George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Shaw, 2 January 1790

From Samuel Shaw

Boston, 2d January 1790.


On the 26 January 1786, the then Congress of the United States did me the honor to appoint me their Consul at Canton in China, where I resided till the 20 January 1789, at which time I embarked on my return to America. Being about to go again to that Country, I do myself the honor, Sir, to request, if it be not incompatible with any present public arrangement, that I may be favored with the same appointment, and a new commission, under our present happy government. Though neither salary nor perquisites were annexed to the office, yet the respect to be derived from such a mark of the confidence and esteem of the United States renders it to me, who have experienced the good effect of it, an object truly desirable. I have the honor to be most respectfully, Sir, Your most obedient and very humble servant

S. Shaw


Samuel Shaw (1754–1794) of Boston, served during much of the Revolution as an aide-de-camp to Henry Knox with the rank of major. In 1784 a group of Boston merchants appointed Shaw supercargo on the Empress of China, the first American vessel to sail to Canton. Upon his return he served briefly under Knox in the War Department, and in 1786 the Confederation Congress made him the first American consul to China. Shaw served in China for three years, and when consular posts under the new government were filled by GW in February 1790, Shaw was reappointed and returned to China. He died of a liver disease at sea in 1794 while on a return voyage to the United States.

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