George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Gibbon, 24 January 1790

From James Gibbon

Petersburgh [Va.] Jany 24. 1790


Unwilling to become importunate or be thought dissatisfied with the situation which you have been pleas’d to appoint me to,1 I feel a reluctance in addressing you again on the subject, but from a pursuasion that your good intentions to me have been marr’d in their effect, and from other circumstances of serious concern to me, I’m induc’d once more to tresspass on your goodness, in soliciting some situation of more eligibility than the present some openings to which I’m induc’d to belive may occur in the present session of Congress—Being successful sir in my first attempt of this kind, I gave up Every consideration of other business, thereby to be enabled to do the public business with more propriety; in doing which, I only anticipated what wou’d have been requisite as the situation I am plac’d in, tho it does not afford constant employ occupies my whole time and necessarily ⟨deprives⟩ me of any other pursuit, under those circumstances and one or two additionall ones which I am pursuaded will have weight with you sir, I feel less the necessity of an appology for thus troubling you; Having a large and increasing family dependant on myself alone, and deriving from the public employ I’m now in, not more than £20 ⅌ annum will I trust be a sufficient one, for the truth of which I beg leave to refer you to the Collector of this district (Coll Heath) who will shortly be in N. York whose information will be good, as all the fees of my office are accounted for and paid by him.

The suffution of an excise law being brought forward in the present session which will give openings,2 is the intent of the present application, for the Collection of which in the Southern district of Virga as I wou’d beg leave to offer; this failing, shou’d the Collectorship of this district become vacant from resignation or otherways, I shall be than[k]full for preference3—From an opinion of what has been necessary sir to you where you have not a particular knowledge of the character or Capacity of applicants something more than a referrence to former recommendations may become necessary in my instance to justify my pretensions—I have only to observe sir that if the interest of the mechts of this place Richmond & Norfolk, in my behalf aided by that of some of the most respectable private characters will have any weight, I can have it with ease to myself and pleasure to them.

The situation I am now in of which I have troubled you with so particular acct will I hope be some appology for this premature application. I’m with great respect sir Yr obligd ⟨Hul.⟩ Servt

J. Gibbon


1In response to Gibbon’s previous applications of 12 Feb. and 20 May 1789, GW appointed him surveyor for the port of Petersburg on 3 Aug. 1789 under Bermuda Hundred collector William Heth (see Gibbon to GW, 12 Feb. 1789, n.1, and GW to the U.S. Senate, 3 Aug. 1789).

2Alexander Hamilton completed his “Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the Public Credit” with its proposed duties on domestic distilled spirits on 9 Jan. 1790 and presented it to Congress on 14 January. It recommended that the president be authorized to designate collection districts and appoint as many inspectors of the revenue as necessary, with at least one office of inspection at each port of delivery (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 5:722, 743, 800).

3On 16 July 1790 Gibbon again wrote to GW about the Bermuda Hundred collectorship: “Colonel Heth the Collector of this district having receivd an appointment which will induce his relinquishing the Collectorship I once more take the liberty to trouble you on the Subject and offer as a Candidate for the vacancy. . . . Should any other recommendation be necessary than those which induced my present appointment I can with ease obtain it and should now have forwarded Something to this effect from the Merchants here but that it appears to me from the nature of the duty of the Officers of the Customs, doubt whether it would opperate to promote my pretensions or not I trust however, there is nothing in my character which will Operate to discourage you from promoting my wishes⟨,⟩ my success in which will greatly contribute to my happiness as well from a further proof of your countenance” (DLC:GW).

On 6 Mar. 1792 GW asked for Senate confirmation of his earlier appointment of Gibbon to the post of inspector of the port of Petersburg, Virginia. When Thomas Newton, Jr., resigned his position as the inspector of survey no. 4 in Virginia in the fall of 1792, GW appointed Gibbon in his place (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 1:104, 125).

Collector Heth complained of Gibbon’s handwriting to Hamilton on 14 Oct. 1792 and noted that his subordinate was “not so well versed in figures as I expected, and that, it would be some time before he could conduct the business of this Office.” Heth, however, favored Gibbon as his replacement over Christopher Roan, surveyor for the port of Bermuda Hundred, as being “better acquainted with the revenue laws—understands better what he reads, is a man of superior understanding, and a more respectible character, he ought really to be the Surveyor of this Port—for his pride and Ambition would induce him to be active, prying, and inquisitive, and to make himself, at least so well acquainted with the Duties of this Office, as to be able to supply my place, in case of dire necessity; and I think he would be more attentive to orders than Roane—because, he has more sense” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 12:554–55). Gibbon became collector of the Richmond district in 1800 (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 1:356).

Index Entries