George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 13 July 1791

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia July 13. 1791.


Having been engaged in court from the time of my leaving you yesterday, for the greater part of the day, I had not an opportunity of conversing with Mr Lewis, until the evening. He has committed to paper the result of his mind, in consequence of my interview with him, and I do myself the honor of inclosing it to you. I was indirectly informed that Judge Yeates would not be induced, upon any consideration, to live in this city; a place, from which the district-judge could not well be absent.1

I also made a distant inquiry as to Mr Fitzsimmons’s inclination to the Auditorship. But I find, that he considers the employment, insufficiently compensated for the interruption, which his private business must sustain.

In revolving the subject of the Postmaster generalship, I have been impressed with the importance of its duties, and the skill, necessary for their execution. In both these, however, I do no more, than concur with you. I beg leave to repeat, what I yesterday took the liberty of suggesting, that the opinion of many respectable men has been strenuous in favor of relaxing that delicacy, which is supposed to have restrained you in the distribution of offices, with respect to those, who are around you. I shall not dissemble my genuine sentiment, that the propriety of departing from it seems to depend on the obvious fitness of the character nominated. By obvious fitness, I mean something, arising from acknowledged talents, habits of business, and public estimation, which will cut off every possible suspicion of an undue predilection. I do not apprehend, that it was your wish, that I should go farther than this. But that some scope of choice may be presented to you, I will submit to your consideration the following names:

Thomas Paine2

Richard Peters.

Wm Smith, Baltimore

Thos Fitzsimmons.

Charles Thomson.

——Huston of Jersey, if living He was a member of congress.3 If the salary would attract candidates at a farther distance, I have no doubt, that you will have a great range for appointing to the office.

I delivered yesterday to the secretary of state the two subjects, with which you charged me for him. I have the honor, sir, to be with the highest and most sincere respect yr mo: ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph


1The enclosure has not been further identified. William Lewis had written earlier to GW, on 8 July 1791: “I am honored with a Communication, very grateful to my feelings, which you have been pleased to make to me through Major Jackson, relative to the office lately held by the honorable Mr Hopkinson, and under the impressions which it has occasiond, am truly sorry that Circumstances oblige me to decline the proposed appointment. Altho’ it would be wrong in me to trouble you with many observations on the Subject, the respect which I at all times feel for you, calls upon me to mention, that being in a very eligible Situation at the Bar in point of Emolument, as well as respectability of employment, and of an age perhaps best suited for it, the meditated Change would hardly be Consistent with the duty which I owe to my family” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Lewis shortly thereafter changed his mind, and according to the State Department’s memorandum book, a commission as Pennsylvania district judge was issued to him on 14 July (DNA:PCC, item 187, 113). See also Thomas FitzSimons to GW, 10 May, n.1. Jasper Yeates of Lancaster, Pa. (1745–1817), had been appointed an associate justice of the Pennsylvania supreme court in March 1791.

2It appears that Edmund Randolph later inserted Thomas Paine’s name here at the top of the list as an afterthought. On 21 July Randolph wrote to James Madison: “Mr. J[efferson] and myself have attempted to bring Paine forward, as successor to Osgood. It seemed to be a fair opportunity for a declaration of certain sentiments. But all, that I have heard, has been, that it would be too pointed to keep a vacancy unfilled, until his return from the other side of the water. The contest seems to lie between Pickering, Peters, and F. A. Muhlenberg, who most probably cannot be reelected” (Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 14:51–52).

3South Carolina native William Churchill Houston (1746–1788) graduated from Princeton College in 1768 and served as a member of the Continental Congress from New Jersey from 1779 to 1781 and 1784 to 1785. He was a delegate to the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and the Federal Convention of 1787.

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