George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Garret Rapalje, 6 January 1794

From Garret Rapalje

New York Jany 6th 1794

The Memorial of Garret Rapalje of the City of New York Merchant—Humbly Sheweth,1

That your Memorialist, has resided upwards of five Years at New Orleans in West Florida in the Spanish Dominion that he is well acquainted with the Situation Politicks and Commerce of that Country—That the Trade from the Interior Parts of the Continent in the United States down the Misissipi is very great and extensive.

That the Inhabitants of the United States suffer much from a Want of a proper Person in the Character of a Consul to represent the Interests of the Traders to the Spanish Government to prevent any Grevances which daily happen from the Want of such a Person to interfere in their Behalf.

That your Memorialist is well known to Mr Elias Boudinot of the House of Representaives in Congress from the State of New Jersey.2

That your Memorialist hopes your Excellency will consider the Necessity of such an appointment—that he has a numerous Family to support that he has been a great Sufferer during the lat[e] War between America and Great Britain that it is the best Service he can render himself and his Country—that a small Salary to enable him to maintain his Family with his Knowledge and experience in Trade and Commerce will make the Situation more eligable to him than any other Person.3

That your memorialist hopes your Excellency will take into Consideration the Prayer of this your Memorialists humble Petition and your memorialist will ever Pray &c.

Garret Rapalje

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Merchant and land speculator Garret Rapalje (1730–c.1795) was of Dutch ancestry and resided in New York City prior to the Revolutionary War. By 1777, however, he had settled at Squire’s Point in Sussex County, N.J., where he owned the Brooklyn (Brookland) forge. During the war his loyalty to the American cause was questioned on several occasions, eventually leading to periods of brief incarceration in 1777 and 1778. In addition to his trade in iron, he also speculated in land in British West Florida, where he received a grant for 25,000 acres in 1774. With the profit received from the division and sale of this land, Rapalje purchased a plantation near Baton Rouge, in present-day Louisiana, but he did not move there until after the Revolutionary War had ended. Rapalje’s ventures in Louisiana proved unsuccessful, and he returned to New York City sometime before his death. See Charles Shimer Boyer, Early Forges and Furnaces in New Jersey (Philadelphia, 1931), 46–47, 218–19; Christopher Morris, Becoming Southern: The Evolution of a Way of Life, Warren County and Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1770-1860 (New York, 1995); and real estate advertisement, Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), 17 June 1778.

2In 1777, Elias Boudinot made arrangements with Rapalje to harbor his wife, Hannah Stockton Boudinot, should British troops threaten their home (Boyd, Elias Boudinot description begins George Adams Boyd. Elias Boudinot: Patriot and Statesman, 1740–1821. Princeton, N.J., 1952. description ends , 42).

3On behalf of GW, Edmund Randolph wrote Rapalje on 7 Feb. that “circumstances have hitherto prevented the establishment of such an office” in New Orleans and “continue to prevent it” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

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