George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Fitch and Henry Voigt, 26 February 1790

From John Fitch and Henry Voigt

[c.26 February 1790]

His Excellency the President of the United States the Petition of John Fitch and Henry Voigt humbly beg leave to represent

That being convinced of the Necessity of Establishing a mint for Coining of money in the United States and the necessity of Coining Copper Cents being so obvious we doubt not but Congress will Immeadiately order a mint to be established Should that take place we humbly beg leave to represent that each of us have been Educated and have followed the business of workers in mettles John Fitch as a Gold and Silver Smith & Henry Voigt as a Clock and Watch maker that their Forturnes during the War were Very similer than in easy Circumstances in life they both ingaged in the Gunsmith business altho unknown to each other and shared nearly similer the same fate being drove from their abodes by the Enemy and almost every thing destroyed by them and reduced by that means to penury which by industry since has been in a small degree repaired but by being over anxious to promote Useful arts into the World they have now expended nearly four years of the Pri[m]e1 of their days to bring one of the Greatest impro⟨ve⟩ments into common Use, Viz. (Vessels to be propelled by the force of Steam) which they are fully convinced will be of the first Magnitude to the United States but they are not so sanguine as to expect immediate profits such as which they now need.2

This may further inform your Excellency that Henry Voight in his younger years worked in a Mint in Germany and is fully acquainted with every process reletive to Coinage. We doubt not Sir but the recommendations accompanying this will Satisfy your Excellency that we are capable of the Task and that our best indeavours will be exerted to give you and our Country Satisfaction—Should your Excellency be satisfied that the sacrifices which we have made will recommend us to the patronage of yourself & Country and would give us an appo[i]ntment to superintend Said Business your Petitioners as in duty Bound shall ever pray.

AL, in the hand of John Fitch, DLC: John Fitch Papers.

1Fitch wrote “Prine.”

2John Fitch (1743–1798), a metalworker, was experimenting with applying steam power to river navigation. He was assisted, particularly in the construction of the engine, by Henry Voigt (Voight), a watchmaker. Fitch had sought financial assistance for the project from the Continental Congress in 1785, without success. The pair was not employed in minting copper coins (on copper coinage, see John Bailey to GW, 17 April 1790, n.1). On 5 Jan. 1791 Fitch and Voight again petitioned GW stating: “your Petitioners from an honest Zeal to serve their Country in her Distress, have reduced themselves to straitened Circumstances, from a State of Contentment & easy Living.

“That when they saw the Extent of their Wishes gratified by the Success of your Excellency’s Arms in the Establishment of Peace they turned their Attention to the Completion of their Invention of a Steam Boat, by which they hoped to render an essential Service to the internal Navigation of the United States, and flatter themselves with the Idea that they have carried their Invention to such a degree of Perfection as to merit the Countenance and Encouragement of their Country;

“These Circumstances have emboldened your Petitioners to solicit your Excellency’s Appointment of them as Officers of the Mint which they hear is to be soon established in the United States; yet they would not rely on these Circumstances so far as to solicit for an Appointment in which they could not do Justice to their Country in the Execution.

“One of your Petitioners (John Fitch) is a Gold-Smith by Trade and flatters himself that he could render essential Service to his Country as Assay Master & Superintendant of the Workmen in the Mint: The other (Henry Voigt) is perfectly acquainted with the whole Process of Coining and all the Machinery for the Business, & can make the Instruments himself; having worked in a Mint in Germany in his younger years, in which he flatters himself, that he had introduced some valuable Improveme⟨nts⟩.

“If these things are sufficient to claim your Excellency’s Attention we hope to be able to give the most unquestionable Security for our Honesty and Fidelity in the Execution of the Business and as in Duty bound shall ever pray” (DLC: John Fitch Papers). Neither man was employed in the mint.

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