George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Olyphant, 9 June 1790

From David Olyphant

[c.9 June 1790]


Being now a Citizen of Newport in the State of Rhode Island, & connected by marriage with a family there, who have suffer’d as well as myself for being firm friends to the late Revolution; I beg leave to Address your Excellency, & offer myself a Candidate for the Office of Collector in the Revenue of that State.

If you, Sir, think this application worthy your Attention, permit me to refer to Mr Izard, Major Butler, Doctr Tucker, & the other Delegates to Congress from the State of So. Carolina, for the propriety of this intrusion; & I flatter myself that a change in times will plead my apology for troubling on th⟨e⟩ occasion. I have the honor to be, with the warmest Attachment for your health & felicity—Your Excellency’s Most Obedient & very humble Servant

David Olyphant.


David Olyphant (Oliphant) moved to Rhode Island in the 1780s from South Carolina. See Benjamin Lincoln to GW, 24 Dec. 1789, source note. Newport merchant William Vernon solicited the aid of Connecticut congressman Jeremiah Wadsworth in obtaining the office of collector for Olyphant, writing that “You will doubtless see many applicants for Offices, under the Genl Government⟨,⟩ some that have no pretences either, from their attachment to the Constitution, or their merits: others perhaps, supported by the recommendations of the Merchants and Traders of the state; which in my humble opinion, ought to have little weight or consideration in the appointment; for this well known reason⟨;⟩ that is even proverbial, as to the state of Rhode-Island⟨.⟩ viz. That smuggleing is justifiable, because the Penalty warrants the measure, for the resque by seizure, upon this principle, many instances might be given, where Legislators, that have passed Revenue Laws, have openly, saved more then half their Duties on importation of Goods—Therefore, it cannot be inconsistant with their interest to recommend Persons for Revenue officers that, perhaps may connive at frauds.

“If a firm zealous attachment, a steady uniform perseverance, in the service of the United states, thro’ the War. If sustaining the Loss of great property in the cause. If integrity, probity, disinterested, impartial views in serveing the American reve⟨nue⟩ is a rec⟨omme⟩ndation to Office—No Man stands fairer then Doctr David Olyphant; whom the Inhabitants of Newport, can have no objection too—being a respectable Free-holder for some Years” (William Vernon to Jeremiah Wadsworth, 5 June 1790, CtHi: Jeremiah Wadsworth Correspondence). Royal Flint, a New York businessman associated with Wadsworth, wrote to Hamilton on 14 June discouraging Olyphant’s appointment, describing him as an old, inactive man (see Hunt, Calendar, description begins Gaillard Hunt. Calendar of Applications and Recommendations for Office During the Presidency of George Washington. Washington, D.C., 1901. description ends 44). Olyphant received no appointment from GW.

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