George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Gassaway, 21 May 1794

From John Gassaway

Annapolis 21st May 1794

Dear Genl

Being informed of the Vacancy lately occasioned in the Collectors Office at the Port of Baltimore in this State, I presume to solicit from your Excellency the Succession to that appointment, It would perhaps be improper for me to attempt the Recommendation of myself by dwelling on my Capacity to discharge the Duties of such an appointment, or by enumerating my Services as an Officer in the late War with Great Britain, but I may be permitted to mention to your Excellency that I left the Service on the restoration of Peace with a Constitution broken by the hardships I had sustained, both in the field and as a prisoner of War, and was soon after, in common with many others, compelled by necessity to part from the pledge of Compensation intended me by my Country at a Sixth of its Value—I have now an infant Family to support whose sole dependence is on me,1 and my and their only means of maintenance arise from an Office conferred on me by the Legislature of Maryland whose profits with the strictest Oconomy are scarcely adequate to this Object—From having acted under General Williams by whom I was employed as an Assistant while he held his appointment from this Government,2 and from my early as well as recent Habits of Business I am flattered with an Assurance that I shall be competent to the Satisfactory Execution of the trust I have taken the liberty to Solicit, If the Circumstances I have thus had the honour to State with the enclosed Testimonials given on a former Occasion by the late General Smallwood and Williams, which are Copies from the Originals lodged among the Archives of the Legislature of Maryland,3 are entitled to your Excellencys attention and should procure with You an Interest in my behalf, I have only to assure you with the most perfect Sincerity that my whole life shall be employed in unremitted endeavours to merit your and my Countrys confidence. I have the honour to be Your Excellencys Most Obedient Hble servt

John Gassaway


John Gassaway (1754-1820) served during the Revolutionary War as an officer (lieutenant and later captain) of the 1st and 2d Maryland Regiments from December 1776, being captured at the Battle of Camden on 16 Aug. 1780 and remaining a prisoner of war until the end of the conflict. In 1787 the Maryland legislature appointed him register of wills for Anne Arundel County, and he retained that post at least until 1807.

1Gassaway married Mary (Polly) Quynn (c.1769-1795) on 1 Jan. 1788 and had surviving children Eliza (b. 1788) and John (b. 1790).

2Gassaway was employed for a time as a clerk for Otho Holland Williams, then naval officer for the port of Baltimore, resigning in August 1786 for reasons of health (Otho Holland Williams Papers, entry 364).

3The enclosed testimonials have not been identified. The nature of the testimonial from Otho Holland Williams is, however, suggested by his letter of 8 Sept. 1787 to then-governor William Smallwood, recommending Gassaway for register of wills by citing "A knowledge, acquired by experience of Capt. Gassaways abilities, assiduity and integrity" (DNA:PCC, Miscellaneous Papers, Letters of Commendation and Recommendation). Gassaway subsequently obtained a reference from Maryland judge and former congressman Joshua Seney, who wrote GW on 22 July that he believed Gassaway to be "a deserving Citizen of fair and respectable Character" who had "satisfactorily executed" the office of register of wills "for a number of years" and who "possesses the Esteem of his Acquaintances generally and in Business is reputed to be attentive and diligent" (ALS, DLC:GW).

Index Entries