (Mason, John Norton & Sons, description begins Frances Norton Mason, ed. John Norton & Sons, Merchants of London and Virginia, Being the Papers from Their Counting House for the Years 1750 to 1795. 1937. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 61–62, 74–75, 518–19). Reynolds did not immediately receive an appointment from GW, but in December 1794 the president named him collector and inspector of the revenue for the port of Yorktown (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 1:165).

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