George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Lawrence, 20 February 1790

From Joseph Lawrence

Providence [R.I.] Febuary 20th 1790


As Officiers for the collection of the Public revenue in this State will (probably) soon become necessary, the object of this address is to solicit the appointment of Surveyor in the Customs for this Port.

For information relative to my charecter, and pretentions to this appointment, I beg leave to refer your Excellency to the inclosed paper, and shall only add, that as it has always been my study to promote the Liberty and Happiness of my country, so it is my ambition to be ranked among her servants tho’ in an Inferior station. With the most cordial attachment to your Excellencys Person and the most profound veneration, I am your Excellencys most obedient & most faithful servt

Joseph Lawrence


Joseph Lawrence (c.1728–1811) was a Providence merchant and insurance broker. During the Revolution he served as a barracks master and invested in privateering ventures. His application for the office of surveyor was supported by a letter signed by 119 citizens of Providence, including many merchants. The letter described Lawrence as “desended from a reputable family on the west end of Long Island, and in the former part of life was in trade as a Merchant, and is well acquainted with seafaring business. His occupation, since the War, has been that of an Insurance Broker in this Town; which, since the decline of business, has yeilded but little for the support of a numerous Family” (Providence Citizens to GW, 20 Feb. 1790, DLC:GW). Following the ratification of the Constitution by Rhode Island, Lemuel Wyatt (c.1723–1807) of Rehobeth, Mass., wrote to GW recommending Lawrence for the post of surveyor at Providence, noting his “early Attachment to the Liberties of his Country and Steady perseverance thro the late war together with his Violent opposition to the paper money system” (Wyatt to GW, 1 June 1790, DLC:GW). After news reached Providence that GW had appointed Daniel Lyman surveyor at Providence, Lawrence wrote to GW asking to be considered for the post of U.S. marshal, describing himself as “intirely Destitute of Business” for the “support of a numerous Family” (Lawrence to GW, 18 June 1790, DLC:GW). The next year he sought an excise appointment (Lawrence to GW, 26 Feb. 1791). Both of these letters are in DLC:GW. In spite of these repeated efforts, Lawrence received no appointment from GW.

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