George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Johann Georg Christian Fick, 27 January 1794

From Johann Georg Christian Fick

Erlangen1 January the 27th 1794.


From another part of the globe I find myself induced, by reverence to You and Your great merits to Your Country, whose freedom and happiness You have been the founder of, to tell You an history, which I believe, shall be worthy of Your and Your country’s notice. A quarter of a year past there arrived, three hours from hence, at Nuremberg, a Gentleman who pretended to be an Englishman, and who did give himself the name of Williams; some time after he shewed Diplomes and letters and declared himself for a Colonel in the Service of the United States of North-America; these Diplomes had the seals and arms of the North-American States, had to their subscription Your own name; and he pretended, that it had been committed to his care, to make suit for Officers to a new raising Regiment in Your Country’s service. One of my friends at Nuremberg recommended myself to him,2 and he promised me the place of an Auditor in this Regiment. Other persons here and at Nuremberg he promissed also places and did bid us, to prepare ourselves to the journey. Now he went to Munchen with the declaration, to get there more Officers, and from thence he would send us our Patents. I began the preparation for the journey, anounced my place here at the University and squandered all my little stock of cash to the preparation of the journey. How happy did I dream myself to be so near in fulfilling my long concealed wishes, viz. to serve a Country, whose whole Governmnt did simpathize so much with my political sentiments; but, alas! at last we found ourselves deceived, he had imposed upon a Merchant at Nuremberg with some thousand Florens, and he was gone off from Munchen, after having played there also, for some days, the same trick, having worn there the North-American Regimentals, with the letters P.W. at the girdle before the breast, having payed in this quality to the Elector of Bavarie some visits and having deceived also Merchants and other young people.3 I am assured, Sir! this bad history will be very displeasant to You, the more, because the same trick has been played a Year ago in the Northern Germany, and by which Your great Name has also been put to this wrong use. I believe, Sir, the best method for preventing it in the future, might be, to publish some declaration in german and perhaps french news papers, and for this I wait Your kind command. How many misfortunes can such wretches otherwise commit in our Germany, because many thousands become transported at seeing Your name, and believe all, what is said to them! I know this by myself: some electrical stroke I did feel at looking at Your name, and therefore I threw myself and my great family in the greatest troubles; for now I am without a settlement, and know not, how to maintain my wife and five children. With these, it was my parting wish, to go to a country, which has great Washington at its head! Already I did make many schemes, how I would serve my new country with my few parts, without my office! Perhaps, Sir, this betrayer should only be the mean of recommending myself to Your favour and perhaps this letter procures me a settlement in a country, to whose service my great family should be educated; perhaps I could become a real Auditor, or some teacher at a publick school or at the new establishing University at Philadelphia. Dare I wish, Sir, to see from You some lines in answer of this? they should be my greatest treasure. A Merchant, who lives here, has two brothers, likewise merchants, at New York, named Jacob Mark and Compy.4 by these You will have these bold lines, and by these You can bless with an answer. Sir Your most humble devoted Servant

John Christian Fick,
late Professor at the University of Erlangen


The writer of this letter was Johann Georg Christian Fick (1763–1821), who wrote Praktishce Englische Sprachlehre für Deutsche beyderley Geschlechts (Graz, 1793).

1The city of Erlangen is situated at the confluence of the Schwabach and Regnitz rivers in present-day southwest Germany and is approximately ten miles north-northwest of Nuremberg. It was the site of the Friedrich-Alexander University.

2Fick’s friend was Johann Benjamin Erhard, who wrote about this scam in a letter to GW of this same date; see also Karl August Freiherr von Wangenheim to GW, 10 February.

3Karl Theodor (Charles Theodore; 1724–1799), who resided in Munich, was the Elector and Duke of Bavaria from 1777 until his death.

4The New York City mercantile firm of Jacob Mark & Co. was at 99 Market Street (New-York Directory, 1794 description begins William Duncan. The New-York Directory, and Register, for the year 1794 . . . . New York, 1794. description ends , 124). On Jacob’s brother and former partner, Philip Mark, see Edmund Randolph to GW, 9 April (second letter), and n.1 to that document. No reply from GW has been found.

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