George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James McHenry, 4 October 1792

From James McHenry

Near Baltimore 4th Octbr 1792.


I do myself the honor to inclose you Mr Tilghmans determination which I received only to-day. I had informed him that you had intimated to me a desire to appoint him to the vacant office of District Attorney if it could be ascertained that he would remove to Baltimore which the nature of the business made necessary. After visiting this Town to examine and investigate prospects in the way of his profession he told me he was satisfied that it would be to his interest to remove; but requested to have an opportunity to consult with his father whom he did not wish to disoblige. I said any delay would be embarrassing to me as the information you had required had been procrastinated already too long; however as my indisposition had chiefly occasioned it, the time he asked for might be placed to that account. I inclose you also Mr Hammonds answer. In every point of view either of these gentlemen would have been an acquisition to Baltimore. The law characters here who may still be unfriendly to the constitution are not sufficiently balanced by those we have of a different description. Hollingsworth belongs yet neither to one nor other or rather to both as the case may be.1

I shall send Mr Smith his commission to-morrow.2 His brother the Col. and Mr Charles Ridgley are competitors for Congress. I hear Colonel Smith will succeed by a considerable majority, but that both Town and County seem to shew by their tardiness to vote no very strong inclination for either. One half of the Town, and this is the last day, have not voted and not one fourth of the County. Mercers election on tuesday night was not in a very favorable train.3

I have been only once in Town since my getting better. I am still very weak. With sincere prayers for your health so essential to us all I am Dr Sir most affectionately and truely Your Obt servt

James McHenry.

Gen. Williams has been very ill at Hagers Town, but is better.4


1For earlier discussion of possible candidates for the position of U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, see GW to McHenry, 13, 31 Aug., McHenry to GW, 16 Aug. 1792. William Tilghman, in the enclosed letter written to McHenry from Chestertown, Md., on 3 Oct., declined the position because the ill health of his father made the required move to Baltimore impossible (DLC: GW). Nicholas Hammond, in the enclosed letter of 12 Sept., wrote James McHenry from Easton, Md., to withdraw his name from consideration, also citing his reluctance to move to Baltimore as his reason (DLC:GW).

2GW had written McHenry on 3 Oct. from Mount Vernon: “If this letter shall have reached your hands before that which I addressed to Mr Robt Smith (under cover to you) has passed from them, I pray you to retain it until you see me, which will be, I expect, about the middle of next week on my return to Philadelphia (if I am not detained by the convalescent State of two of my Servants)—or, if that should happen, ‘till you hear further” (ALS, CSmH; ADfS, PBbCC; LB DLC:GW). McHenry in his second letter to GW of 4 Oct., written at “8 o’clock P.M.,” replied: “I have this moment received your letter of the third and shall observe its directions” (DLC:GW). For GW’s letter to Robert Smith of 31 Aug., see GW to McHenry, 31 Aug., n.3.

3Col. Samuel Smith (1752–1839), a Revolutionary War veteran, was a wealthy Baltimore merchant who was elected to his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1792. He served in the House 1793–1803 and 1816–22 and in the Senate 1803–15 and 1822–33. His opponent, Charles Ridgely, who was a member of another prominent Baltimore family, was described by McHenry in a letter to Alexander Hamilton of 16 Aug. 1792 as being “largely in the iron works a man of great wealth, without skill in public affairs” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 12:212–14). John Francis Mercer, who had been elected to a second term in the House of Representatives in 1792 from Maryland’s second district on Tuesday, 2 Oct., was considered an opponent of Federalist policies.

4Revolutionary War veteran Otho Holland Williams had declined a commission as brigadier general earlier this year because of ill health (see Williams to GW, 13 May 1792). Although Williams went to Barbados in 1793 in an effort to improve his health, he died on 15 July 1794 at the age of 45.

Index Entries