George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Cabot, 16 November 1792

From George Cabot

Philadelphia Novr 16th 1792


I have thought it my duty to lay before the President of the United States the letter herewith enclosed,1 which was brought me by this day’s post together with several others of similar import from individual Gentlemen, all of them recommending Mr Joy as a Person eminently qualified to serve those the care of whose interests is the immediate object of the application.2

In addition to the reasons expressed by the Merchants of Massachusetts for a consular establishment in India, it is believed that a Gentleman of public character residing at Calcutta, if of competent abilities, might procure admission for our Ships into the ports of one Nation when excluded from those of others, an injury to which that commerce is too much exposed; for although the Vessels of all Nations are permitted to trade at the principal European Settlements in Bengal, yet this is a priviledge held by a very precarious tenure & requires to be secured by some permanent interest, if any such can be created in those Settlements, & by availing ourselves as much as possible of the competition which naturally exists among them.3

the testimony of the Gentlemen trading to India from Massachusetts is so respectable that I can add nothing to its weight, yet justice demands of me to confirm their sentiments in favor of Mr Joy & will induce me to give more ample evidence if required. with the highest degree of respect I have the honor to be Sir your most humble & obedient Servant

George Cabot

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Several Massachusetts merchants had signed the enclosed letter written from Boston to George Cabot on 1 Nov. 1792 recommending for appointment as the first U.S. consul in India Benjamin Joy (c.1757–1829), a Newburyport, Mass., merchant “who is shortly going to India,” and in whose abilities they had confidence. The letter was signed by Thomas Russell, Stephen Higginson, John C. Jones, John Codman, Patrick Jeffrey, Elias Hasket Derby, Joseph Barrell, David Sears, and Joseph Russell, Jr. Tobias Lear endorsed the letter: “Note. there are about 40 Vessels trading beyond the Cape of Good Hope from the State of Massachusetts” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2The other letters to Cabot recommending Joy’s appointment have not been identified. Benjamin Lincoln, however, had written to GW from Boston on 9 Nov. 1792: “You will soon be informed of the wish of a number of Merchants, here, trading to the East-Indies, other than to Canton, that a Consul might be appointed to remain in that country—If the measure shall meet your Excellencys approbation and you should cast your eyes this way for a person to fill the office, and if in that survey Mr Benjamin Joy, who has been, & is returning to the Indies should arrest your notice he will prove himself, I doubt, not a gentleman of information & probity and do honour to the confidence placed in him” (DLC:GW).

3On 17 Nov. 1792 Lear, at GW’s request, forwarded to Jefferson “letters relative to appointing a Counsul for the United States to reside in India; and to request, that, if the Secretary on considering the subject sees no objection to such appointment, he would prepare a message to the Senate therefor” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Jefferson’s letter to GW of 19 Nov. 1792 enclosed “the form of nomination,” which was dated 19 Nov. and nominated Joy as the U.S. consul “at Calcutta and other ports & places on the coast of India in Asia” (the letter and its enclosure are in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW sent Joy’s nomination to the U.S. Senate on 19 Nov. 1792. Joy wrote GW from Newburyport on 9 Dec. 1792 to express his “gratitude for the confidence you have been pleased to repose in me, and for the honor you have done me by appointing me to that office” (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from Consular Offices, Calcutta, India, 1792–1906). Joy arrived in Calcutta in April 1794 to find that British officials refused to recognize his consular authority, although they allowed him to reside there as a commercial agent. By late 1794 continuing health problems convinced Joy to return to the United States. He arrived in Massachusetts in late 1795 and resigned his consulship in January 1796 (see Joy to Edmund Randolph, 24 Nov. 1794, and to Timothy Pickering, 24 Jan. 1796, DNA: RG 59, Despatches from Consular Offices, Calcutta, India, 1792–1906).

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