George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Potts, 17 July 1794

From Richard Potts

Frederick Town [Md.] July 17, 1794


I was yesterday informed of the death of General Williams in Virginia on his way to the Sweet Springs,1 and take the Liberty of requesting the Appointment to the office of Collector of the Port of Baltimore thereby become vacant. My distance from the seat of the State Government will prevent my attempting to accompany this my application with a recommendation from others,2 nor do I suppose that material in cases of Applicants known to yourself—My Conduct in the public Trusts with which I have been honoured must have marked my Character either favorably or otherwise, and I could not expect that an impression on that foundation would be affected by the representation of my friends—Professions on my part would probably have as little Weight, I will only say that if I am successfull in this Application a sense of duty to the public and my own security in a place of such important trust would determine me to execute the Office in person as far as I could, and that I should endeavour to discharge the duties of it with advantage to the public and reputation to myself—A change of family circumstances subsequent to my accepting a seat in the Senate of the United States, and that attention of an infant family rendered indispensable by their late Loss of their other Parent, had determined me to leave that Station at an earlier period than that for which I was elected, before the Event now contemplated took place3—Those considerations will to the State justify my resolution, and I trust to you excuse this application although it should not receive your countenance.4 With Sentiments of the most respectfull consideration I have the Honor to be Your most obed. & very humble Servt

Richard Potts


1Sweet Springs was in Botetourt County, Va., now Monroe County, West Virginia. The death of Baltimore collector Otho Holland Williams on 15 July produced a spate of applications to GW. In addition to Potts, by 25 July, William Buchanan, Samuel Chase, Josias Carvil Hall, Robert Purviance, Nathaniel Ramsay, Robert Denny, John Kilty, and Jeremiah Nicols had applied to succeed Williams, and Martin Eichelberger, Daniel Delozier, John Kirwan, and Christopher Richmond had sent letters seeking appointments to lesser positions they expected would open up as a result of promotions within the customs service. On 9 Aug., GW signed a commission for Purviance to become the collector (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 317).

2Despite this declaration, Potts obtained the support of his predecessor in the U.S. Senate, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who wrote to GW from his Doughregan Manor estate in Anne Arundel (now Howard) County, Md., on 21 July: "if integrity, knowledge of accounts, of the laws, and the habits of, & application to business are qualifications requisite to the person, who fills this office (as they certainly are) I can with confidence recommend Mr Potts to the appointment, no one in Maryland possessing those qualities in a more eminent degree than that gentleman" (DLC:GW).

3Potts took up his Senate seat in January 1793, and his first wife, Elizabeth Hughes Potts, died in October of that year.

4Although Potts did not receive the appointment he sought here, he was offered an appointment as one of the commissioners for the District of Columbia (see GW to Thomas Sim Lee, 25 July).

Index Entries