George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Pettit, 24 February 1794

From Charles Pettit

Philadelphia 24th February 1794


May I venture once more to approach Your Excellency, as disposer of public employments, in the character of an applicant? May I, without the imputation of impertinence, venture to suggest that my past services have given me some ground of claim to future confidence, especially when I can with truth say that altho’ some of my public employments have been among those which were reputed lucrative, and altho’ I have not squandered the emoluments of them in extravagance, I have not been enriched by them?1 I have endeavoured to perform the duties to which I have been called, with fidelity & consciencious integrity; but I have shunned rather than courted that kind of popularity which usually excites public attention & eclat: I have sought no station that I did not feel myself equal to the duties of, nor endeavoured to supplant others in their possessions or just expectations. If I have been supplanted in either of these respects, I have not deserved it. I have been no man’s enemy who was a friend to the common cause of the United States, nor joined in factions to disturb the order of society, or to impede the administration of Government. Have I been less assiduous than I ought to have been to obtain Your Excellency’s favorable attention? It has happened from a desire to avoid intrusion, and not from a failure in respect for your character and station. Have I neglected to approach you through the application of friends? I did not suppose such aids necessary; and perhaps a tincture of pride may have had its influence. I have long since heard through a channel that claimed my belief, that my name was on the list of those who were considered as worthy of employment, and I would rather owe an appointment to the spontaneous choice of your Excellency than to the solicitation or even the suggestion of others.

But permit me, Sir, to suggest, that life is fast wearing away; that under an expectation which I had hoped was not wholly without foundation, I have brought myself to a situation in some degree dependant on public employment by devesting myself in a great measure of all engagements which might interfere with the exercise of it; and that at my time of life I cannot with facility again enter into pursuits for its support, which at an earlier period I abandoned at the public call. Had I been as fortunate as some others in establishing an independancy of labor by the means thus put in my power, the honor rather than the emolument, would have been the primary motive to a tender of farther service; but as I am now circumstanced, I will not pretend to conceal that the latter has become the stronger motive, tho’ the former is not at all diminished by it.

Report has for some time past announced the probability that a vacancy will happen, by promotion, in the office of Post-Master General. The Duties of that office are far from being unknown to me, as well from some experience acquired in the early part of life, as from considerable attention paid to the conduct of it since the Revolution; and if I did not believe the business to be perfectly within the compass of my abilities, I would not offer myself a candidate for it.2 But in a thorough confidence that I am equal to the execution of the Office to the satisfaction of your Excellency and the public, I venture to ask it, with that high degree of deference and respect with which I am, and always have been Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant


1On Pettit’s previous, and unsuccessful, application for federal employment and for his military and public service career, see his letter to GW of 24 May 1789, and source note. In his later life, he served as president of the Insurance Company of North America, 1796–98 and 1799–1806.

2Exactly what rumors Pettit had heard concerning Postmaster General Timothy Pickering is not clear, but Pickering did not leave his current position until 2 Jan. 1795, when he replaced Henry Knox as Secretary of War (Senate Executive Journal description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends , 168–69). Pettit did not receive any federal appointment from GW.

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