George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Francis Willis, 29 March 1792

From Francis Willis

March 29th 1792


I venture on the liberty of enclosing you a copy of a paragraph contained in a letter to me from, Wm Sturges1 now living in Charleston So. Carolina, in the year 82 when I was about to set of to Georgia, supposing that a new Country would hold out advantages to young men of strict morals and promising talents, I offered to take this young Gentleman with me (who is the son of my worthy neighbour The Revd Daniel Sturges) and do the best I could for him, he was about nineteen years of age, I got him in the Surveyor general’s office early in 83, with a sallerey of Eighty pounds sterling per Annum, In April 84 I left the state and returned for my family, in my absence he left the office, oweing to some irregularities not of his but others that were unpleasent to him, since which he has been generally residing in Charleston and Surveying in that state, with tolerable success, the whole of his conduct while under my eye and since as far as I have any knowledge of it serves to impress me with hope almost equal to confidence that he will continue to immitate his amiable father, who is now my neighbour in Georgia, doing as well as might be reasonably expected.

I would not take the liberty in many cases and such as I have several times refused to trouble you with, and indeed one of my own, where I wish for an Ensigncy for one of my Sons,2 but this is peculiar. The old and worthy Clergeman and his family and this young Gentn in particular, have been long before we left Virginia and ever since accustomed to command my attention and friendship and always to deserve that of every one, I hope Sir this is a sufficient apology for the freedom I have taken; with respect to the propriety of my furnishing the materials required, contained in the map of the Federal City now in the possession of the house of Representatives, is an additional reason for this communication.3 I am Sir with the most perfect sentiment⟨s⟩ of respect and Attachment your most obedient and very Humble Servt

Frans Willis


1The enclosed extract reads: “To be brief it is to request of you, that you would be so good as to send me by the first opportunity (if in your power to obtain it) a Plan of the Federal City? as descriptive in a rough manner as possible of the natural and artificial marks (viz.) Rivers, Creeks, Branches, Springs, Marshes, Eminencies &Ca agreeable to the designation and arrangement of—the Gentleman who superintended the laying it out—I forgot his name—I think if you could oblige me in this instance, and I could have time to complete some number of copies before any printed ones are extant that I could dispose of them here to pretty good advantage.

“It is very apposite in my line of business, and will afford me agreeable imployment when the season will not admit of my being active in the field; You know that I have a natural turn as well as fondness, for amusements of that kind which would be hightened by the idea of emolument.

“I wish our good President when he is dispensing his favors, would think of the son of a venerable old acquaintance; who I beleive posseses as many virtues as ever did the patriarchs, Abraham Isaac and Jacob, and who will be bold to say that he inherits a patrimony of his Father which he hopes will ever remain in-tact and unalienable—namely honesty, and a small share of natural ingenuity [.] I have the vanity to think, that had I the honor of his acquaintance, he would not think me altogether an object unworthy his attention in that way. If you could venture to recommend me to him (in which generous act I think my friend Mr [Abraham] Baldwin would not be backward in joining his interest) you would be infinitely obliging a friend, whose conduct I flatter myself would always evince to you, that you had not served him unworthily; I would prefer some appointment in the Geographical or surveying department, in which I am the most conversant; such as laying out and describing boundaries &ca, in the prosecution of which, would endeavour to deduce some Topographical essays, which perhaps may not be void of some utility. Between you and me, I could mention another good it would be promotive of. It would enable me to dispence with the exigences of business in seasons unfavorable to health in our torrid climate, as well as increase that inspiration excited in me by a sense of his inimitable virtues, to attempt an ode to his praise every anniversary of his birthday, which has been my constant practice since I ventured on the back of Pegasus and which my freinds tell me are not to be classed among the meanest of the kind. I do not mention this as anything recommendatory of myself; neither do I think, that any such paltry allurements can possibly bias that Great Man (abstracted from more necessary qualifications for public service) in the disposal of his appointments” (DLC:GW). William Sturges (born c.1763) was the son of the Rev. Daniel Sturges, the Anglican minister of Norbourne Parish at Charles Town, Va. (now W. Va.), from 1771 to 1786. William Sturges received a grant of 400 acres in Richmond County from the state of Georgia in September 1784 (Candler, Revolutionary Records of Georgia, description begins Allen D. Candler, comp. The Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia. 3 vols. Atlanta, 1908. description ends 2:720). He apparently did not receive an appointment from GW.

2None of Francis Willis’s sons received an appointment in the U.S. Army during GW’s tenure in office.

3GW laid an unofficial copy of Pierre L’Enfant’s plan of the Federal City before Congress on 13 Dec. 1791. For the reasons the president was unable to provide Congress with a more polished plan, see GW to Tobias Lear, 2 Oct., note 5, L’Enfant to GW, 21 Nov., editorial note, and GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 13 Dec. 1791, source note.

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