George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Marshall, 7 September 1792

From Thomas Marshall

Septr 7th 1792


I take the liberty of writing by Capt. Obannon and in a few words mean to give you the names and rank of the Gentlemen who are most likely to Influence government & give a tone to the politics of this State.1 Isaac Shelby Esqr. Governor. Harry Innes Esqr. (present Judge of the federal Court) first Judge of the high Court of appeals. John Brown Esqr. Senator to Congress. James Brown Esqr. Secretary. George Nicholas Esqr. Attorney General for that and almost every post of power or proffit in the state fill’d by their friends and adherants. From this you may judge of my situation who have formerly offended some of them & can never make concessions without violating my own conscience. It is true I want nothing which they have to bestow; yet they can by missrepresentation vex me, by rendering me obnoxious to the people.

Colo. Muter, who can never be forgiven for suffering the publication of Mr Browns letter, has pretty severely felt the rod of power. He has been by the choice of the Assembly of Virginia, for seven years past first judge of the supreme Court of the District of Kentucky, with a Salary of £300 pr Annum & is without any fault alleged against him turned down to the Court of Oyer & terminer where the Salary it is thought will be very trifling—for the Salary of the judges are not yet fixed.2

I have recieved a letter from Colo. Richard C. Anderson requesting my recommendation of him to fill the office of Commissioner of loans if such an office should be necessary in this State. To recommend a Gentleman to fill any office is a liberty I have never yet taken, nor do I think my self by any means authorised to do so, but as I have had a long acquantance with Colo. Anderson both in the Army & since it was discharged, & have the highest opinion of his merit as an officer & a Gentleman, I hope you will pardon me for being the means of his wishes having come to your knowledge.3 I have the honor to be with the most cordial wishes for a long continuance of your health & prosperity Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

T. Marshall


Thomas Marshall, father of the future Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall, moved from Fauquier County, Va., to Kentucky in 1783. In March 1792 GW appointed him inspector of the seventh survey in Virginia, which comprised the Kentucky district (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 6 Mar. 1792). Marshall continued in this position after Kentucky became the fifteenth state on 1 June 1792.

1Capt. John Obannon (O’Bannon; d. 1813) was deputy surveyor for Virginia’s bounty lands located northwest of the Ohio River under the supervision of Richard Clough Anderson (see note 3). During the winter and spring of 1788, Obannon surveyed land purchased in the region by GW. A resident and militia officer of Fauquier County, Va., during the Revolutionary War, Obannon had moved to Kentucky about 1784, eventually settling in Woodford County (see Randall, “Washington’s Ohio Lands,” description begins E. O. Randall. “Washington’s Ohio Lands.” Ohio Archæological and Historical Society Publications 19 (1910): 303–18. description ends 305–6; Collins, History of Kentucky, description begins Lewis Collins and Richard H. Collins. Collins’ Historical Sketches of Kentucky. History of Kentucky . . .. 2 vols. Covington, Ky., 1878. description ends 2:766).

2Isaac Shelby (1750–1826) surveyed lands in Kentucky for the Transylvania Company and the military during the Revolutionary War, and he settled there after the war. In January 1791 Congress appointed Shelby to the Board of War for the District of Kentucky, which was responsible for the defense of the frontier and the management of punitive expeditions against hostile Indians. An active proponent of Kentucky’s independence from Virginia, he was elected the state’s first governor in May 1792. Under Shelby’s leadership Kentucky supported General Wayne’s military activities in the Northwest Territory.

Harry Innes, John Brown, George Nicholas, and George Muter were all Virginia natives, and all except Innes were Revolutionary War veterans. All four men moved to the Kentucky district shortly after the war. Early advocates of Kentucky’s independence, they became prominent political leaders in the district and then in the new state. GW appointed Innes the U.S. district judge for Kentucky in 1789, and Innes served in that office until his death. Brown represented the Kentucky district of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1789, and, when Kentucky became a state in 1792, he was elected a U.S. senator, continuing in that office until 1805. Nicholas helped draft Kentucky’s first constitution, and he became the state’s first attorney general. Muter was appointed a district judge for Kentucky in 1785 and then to the Kentucky appellate court in 1792, serving until 1806. For background on Thomas Marshall’s dispute with these men, see his letter to GW of 11 Sept. 1790, and notes.

3Richard Clough Anderson, Sr. (1750–1826), a Virginia native and Revolutionary War veteran, was appointed the principal surveyor for Virginia’s bounty lands in July 1784. He and his deputies were responsible for surveying the lands that Virginia set aside for its Continental army veterans between the Green and Cumberland rivers in Kentucky and between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers in Ohio. Settling near Louisville, Ky., Anderson opened his surveying office on 20 July 1784, and he served in the Kentucky legislature for several years. He did not receive the desired federal appointment (see Collins, History of Kentucky, description begins Lewis Collins and Richard H. Collins. Collins’ Historical Sketches of Kentucky. History of Kentucky . . .. 2 vols. Covington, Ky., 1878. description ends 2:370, 375–76).

Index Entries