George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Salmon, 13 February 1791

From George Salmon

Baltimore 13th February 1791


I should not have ventured to address your Excellency, were I not assured from the innumerable instances of your goodness, that whatever may be the issue of my application, you will forgive the intrusion when you know it is from one who has experienced in his own fate a Considerable change of fortune. a long residence in this Town, a large and respectable acquaintance, some Mercantile knowledge, my situation and the suggestions of my friend Doctor McHenry (who addressed Your Excellency lately in my behalf) have induced me to take this liberty to propose myself to Your Excellency’s consideration, as a Candidate for Excise officer for this Town or district. should I be thought qualified for the trust, it shall be my invariable study to execute it with diligence and fidelity, and to remember with gratitude to whose bounty I am indebted—Mr Wm Smith is the only Person in our Delegation with whom I am acquainted, or who may be able to give your Excellency any information respecting my character which you might desire to know, but Your Excellency will think that Doctor McHenry would not recommend an improper Person to your notice. With the most lively sentiments of veneration, I beg leave to subscribe myself Your Excellency’s, most obedt Servant

George Salmon


George Salmon (d. 1807) emigrated from Ireland and was a partner in the Baltimore mercantile firm of Woolsey & Salmon. He fitted out privateers during the Revolution (East, Business Enterprise, description begins Robert A. East. Business Enterprise in the American Revolutionary Era. New York, 1938. description ends 168–172, 304). He was appointed one of the judges of the court of oyer and terminer for Baltimore County in October 1789 (Md. Archives, description begins Archives of Maryland. 72 vols. Baltimore, 1883–1972. description ends 72:51).

James McHenry had written to GW on 29 Jan. 1791 recommending Salmon for the post of excise collector. His letter reads: “It being probable that the excise will be adopted, perhaps it may be a consideration with your Excellency to place its collection in the hands of as respectable citizens as may be inclined to act under it; not only with a view to guard against some presumed inconveniencies from an improper exercise of its authorities; but, because the character and conduct of the collectors of such a tax must always have more or less influence on its productiveness or popularity. In such an event I would beg leave to recommend Mr George Salmon of this town, for prudence and discretion, integrity and respectibility of character. This gentleman has been in the wholesale merchantile line, from which he has lately retired, after having sustained heavy and numerous losses; and is now one of the judges of our criminal court, and a magistrate well esteemed by the people. I believe, a small addition to his income would be far from unacceptable, which, with some conversation I have had with him on the subject, makes me think he would be exceedingly grateful for an appointment.

“Should you think it expedient therefore to assign the collection of a tax of so doubtful an issue as that in contemplation to men of Mr Salmons rank and character in life, (where such is to be obtained) I can say with great truth, that there cannot be found in this Town, one of a more conciliating turn, or better qualified to reconcile to its due execution. Mr Salmon has besides been a resident of Baltimore these twenty years, and is withal possessed of so much modesty, that however necessary an office might be to him, he is one of the last persons who would struggle through a croud to attain it; a circumstance among others that has induced me to intreat, as a favor, that your Excellency would, according to your wonted goodness distinguish him from those who are perpetually on the watch for lucrative appointments.

“Mr Smith of the house of representatives is acquainted with Mr Salmon should it at any time occur to your Excellency to make inquiry respecting him.

“I pray you to forgive this application, and to ascribe it to the motives which have alone produced it. I assure you it proceeds intirely from myself, without the spur of importunity or solicitation: For although I have withdrawn myself from public life, I feel a tender concern for whatever may conduce to the general tranquility, and an earnest desire to give stability to the government, as far as that may be effected without again reentering upon a stage which offers me no pleasures equal to those I now enjoy. In reviewing these, that of sometimes writing to you, and being sometimes noticed by you, is far from the least” (DLC:GW). Salmon received no appointment at this time, but McHenry continued to interest himself in Salmon’s welfare. On 30 Sept. 1792 he wrote to Alexander Hamilton seeking the post of naval officer at Baltimore for Salmon (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 12:509–12).

McHenry wrote again to GW on Salmon’s behalf on 8 Aug. 1793, after the death of Robert Ballard, surveyor and inspector of the port of Baltimore, recommending Salmon as "perfectly qualified to discharge the highest office in the customs" (DLC:GW). McHenry wrote to GW again on 20 July 1794, urging that Salmon should be considered “should any vacancy occur in the customs or naval office” (DLC:GW). Despite McHenry’s repeated recommendations, Salmon received no appointment from GW. Salmon was subsequently a founding director of the Bank of Baltimore and was elected its first president in 1796 (Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County, description begins J. Thomas Scharf. History of Baltimore City and County. 1881. New ed., 2 vols. Baltimore, 1971. description ends 1:455).

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