George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hurd, 6 March 1792

From John Hurd

Boston March 6th 1792

Presuming on the Candor with which Your Excellency receives Applications from persons of all Denominations—I take the Liberty with modest diffidence, to address you, & request the favor, that among the Number of Candidates for Official Business by Appointmts from Congress, I may have liberty to offer myself and beg your Indulgence to make Mention of the Circumstances & Situation I was in, previous to, & during great part of the late War.

A few years before the Commencemt of Hostilities I had officiated as private Secretary to Governor Wentworth in New Hampshire and Deputy Surveyor of His Majestys Woods—and after several years Services under him By his recommendation remov’d into the Coho’os Country on Connecticut River, where in a then new establishd County, I was honord wth several public Employments, pardon my mentioning the particulars—viz.

Receiver General of His Majesty’s Quit Rents for the province of N:H.—Register of Deeds in the County, County Treasurer, first Justice of the Court of Common pleas, with a Commission of Colonel in the Militia—The Emoluments of all which were as good as £200 Sterling p. an[nu]m. But as I took the side of my Country from principle early in the Contest, notwithstanding a near Connection & Friendship with Governor Wentworth, I freely resignd all Employmt under the British Governmt, & was chosen by the people of Haverhill (Coho’os) to attend the first Convention at Exeter; from whence I was deputed one of the Committee to go down to Portsmouth being known to be well acquainted there, and demand of all the public Officers, the public Money they had on hand; and did actually receive out of the Treasury upwards of sixteen hundred pounds in Gold & silver, which I deliver’d into the hands of Treasurer Gilman at Exeter, and it was of eminent Service at that Juncture to send abroad for a supply of Gunpowder—this was effected while one of the British Frigates lay in the River, and Governor Wentworth at Fort William & Mary, who having Intelligence of what the Committee was doing sent two of his most intimate Friends to the Treasury, Doctor Rogers of the Council & Mr McDonough his private Secretary, the same Gentleman who now resides in Boston as British Consul, to be Evidences of the Fact—and the Barge Men of the Frigate with an Officer were also at hand to watch our Motions, offering his Services to the Treasurer, who however declin’d making any Stir, and sufferd us to carry off the money—From this time I must of Course have bid Adieu to all Expectations from the British Government.1

I was often employd in the public Service, and among several Others residing on that Frontier pointed at by the Enemy, and frequently in danger of being carried off into Canada by scouting parties; was also assisting to General Bayley, Colonel Bedel and General Hazen when by Yr Excellency’s Orders he was cutting a Road towds Canada & making a Diversion in that Country.2

The Circumstances of my Family oblig’d me to remove from thence to Boston my native place in 1779 where I have since resided in the Employment of an Assurance Broker—my two only Sons that I then had, I sent into the Army, one of sixteen years old was at Sarataga at the Capture of General Burgoine, and afterwards out in a privateer Captain of Marines, the other was in the Service an Ensign in Colonel Henry Jackson’s Regimt the last three years of the War, & died soon after the Close in a Consumption hasten’d on by the fatigues of the Service, being of a slender Constitution.3

In the year 1783 I married the Widow of Doctor Isaac Foster who was Director General of the Hospitals for the Northern Department, a Gentleman, I presume well known to your Excellency from the time of your being at Cambridge in this State, and the greatest part of the War4—he was suppos’d to have left a Sufficiency for the support of his Widow & Children by the Security he had to receive from the public—But the Necessities of the family were such as obligd us to part with the most of them at a time when they were at the lowest Ebb of Depreciation—I had the Misfortune to loose my Wife in the year 1786 who left on my hands three of the Doctor’s Children with three young ones we had together—their little Fortune being cheifly in public Securities almost exhausted, and my own property lying principally in the back Lands in N: Hampsh: where I before resided and necessarily expended very considerable Sums, but to little purpose as the Value of those Lands have turnd since the War, & having sufferd much by the Depreciation of public Securities before the new federal Government was establishd, reduces me to the Necessity of making this late application to Your Excellency for some public Employmt in an Official way—I do not look for, nor expect any great Things, a decent support being pretty far advancd in Life, woud be quite satisfactory—my Character while in New Hampshire was well known to several Gentlemn now in Congress, Mr Langdon of the Senate & Judge Livermore, also to several from this state Mr Goodhue, Mr Gerry & Mr Ames—and in particular the Vice President, to whom I had the honor of writing on the subject, last year and if your Excellency thinks proper, beg to be refer’d to him5—I am sensible, Sir, you may be troubled with many solicitations in this way, & it hurts my feelings to take up so much of your time at this interesting Juneture —If from the relation of my particular Circumstances, & the Sacrifice I made of my several Offices under the former Government by adhering to the Interest of my Country, You think I merit any Claim, whatever Commands you may honor me with shall be executed with the strictest Integrity & punctuality, and I will with the utmost gratitude acknowledge the favor, being most respectfully your Excellency’s very obedient humble Servt

John Hurd


John Hurd (1727–1809), the son of Boston goldsmith Jacob Hurd, graduated from Harvard College in 1747. After his marriage in 1755 to Elizabeth Foster (d. 1779) of Boston, he traveled widely from Nova Scotia to New Hampshire filling commissions for various Boston merchants. As early as 1763 he became interested in the frontier lands of the Coös region. While transacting land business in Portsmouth, N.H., Hurd came to the notice of royal governor John Wentworth (1737–1820), who made him his private secretary. The Hurds had at least two children by early 1773, when they moved to Haverhill in Grafton County, N.H.; Hurd was subsequently appointed to several county offices and served on the county court. He married Mary Russell Foster (c.1749–1786) in 1783 and had three children by her. Hurd married his third wife, Rebecca Leppington Hurd (c.1751–1836), in June 1790. She wrote Abigail Adams in July 1790 and again eight years later, asking her to support Hurd’s applications to John Adams for federal office (see Rebecca Leppington Hurd to Abigail Adams, 26 June 1798, MHi: Adams Papers).

1On 8 June 1775 the fourth N.H. provincial congress appointed a committee to seize the funds in the royal treasury. Treasurer George Jaffrey of Portsmouth handed over £1,516 in specie to the provincial committeemen despite the presence in Portsmouth Harbor of the royal frigate Scarborough, which sailed for Boston with Governor Wentworth and his family in August 1775. Thomas MacDonogh, who had, in addition to his service as Wentworth’s private secretary, held the offices of N.H. deputy auditor and receiver of quitrents before the American Revolution, served in the Royal Navy for five years before immigrating to Britain in 1780. He returned to New England in the fall of 1790 as British consul for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

2Col. Moses Hazen was sent north in the summer of 1779 to build a road from Newbury, Conn., to within thirty miles of the Canadian border in preparation for a renewed American military effort in that direction. Jacob Bayley (1728–1815) served as a brigadier general in the N.H. militia and was a Continental deputy quartermaster general during the Revolutionary War. For his efforts to build a road to Canada in 1776, see Papers, Revolutionary War Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series. 25 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1985–. description ends , 2:602–3, 3:363–64, 512, 4:306–7, 399, 5:97–98, 6:571–72, 584–85. Timothy Bedel (c.1737–1787) rose from captain to colonel of the N.H. Rangers in 1775. After being cashiered in the summer of 1776, he was appointed a colonel in the N.H. militia, and he served in that capacity until 1781.

3Hurd’s eldest son, Jacob Hurd (1761–1812), was a private with the New Hampshire troops during the Revolutionary War. His brother, Ensign John J. Hurd, Jr. (d. 1784), was in the 9th Massachusetts Regiment from June 1781 to January 1783, when he transferred to the 2d Massachusetts. Henry Jackson (1747–1809) of Boston was colonel of one of the Sixteen Additional Continental Regiments from 1777 to 1781, when he became colonel of the 9th Massachusetts Regiment. Jackson commanded the 4th Massachusetts Regiment during 1783, and he was brevetted a brigadier general in September 1783.

4Isaac Foster (d. 1781) of Massachusetts, who had been a volunteer surgeon at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 and a hospital surgeon in 1776, served as deputy director general of the hospital in the eastern department from April 1777 until October 1780.

5Hurd wrote a similar letter to John Adams from Boston on 17 Mar. 1790 soliciting “any opening either in this State, New Hampshire, or either of the New States” (MHi: Adams Papers). The letter-book copy of Adams’s reply of 5 April 1790 states that the vice-president had “an agreable recollection” of Hurd’s private character from their “former personal acquaintance” but that he was unable to help him in the present instance: “the office I hold is totally detached from the executive authority, and confined to the legislative; which renders it very improper for me to intermeddle in appointments to offices; except in cases where the President or some of his ministers of State in their several departments, have occasion to ask my opinion of matters of fact. If this should ever happen in your case Sir, my report will certainly be much in your favor” (MHi: Adams Papers). Hurd acknowledged Adams’s letter on 17 April and admitted that “being unknown to the supreme Executive, I had not Resolution eno’ to make my Application to the President himself” (MHi: Adams Papers). Upon the death of loan officer Nathaniel Appleton in Boston in 1798, Hurd applied to President Adams for the vacancy (Hurd to Adams, 26 June 1798, MHi: Adams Papers), but he received neither that nor apparently any other federal appointment. Edward St. Loe Livermore (1762–1832) was appointed U.S. district attorney for New Hampshire in 1794 and associate justice of the state supreme court in 1797. He later served as a Federalist member of Congress from Massachusetts from 1807 to 1811.

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