George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Claiborne, 1 October 1793

From William Claiborne

Richmond October 1st 1793


On the 28th of Feby last, I was informed by The Honr. samuel Griffin, That Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne my Eldest son had Obtained an Ensigncy in the Armey of the United States—From my Sons great anxiety to Serve his Country in that Capacity I consented, and in expectation of his being Called into imediate Service, at my request, he disengaged himself from a very Lucrative Business—Not long after, I received information from My friend Mr Griffin that it was probable he would not be Commissiond untill the event of the then proposed Treaty with the Indians was Known,1 From Feby then to the present time, My Son has remained in great anxiety, unwilling to commence Trade again, untill his destiny was fixed; He is a Youth accustomed to Business from Early life and so great is his Aversion to Continue any longer in a State of idleness, that he has thoughts imediately of entering into the Mercantile line, which will prevent his future Acceptance, shoud a Commission be offer’d him; But on the other hand, such is his inclination to become a Millitary Character (and as its his wish I hope he may be gratified) that if there remain’d Even a probability of his Services being wanting in a Short time he would keep himself in readiness to Act.

Pardon then Sir, the Liberty I am about to take, My Sons hapiness in life, is my greatest Care—His absence would be felt Sensibly, because he is a Comfort to me in my Old Age, but that, ah; even his death might happen without my regret, provided it be in his Countrys Cause—He is in his Twenty Second Year and in as much as industry alone, would make him a Useful & worthy Member of Society, (which is the higth of my ambition, & idleness the reverse[)], I wish to see him again in Some Kind of Business—Condicend then Sir, to direct One of your Secretarys to Answer this letter, and Notify me, whether or not he will be Commissiond, & when, and you will Confer on me a distinguishable & Memorable honor, and for which I shall ever be thankful2—I have the honor to be With every Sentiment of Esteem & respect, yr Most Obt & very hble Servant,

William Claiborne

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The cover, addressed to GW at Mount Vernon, is stamped “RICHMOND, Sept. 30” and “FREE.” William Claiborne (1748–1809), the father of William Charles Cole Claiborne, later governor of Orleans Territory, resided at Richmond.

1Claiborne is referring to the treaty with the hostile Indians of the Northwest Territory held at Sandusky in July and August 1793 (see ASP, Indian Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:340–61).

2Bartholomew Dandridge replied to Claiborne in a letter of 4 Oct.: “Your Letter of the 1st inst. to the President of the U.S. has been duly received by him—and in answer there to he has directed me to inform you that the appointment of your Son as an Ensign in the army of the U.S., was only provisional; & that his being called into service or not, depended in a degree on the issue of the late proposed treaty with the Western Indians & other circumstances. The President had expected that your Son, together with others who are in the same predicament, with him had been lately called into service by the Secre’y of war; but as this has not been done, & as it is supposed that the army under command of Genl Wayne has moved before this time, the President would not recommend to your Son to wait in expectation of receiving a Commission Shortly, & thereby lose any opportunity, which might present itself, of enterring advantageously into any other employment, as it is more than probable had the public service required it, the Ensigns provisionally appointed would before this, have been notified thereof.

“It is devoutly wished that the present Campaign may terminate so as to admit of the present military Establishment being reduced; in that case many officers who are now in service would necessarily be discharged; but should the event prove contrary to this wish, & an increase of men & of course officers become necessary, those who have before come forward & applied for commissions would certainly be preferred” (ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW).

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