George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Small, 4 December 1792

From John Small

[4 December 1792]1

The Petition of John Small 2 Humbly sheweth, that your Petitioner is a native of the State of Virginia, and born in the County of Princess Ann, and from the Port of Norfolk served a regular Apprentiship to the Seas, which calling, as Commander of a Vessel, he has since followed: but from an unavoidable accident, on board the Ship Governor Livingston, (in which he acted as first Lieutenant) on her Passage from France with warlike Stores, for the State of Virginia, in having three of his Ribs, his Thigh and Coller Bones broken, he is rendered too infirm and lame to pursue that laborius occupation for the maintenance of himself and numerous family.3 And as the Gentleman who was appointed Manager of the Light-House on Cape Henry in this State is since dead, your Petitioner, convinced of the willingness of your honourable Body, to assist those who in the support of our Rights and Liberties have been rendered unable to support themselves and families, is induced to offer himself a Candidate to fill that important Office4—And from his long services in the American War, in which he suffered greatly, as well as a particular attention to the management of Light-Houses, many of which your Petitioner has often frequented, and an acquaintance with Governor Johnson, to whom your Petitioner begs leave to refer your honours for his Character he humbly hopes that you will be pleased to honour him with that appointment5 and should he meet with your Approbation, he assures your honours, that the greatest assiduity and strictest attention shall be used, to merit your approbation, and fully to accomplish the laudable purposes for which the said Light-House was erected, And your Petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray &c. &c.

AL, DLC:GW. identified as item “No. 124 Virga.”

1The date is taken from the docket.

2The heading on this petition reads: “To his Excellency the President and the honourable the Members of the American Congress.”

3The date of Small’s accident has not been determined, but he may have been on the Governor Livingston that arrived at York, Va., on 22 July 1779 from Nantes, France, with military supplies for the state of Virginia (see John Gilbank to John Hancock, 23 July 1779, DNA:PCC, item 78).

4William Lewis died in November 1792, shortly after receiving his appointment as keeper of the Cape Henry, Va., lighthouse (see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 22 Sept., n.6).

5Despite his acquaintance with Thomas Johnson, a former Maryland governor and currently an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Small did not receive the desired appointment, which went to Lemuel Cornick (see Lear to Hamilton, 22 Dec. 1792, DNA: RG 26, Inventory NC–31, entry 16, Miscellaneous Records Relating to the Lighthouse Service; see also the extract in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 13:356–57).

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