George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Simmons, 4 July 1791

From William Simmons

Philadelphia, 4 July 1791. Presents his qualifications for the post of auditor of the United States and requests the appointment on the ground of background study and experience.1


William Simmons of 7 North Sixth Street, Philadelphia, was principal clerk of the U.S. auditor’s office (Philadelphia Directory, description begins Clement Biddle. The Philadelphia Directory. Philadelphia, 1791. description ends 1791, 119). He petitioned Congress in January 1791 for a salary increase, which was supported by Alexander Hamilton’s report of 24 Feb. to the House of Representatives and granted by the “Act supplemental to the act ‘establishing the Treasury Department,’ and for a farther compensation to certain officers” of 3 Mar. (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 8:141–42; 1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 215; 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 3:659, 735).

1Simmons continued serving as chief clerk under auditors William Smith of Baltimore and Richard Harrison. On 19 Oct. 1792 after GW authorized a leave of absence for Harrison who planned a trip to Virginia (see Lear to Hamilton, 13 Oct. 1792, DLC:GW), Hamilton observed to GW “that the absence of the Auditor renders it requisite for the President to designate the person who shall execute the duty of Auditor in his absence, pursuant to the Eighth Section of the Act making alterations in the Treasury and War Departments. The first Clerk naturally presents himself to consideration; and will, it is believed, be adequate to all necessary business” (DLC:GW). Oliver Wolcott, Jr., similarly recommended Simmons to GW on 12 Feb. 1795. Simmons again applied to GW for the auditorship on 31 Jan. 1795, when Wolcott was to be nominated secretary of the treasury and Harrison was likely to be promoted to the office of comptroller: “I have sir been a number of years employed in public offices, and ever since the first organization and establishment of the Treasury Department I have acted as Principal Clerk in the office I now solicit; and during the long interregnum between appointment and acceptance which formerly happened I had its entire direction. But for my Character and pretensions generally I must beg leave to refer your Excellency to the Secretary of the Treasury” (DLC:GW). Again not receiving the requested appointment, Simmons asked Hamilton on 17 Mar. 1795 to recommend his application for the imminent vacancy of accountant to the War Department, noting that his appointment would be perfectly agreeable to the secretary of war, who recommended he write to Hamilton, and requesting “that you will be pleased to inform me whether the arrangements which you have already made are such as to render a direct application from me to the President unnecessary, and if not; that you will be pleased to furnish me with such testimony in support of an application, as you from a knowledge of my character and qualification may think proper” (DLC:GW). Hamilton forwarded Simmons’s letter to GW from Albany on 24 Mar., writing: “I have heretofore had occasion to mention to you the merits of Mr Simmons the writer of the inclosed letter. It is but justice, that I bear in his favour the testimony he desires. I can with truth give my opinion that he is well qualified for the office in question; insomuch that I believe it will be very difficult to find one who has better pretensions—From long service in the Department he understands thoroughly the course of business in it, as well as under the former as under the present Government . . . His intelligence cooperates with his experience to recommend him; and one need not fear to speak too strongly of his assiduity and integrity. So necessary was he in the department from his knowlege of the course of the old business that it cost me repeated pains to prevent his leaving it; and as he had a prospect of doing better in private business than upon a Clerks salary, one of the means employed was to give him the expectation of a recommendation at some future time to some more adequate station, (if an opportunity should occur) for which he was qualified. The present Office is of that nature—and it is but fulfilling my promise to place him before you for consideration. I will only add that if all the considerations proper to be consulted shall appear to you to coincide in him his appointment will give me pleasure” (DLC:GW). GW appointed Simmons accountant to the War Department on 11 April 1795 in place of Joseph Howell, Jr., who had resigned, and presented his nomination to the Senate on 12 June (GW to Simmons, 11 April 1795, copy of commission, 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 1:179, 181). Simmons continued in that office until at least 1809 (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 1:192).

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