George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 22 July 1791

To Henry Knox


Dear Sir,Philadelphia July 22d 1791

If, without disclosing the object in the smallest degree, you can come at (from Mr William Houston or through any other channel by the time you return) the rate of abilities possessed by Colo. (Joseph) Habersham—to what they would most usefully apply—whether he is a man of arrangement—or Industry—&ca you would oblige me in making the enquiry1 I wish also to be informed, if the means of accomplishing it should be within your reach of the law abilities and knowledge generally of Mr John Houston, in case circumstances might envite me to look to that quarter for an Associate Judge for the Supreme Court of the United States.2 Yours sincerely

Go: Washington


1Joseph Habersham (1751–1815) was a planter and merchant of Savannah who attended the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1767 before completing his education in England. He was an early supporter of the American Revolution and served as a major in the Continental army. After the war he served as a state legislator and supported ratification of the federal Constitution. Although Habersham did not receive an appointment at this time, GW named him postmaster general in 1795.

2John Houstoun (1744–1796) was a former governor of Georgia. Knox replied this day to GW from his temporary residence of Bush Hill, John Adams’s Philadelphia home: “I have received the confidential letter with which you have been pleased to honor me. I will pay all the attention thereto which my opportunities shall admit, and report the result I most ardently hope on my return to find you entirely free from pain and in perfect health” (DLC:GW). Knox was leaving for New York to consult with William Duer on their speculations in Maine lands. During his absence Tobias Lear wrote to the principal clerk of the War Department, Maj. John Stagg, Jr., on 28 July that GW “directs me to inform you, that he thinks it best for the letters & papers from Colo. Pickering to Genl St Clair, to be sent to General Butler without a seal, that he, seeing the necessity of their getting to General St Clair as soon as possible, may use the best means of conveying them to him with dispatch & safety” (DLC:GW). After his return to Philadelphia, Knox sent to Arthur St. Clair on 8 Aug. a duplicate of Timothy Pickering’s letter of 8 July to St. Clair informing the general that it was impractical to request the Seneca to join the expedition against the hostile northwestern Indian nations (ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:180–81).

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