George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Lewis, 12 November 1791

From William Lewis

Fredericksburg, Va., 12 Nov. 1791. Solicits the position of the keeper of the lighthouse on Cape Henry and refers to John Fitzhugh of Chatham, Stafford County, Va., Luther Page of Mannsfield, Spotsylvania County, Va., John Lewis of Fredericksburg, and Thomas Newton of Norfolk, Va.; “Mr Jefferson if he has Not forgot me will I expect Vouch for me I wrote by Mr Munroe—to him on that Account.”1


During the Revolutionary War William Lewis (d. 1792) was commissioned a Virginia naval captain in 1781, when the armed merchant vessel he commanded, the Renown, was impressed into state service (Thomas Jefferson to Lewis, and Commission, 4 Mar. 1781, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 5:57–58). GW appointed Lewis surveyor for the port of Fredericksburg in the summer of 1789 and inspector of the revenue for that port in the spring of 1792 (GW to the U.S. Senate, 3 Aug. 1789, 6 Mar. 1792 [third letter]). In October 1792, after construction of the Cape Henry lighthouse was completed, GW appointed Lewis its keeper, with an annual salary of $400 (Tobias Lear to Alexander Hamilton, 13 Oct. 1792, and Tench Coxe to Hamilton, 31 Oct. 1792, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 12:552–53, 635–36). Lewis died a short time later.

1In a letter of 22 Oct. delivered to Jefferson by James Monroe, Lewis solicited Jefferson’s “friendship” for the appointment, enclosing his commission of 1781, with a request that it be returned, and noting: “I am now Acting as Surveyor of the Customs at this port but should prefer Living on the sea Coast.” Lewis stated that he could have letters of recommendation from every member of Virginia’s congressional delegation and named the same references as in the above letter, as well as James Madison and Edmund Randolph (DLC:GW).

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