George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Thornton, 29 November 1793

From William Thornton

Wilmington (Delaware) November 29th 1793.


I have lately been informed that your Secretary, Mr Lear, has taken his departure for England, on private Business, and as I imagine the multiplicity of your Engagements, and the extent of your Correspondence will require a Substitute I take the liberty of tendering my Services; yet with a degree of hesitation mixed with Confidence. I hesitate, lest my Abilities may not be equal to all that might be requisite; but I should rest much Confidence in my Endeavours to render Satisfaction, and to prove myself worthy of the Trust reposed in me. While, however, I solicit this Trust I cannot be ignorant of a Circumstance that might operate to my disadvantage. My Situation in Life has precluded me from the honor of being but very partially known to you, and I must request a reference to one of my Friends. I had the pleasure of residing for some years in the same House with Mr Madison, to whom I should with much Satisfaction submit my Reputation.1

I am well aware, Sir, that numerous applications are made to you upon Occasions of this sort, and I reluctantly trouble you with this, but my desire to dedicate my time to you and my Country, would not permit me to be silent. Whatever may be your Determination in this Instance it cannot lessen my wish to serve you to the utmost of my power, nor affect the sincerity with which I have the honor of declaring myself your respectful, and affectionate Friend &c.2

William Thornton


1While at Philadelphia from 1787 to 1790, Thornton stayed at Mary House’s boarding establishment, also used by James Madison.

2GW replied to Thornton on 3 Dec.: “thank you for your obliging offer to supply the Office lately occupied by Mr Lear. I am persuaded it would have been ably filled with your abilities—but previous to the departure of that Gentleman my arrangements were made in favor of Mr Dandridge, who is now in the exercise of the Office of private Secretary” (ALS, DLC: William Thornton Papers).

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