George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Hawkins, 4 November 1790

From Benjamin Hawkins

Warren in North Carolina 4th Novr 1790

Dear Sir

I have been informed within a few days of the death of Mr Stokes judge of this district: another of course must be appointed.1 When I had the honour of conversing with you on the subject of appointments upon the extension of the Laws of the Union to this State, I informed you that the gentleman you then nominated to this trust was incontestably the most respectable and respected law character, and that next to him was our Attorney general Mr Alfred Moore.2 Colo. Davie declining his appointment and Mr Moore requesting that he might not be named the Senators were at a loss who to recommend, and were silent.3 Some of the representatives and I believe Mr Steele in particular pointed out the gentleman lately deceased. You informed me that you had but one wish, which was, to be informed of the fitest characters in every State, to the end of their being intrusted with the most important offices in government: and that in the infancy of ours, you could not get a knowledge of such, other than, thro’ the information you expected from those in public trust.

I take the liberty of this introduction and an apology for naming a gentleman to you to succeed Mr Stokes.

Colo. John Sitgreaves who resides at New-Bern and is the attorney for this district is a native of this State, has always supported a fair and honourable character, has been in the practice of the law for ten or a dozen years was a member of the old Congress and appointed in the year 1786 a judge of the federal court between Massachusets and New-York, He is married in one of the most respectable families in this country, and would I am this day informed feel himself honoured by the appointment.4 I have the honour to be with great & sincere esteem Dear Sir your most Obt & hle srvt

Benjamin Hawkins

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1John Stokes, whom GW appointed U.S. district court judge for North Carolina in August 1790, died on 12 Oct. 1790 (see John Steele to GW, 4 June 1790, n.3, GW to the U.S. Senate, 2 Aug. 1790; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 2:84, 531).

2GW signed “An act for giving effect to an act intituled, ‘An act to establish the judicial courts of the United States,’ within the state of North-Carolina” on 4 June 1790 and probably met with Hawkins at that time, although there is no record of the conversation. GW later recorded that Hawkins dined with him on 1 July (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 1:337, 3:446; Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:77, 80).

3GW appointed William Richardson Davie North Carolina district court judge on 7 June 1790 (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 7 June 1790, and Steele to GW, 4 June 1790, n.1).

4GW had appointed John Sitgreaves (1757–1802) North Carolina district attorney in June 1790. Sitgreaves had served as aide-de-camp to the North Carolina adjutant general William Caswell during the Revolutionary War and afterwards was a member of the Confederation Congress and the North Carolina general assembly, in the latter of which he served as speaker. His wife was Martha Jones Green, daughter of Gen. Allen Jones. As district attorney Sitgreaves wrote to GW from New Bern with news of the death of Stokes (Sitgreaves to GW, 8 Nov. 1790, NN: Emmet Collection, Hugh Williamson to GW, 6 Nov. 1790, DLC:GW; see also GW to the U.S. Senate, 7 June 1790; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 2:79, 530).

On 6 Nov. 1790 U.S. congressman Hugh Williamson wrote GW from Edenton, N.C., also notifying him of the death of Stokes, mentioning “We have two or three very able Lawyers with excellent Characters” who “will not agree to serve at the present Salary” and recommending Sitgreaves as “on the whole to be the mòst eligible for a Judge of any that I have heard named” (DLC:GW). Williamson also recommended William Henry Hill (1767–1808), a Wilmington, N.C., area lawyer and planter, as district attorney if Sitgreaves should be promoted. On 17 Dec. 1790, the day after U.S. congressman John B. Ashe also recommended Sitgreaves as judge and Hill as district attorney, GW nominated them both (Ashe to GW, 16 Dec. 1790, DLC:GW; GW to the U.S. Senate, 17 Dec. 1790, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–91, Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Executive Nominations; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 2:99, 100, 528).

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