George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Anderson, 11 June 1790

From Joseph Anderson

New York 11th June 1790


Although I formerly had the Honor, of being personally presented to your Excellency, when an officer of the army of the United States—I apprehend my Charecter was not Sufficiently distinguished; to entitle me to your recollection at this distant period—I must therefore rely on your Benevolence, to pardon the liberty I now take, in offering to introduce myself to your Excellencys notice and Patronage, as a Candidate for the office of the Judge that is yet to be appointed in the new Government lately formed South of the Ohio—as an apology for my present Presumption, I wou’d beg leave to Suggest, that from the Close of the late war until the present period—I have never ask’d any appointment either from the United States or any individual State—Tho my health hath been much injured in the Service of my Country—and have Sustain’d great Losses from ill reposed Confidence—My Peculiar Situation therefore compells me to Obtrude this application upon your Excellency, and that Consideration will I hope, plead my apology—I have long had a Determination to settle in one of the new States—But have for some time past, been ⟨prevented⟩ by sickness—My only Object or defence in that Country was the pursuit of my profession—and as I am at present determined to make the westward my place of permanent residence, the appointment herein Solicited wou’d render my situation there much more Elegible—To give a Sanction thereto I beg leave to offer for your Excellencys persual, Several Certificates relative to my Charecter as an officer—A Certificate of my having gone through a regular Course of Study of the Law—and also Certificates of my admission as an attorney in Several of the Supreme Courts of the United States1—I have the honor to be acquainted with Mr Patterson Senator from New Jersey, and also with Mr Read Senator from the State of Delaware, to whom I wou’d beg leave to refer Your Excellency for any further information you may wish on the Subject—My place of residence Since I left the army, has been in the State of Delaware—I mention this for your Excellencys information as a Local Circumstance.

Shou’d your Excellency think proper to Honor me with the appointment, I Shall acknowledge it with gratitude—and endeavour to discharge the duty with that Integrity, which I trust, wou’d not disgrace the Honor so Confered. I am with great deference and respect your Excellencys—most obedt & Hble Servt

Jos: Anderson


Joseph Anderson (1757–1837) was born near Philadelphia and joined the 3d New Jersey Regiment in 1776, serving until the close of the war. He was promoted to captain in 1777 and was appointed regimental paymaster. After the war he studied law in New Jersey and was admitted to the bar in Delaware in 1785 and in Pennsylvania in 1787, although he did not practice in either state. GW had appointed John McNairy and David Campbell to be judges in the Territory South of the River Ohio on 7 June 1790, but a third judge still remained to be appointed. GW apparently discussed Anderson’s qualifications with senators Paterson and Read, because on 21 June Anderson wrote to GW again, explaining: “some days since I waited, on Mr Patterson, and Mr Read, who acquainted me, that you had Condescended, to take so much notice of my application for the office of a Judge, in the Government South of the Ohio—as to have spoken to them relative to my Charecter.” Subsequent delay in making the appointment, Anderson wrote, led him to “fear that your Excellency may not have receiv’d that ample Satisfaction respecting my Legal Knowledge—which you might think requisite, in order to Justify your nomination of me to that office.” Anderson explained that he had moved to Delaware after the war in order to settle the affairs of his late father, and that he had intended to move to western Pennsylvania to begin his legal career. Toward that end he had spent much of his time preparing to join the bar of the supreme court of Pennsylvania, to which he was admitted in 1787, and had declined all opportunities to begin active practice. Neither Paterson nor Read, he wrote, had a substantial knowledge of his legal abilities, since he had not taken up practice in either New Jersey or Delaware. Anderson offered to “submit to any (further) Legal Examination, which you might think requisite, to obtain the fullest information” (Anderson to GW, 21 June 1790, DLC:GW). Two days later Anderson wrote that Paterson had told him that GW had been “inform’d I had a Public account unsetled,” and that “you Cou’d not, Thus Circumstanced, at present, give me the nomination.” Anderson explained that while he was on furlough, his accounts as paymaster of the 3d New Jersey Regiment had been settled by the paymaster general and the paymaster of the 1st New Jersey Regiment. Upon balancing his paybooks against the amount he had received from the general pay office to disburse to the regiment, these officers had found Anderson owed some $180. According to Anderson they had deducted this amount from the pay certificates issued to him. He thus considered the accounts justly settled, “though no entry of settlement appears on the face of the books.” If his paybooks could be found, Anderson offered to resettle the accounts in order to put GW’s concerns to rest (Anderson to GW, 23 June 1790, DLC:GW). Anderson wrote again the next day, enclosing a letter (not found) that he claimed would “exculpate me, from Voluntary delinquincy with respect to my Public accounts” (Anderson to GW, 24 June 1790, DLC:GW). Anderson did not receive the appointment at this time; it went instead to William Peery (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 2 Aug. 1790). After Peery declined the appointment, Anderson renewed his application, which initiated another round of correspondence regarding the settlement of his accounts (see Anderson to GW, 7 Jan. 1791). Anderson ultimately received appointment as judge for the Territory South of the Ohio (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 25 Feb. 1791).

1The enclosed certificates have not been found. In his letter of 21 June Anderson noted that “the two Certificates I presented to your Excellency” were “my admissions in the Court of Delaware and Pennsylvania” (Anderson to GW, 21 June 1790, DLC:GW).

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