George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James McHenry, 31 August 1792

To James McHenry


Dear Sir,Mount Vernon Augt 31st 1792

The characters given of Messrs Smith & Hollingsworth by you, comports very much with those I have received from others, and therefore of the two, the preference is given to the former.1 But as neither stand upon such high grounds as Mr Tilghman or Mr Hammond, and as it is my duty as well as inclination to fill Offices with the most suitable characters I pray you to make all the indirect enquiry you can whether either of the last named Gentlemen would accept; and, as the nature of the case seems to require, would make Baltimore the place of Residence.2

If the result is unfavourable, be so good as to cause the enclosed to be delivered.3 This case requires a little delicasy in the management and I am persuaded it will receive it from you. I am with sincere esteem and regard—Your Obedt & Affecte

Go: Washington

ALS, CSmH; copy, DLC: James McHenry Papers; ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1No letters to GW recommending Robert Smith for appointment as the district attorney for Maryland, other than McHenry’s letter of 16 Aug., have been found. GW received several letters recommending Baltimore lawyer Zebulon Hollingsworth for this position. For William Vans Murray’s recommendation of 1 Aug., see GW to McHenry, 13 Aug., note 2. John Henry wrote GW on 1 Sept. that Hollingsworth’s “Integrity and professional Talents are known & acknowledged. He is a man of letters, possessing philanthropy, and indeed in every view of his character highly deserving” (DLC:GW). Michael Jenifer Stone said in his letter to GW of 1 Sept. that Hollingsworth is “an Able and attentive Lawyer; a Gentleman of Fair reputation—Entangled with no Party or Faction—A Fast Friend to the Government he wishes to Serve. . . . I am told he has done great part of the United States Business as Locum Tenens for Mr Potts” (DLC:GW). William Paca wrote GW on 18 Sept.: “The legal knowledge and professional Talents of this Gentleman, his Attachment & Zeal for the General Government, the Extent & Influence of his Connections and the Amiableness of his Temper Disposition & Manners give him a Consequence and Respectability of Character equal to any in this State” (DLC:GW). In his letter to GW of 21 Sept., Joshua Seney said: “Mr Hollinsworth is an Attorney of some of the Courts in which I preside, and appears to possess both Industry and professional Talents” (DLC:GW).

2For McHenry’s earlier assessment of Maryland lawyers Robert Smith, Zebulon Hollingsworth, William Tilghman, and Nicholas Hammond, see McHenry to GW, 16 Aug. 1792. For Tilghman and Hammond’s disinterest in the position, see McHenry to GW, 4 Oct. 1792, and note 1.

3GW enclosed his letter to Robert Smith of 31 Aug. offering him the position of district attorney: “If you are disposed to accept the appointment, this shall be your Warrant to Act in it, until a Commission shall issue; which cannot be until the Secretary of State returns to Philadelphia” (ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB DLC:GW). McHenry forwarded GW’s letter to Smith on 5 Oct. (see McHenry to GW, 4 October). When Smith declined the position, Hollingsworth was offered the appointment, and he accepted, writing GW from Baltimore on 30 Oct. 1792 to “express my respectful acknowledgements for the Confidence you have honoured me with in appointing me attorney for this district” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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