George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Nichols, 28 July 1790

From William Nichols

Philadelphia 28th July 1790.


If any apology be necessary for the liberty which I now take in addressing you, I can only say, that, considering you as the common father of your country, I beleive there is no person belonging to it whose happiness you would not wish to promote.

I am besides an old Soldier, who have at least had the merit, or rather the honour Shall I call it, of performing some long marches & exposing my life to some danger under your Excellency’s command.

After all, I must rely much on Mr Morris’s good nature, by whom this will be handed to you, to inform you who I am, and upon what principles I venture to come forward with the following application. From the Bill for making provision for the Debt of the United States, a commissioner of Loans is to be appointed in Pennsylvania.1 Would your Excellency be pleased to bestow upon me this appointment it would be a fortunate circumstance for my small but numerous family, for which both I and they should be forever bound to thank you. Of my diligence and integrity Judge Wilson,2 as well as Mr Morris, will be able to inform you,3 I am Sir with the highest esteem your Excellency’s most obedient Humble Servant,

William Nichols


William Nichols (Nicholls; 1754–1804) of Philadelphia served in the Revolution as ensign, second lieutenant, and quartermaster of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1776 and as second lieutenant and captain in the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1776 and 1777. His brother, Maj. Francis Nichols (1737–1812), who resigned his commission in 1779 and became a contractor for the Office of Finance, had business dealings with Robert Morris. Nichols was a notary and tabellion public in 1786 and an attorney in 1787. In 1790 he was clerk of the Philadelphia Orphans Court and its Court of Quarter Sessions, and his household consisted of six white males sixteen years or older besides himself, four white males under sixteen, four white females, and three other free persons (James Wilson to Thomas Jefferson, 13 Aug. 1790, DLC:GW; Pennsylvania Archives, description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends 5th ser., 3:200, 227, 4:275, 450, 636, 5:108, 109; Ferguson and Catanzariti, Morris Papers, description begins E. James Ferguson et al., eds. The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784. 9 vols. Pittsburgh, 1973–99. description ends 5:317, 318, 420, 422; Boyd, Susquehannah Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, eds. The Susquehannah Company Papers. 11 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1930–71. description ends , 9:175, n.2; Heads of Families [Pennsylvania], description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1970. description ends 222; D.A.R. Patriot Index, description begins D.A.R. Patriot Index. Centennial Edition. 3 vols. Washington, D.C., 1990. description ends 2:2149).

2In August 1790 U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice James Wilson unsuccessfully solicited from the secretary of state “the Place of Clerk for recording the Laws of the United States and keeping the Papers of the former Congress” for “a Friend of mine William Nichols Esquire” (Wilson to Jefferson, 13 Aug. 1790, DLC:GW).

3GW nominated Thomas Smith as Pennsylvania loans commissioner on 6 Aug. 1790, and Nichols again applied unsuccessfully for the post when Smith died in 1793, using Morris, Wilson, Bishop William White, and William Lewis, Esq., as references. GW appointed him inspector of the revenue for the Pennsylvania district’s survey no. 1 in February 1795. Nichols also served as U.S. marshal for Pennsylvania from 1795 to 1799 (GW to the U.S. Senate, 6 Aug. 1790; Nichols to GW, 6 Dec. 1793, DLC:GW; Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:171).

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