George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Irwin, 15 July 1791

From Thomas Irwin

Philadelphia 15th July 1791


I hereby take the liberty of Congratulating your Excellency on your safe arrivall from the Southern Tour of the United States over which I hope you will long, and happily preside.

I must beg your Excellencys permission to state a few facts and make a request. I have been a Merchant of this City Twenty Years, in the course of the late Revolution, few owned more private Vessells of War than I did, and no persons Vessells delivered more English Prisonors to the American Commissary, either in the American and French Ports than mine did, towards the conclution of the War Fortune proved unkind, and I had not less than 13 or 14 well equiped Letters of Marque (in all of which I was largely concearned) Captured by the Enemy, since the Peace I owned a part of a large Ship which was Captured by the Algerines. I have lately made a Voyage, to the West Indias where I have also been unfortunate and at the Havana I lost near 20,000 Dollars, from such a Train of missfortunes your Excelly will naturly conclude that my Finances are exausted, that being the case, and being informed, that an Office is Vacant, that requires an accomptant to fill it. I mean that of Auditor. I take the Liberty of Offering your Excellency my service and of assuring you that should I be so happy as to meet your Excellencys Approbation, unremitting care attention and Fidelity shall be used by me in the Execution of the Business—should an information respecting my Character be necessary, I will be much Obliged to your Excellency If you will please to inquire of the Govornor of this State the Governor of New Jersey, The Honable Judge Wilson, Robt Morris and Blair McClenachan Esqrs. or Genl Irvine—If I should not be so happy as to meet your Excellencys choise in this appointment I request you will please to remember me, when a future opportunity may Offer.1 I have the Honor to be with every sentiment of regard &c. &c. &c. Your Excellencys Most Obt most Huml. servt

Thomas Irwin


Philadelphia merchant Thomas Irwin invested in the following Revolutionary War privateers: the sloop Queen of France, schooners Chance and Concord, brigs Delaware, Hetty, Impertinent, Lady Gates, Neptune, and Susannah, and ships Congress, Minerva, Revolution, and Washington. For Mathew and Thomas Irwin & Company’s troubles with Algerian corsairs, see Mathew Irwin to GW, 9 July 1789.

1Thomas Irwin again solicited the auditor’s office from GW on 22 Aug., enclosing an unidentified “further Information of my Character” (DLC:GW), which might have been the letter that Blair McClenachan sent GW on 15 July recommending Irwin as a capable merchant, good accountant, and an honest and industrious man whose best exertions in support of his country’s liberties during the Revolutionary War were not wanting (DLC:GW). In later recommending “Irvine’s” application for the auditorship, New Jersey federal marshal Thomas Lowrey wrote to GW on 25 Oct. from Trenton, referring him to an enclosed letter of 11 Oct. to Lowrey, in which New Jersey governor William Paterson stated that “Mr Irwin’s Character, both in a moral and political View, is extremely fair. He is honest, sober, industrious, attentive to Business, and well-versed in Accounts: he was a Merchant regularly bred. He was an early, decided, active, and persevering Whig during the late Contest, and is in Principle closely attached to the present Frame of Government. Mr Irwin was at one Period a Man of very considerable Property, but by a Series of untoward Events is now reduced and in narrow Circumstances. Poverty, however is no Crime. But why need I be particula⟨r⟩ on the Subject—You know Mr Irwin well—Let me then entreat your kind Offices in his Favor; they will be conferred on a meritorious Man” (DLC:GW). Irwin did not receive the desired appointment and again wrote GW the following year, unsuccessfully soliciting the position of treasurer of the U.S. Mint (Irwin to GW, 24 April 1792, DLC:GW).

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