George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Greenway, 15 September 1790

From Joseph Greenway

Alexandria [Va.] 15th September 1790


I have the Honor to inform you, that I bore a Lieutenants Commission in the Navy of the United States, during the late War and was made prisoner in the Dellaware Frigate. That after some time I made my escape from the Enemy; and having obtained a furlough from Congress until called for, engaged in the Merchants Service, where I continued the remainder of the War, and some time after the Peace took place—Since I left that service, I have been employed by the public and have, I rely, conducted myself with propriety. That having lately observed the Collection Law of Congress directs a number of Cutters to be built for the use of the united States, I have to solicit your favor for the Command of one, to be stationed in this River and bay and respecting my Character and deportment, you will be informed by the under written certificate.1 I am Sir with the utmost respect, Your most Obedient Humble Servant

Joseph Greenway


Joseph Greenway (died c.1797) of Alexandria, Va., was commissioned a lieutenant on the Continental frigate Delaware, but in July 1777 the Continental Congress revoked his commission and dismissed him from service for his participation in a combination “of officers to extort increase of pay and allowances from the public.” Greenway and eleven other lieutenants had presented a petition to their superior, John Barry, senior commander of the navy in the port of Philadelphia and refused to execute orders until their grievances were redressed (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 8:573–74). Greenway commanded the privateer Lady Washington out of Baltimore in 1779 and the brig Virginia in April 1780 (Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, description begins Charles E. Claghorn. Naval Officers of the American Revolution: A Concise Biographical Dictionary. Metuchen, N.J., 1988. description ends 128).

1The following paragraph in Greenway’s hand appeared at the bottom of the page: “We do hereby certify that Capt. Joseph Greenway conducts himself with the greatest propriety, and we think him in every respect capable of Commanding one of the Cutters to be built for the use of the United States—Given under our Hands the fifteenth day of September 1790.” It was signed by William Herbert, Charles Timms, Jesse Taylor, Richard Conway, William Hodgson, Richard Hooe, Josiah Watson, John Fitzgerald, and William Hunter, Jr.

For the background to the establishment of the Revenue Cutter Service, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 10 Sept. 1790, n.1.

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