George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Martin, 27 February 1790

From Alexander Martin

North Carolina Rockingham Feby 27th 1790


Permit me to call your attention a moment from the weighty Concerns of the United States to the appointment of officers of the federal Court of this State, a Business I had determined not to interfere in, as the Senators and Representatives were generally acquainted with the several Law Characters among us who might be Candidates for offices in the same, making no doubt but these Gentlemen will recommend proper men to your Notice on this occasion; but I am sollicited by two young Gentlemen and their Friends to introduce them to you for the appointment of attorney-general; Mr John Hamilton of Edenton,1 and Mr John Hay of Fayette Ville.2 Mr Hamilton I have but little acquaintance with, but am informed he is a man of Learning and abilities, and has been in the practice of the Law for some Time past with tolerable Success.

Mr Hay I have been acquainted with for some years past, and know him to be a man of Learning, to be possessed of considerable Law Knowledge for the Time of his practice, and appears to be a rising Character. As it would be very agreeable to our Citizens, late a very divided people as to the new federal government, to have the federal officers distributed through the State for the sake of Convenience, as well as public Information to be derived from them, the Residence of Mr Hay at Fayette Ville where our late assemblies have convened, would well answer the Wishes of the Western Inhabitants of this State, that he should hold that appointment. This I expect will accord with the arrangements of the Court not doubting but two places will be appointed for that purpose, perhaps Edenton, or Newbern on the Sea-Board, though Newbern is the more central on that Quarter, and Fayette Ville to the Westward.

I have declined to mention first the Judge, as I flatter myself the Senators and Representatives of the State will unanimously recommend Mr James Iredell of Edenton for that office, who I am sensible will fill it with Reputation, and give general Satisfaction.3

While I am on this Subject, if the Register be in your appointment, not having the Law I am uncertain, I beg Leave to mention Mr William Hooper Junr of Hillsborough for that office, a respectable young Man Son of Mr Hooper member of Congress in 17754—and Mr William Barry Grove of Fayette Ville for marshall, a young man of considerable Merit.5

I shall not intrude further on the great Duties of your important Station, having nothing more to communicate, but with Sentiments of the highest Respect, I have the Honour to be Sir, your most obedient humble Servant

Alex: Martin


1For John Hamilton’s application for office, see his letter to GW, 8 Feb. 1790.

2John Hay (c.1757–1809) came to America from Ireland in 1779 after purchasing almost three thousand acres of land in Duplin County, North Carolina. Already educated in the law in Ireland, Hay was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1783. During the 1780s he held a number of local offices and from 1784 to 1805 served intermittently as a member of the North Carolina general assembly. He received no federal appointment (Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, description begins William S. Powell, ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. 6 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1979–96. description ends 3:81–82).

3For an earlier recommendation of Iredell, see Hugh Williamson to GW, 19 Sept. 1789.

4William Hooper (1742–1790) was one of North Carolina’s most prominent Revolutionary War politicians and a signer of the Declaration of Independence (see Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, description begins William S. Powell, ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. 6 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1979–96. description ends 3:199–202). His son, William Hooper, Jr., received no federal appointment and later became a North Carolina merchant.

5William Barry Grove (1764–1818) became register for Fayette County in 1784 and served in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1786, 1788, and 1789. In 1791 he was elected to Congress and served until 1803. He received no appointment from GW (ibid., 2:381–82).

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