George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Purviance, 19 July 1794

From Robert Purviance

Naval Office, Baltimore, 19th July 1794


The death of General Williams which I sincerely regret as a loss to the public necessarily gives to your Excellency the appointment of a successor, Being in the same department I at first thought only of stating my peculiar situation and repeating to you my gratitude for your past kindness to a Young and helpless family, and to have pray’d that you would still further extend your protection to them & me; but it having occurred to me, that in a case like the present, you might with some proofs of the light in which I may be viewed by my fellow Citizens, who have had daily & the best opportunity of Judging of my official conduct, I have inclosed a certificate containing their opinion,1 Should this testimonial & my past conduct through life and the Office you assigned me meet with your approbation, I shall carry with me to the grave the greatness of the Benefit I hope for in this occasion and leave behind me Children whom I flatter myself will never forget what they owe to their Benefactor. With the most unfeigned respect and veneration, I have the honor to be Sir, Your Most Obedt huml. Serv.,

R. Purviance


1In the enclosed certificate, dated 18 July and signed by forty-three individuals and firms, "the Subscribers certify with great pleasure that Mr Robert Purviance has conducted himself as Naval officer much to our satisfaction, and it having pleased god to remove General Williams, we beg leave, as Mr Purviance’s character is unexceptionable and his abilities fully equal to the duties of Collector to recommend him to succeed to that office" (DLC:GW).

James McHenry, who was among the signers of the certificate, also wrote a separate letter recommending Purviance to GW on 20 July, noting that "Indeed ever since the appointment of Mr Delozier to the surveyorship he has discharged not only the duties of his own department, but the most important of those of the collectors, otherwise the public must have greatly suffered"; that "his early and fixed habits as a merchant, and the perfect knowlege he has acquired of the duties of the collectors department in all its branches" gave him "a just claim to the office"; and "as a collateral consideration . . . the total inadequacy of his present office to the support of his very numerous family" (ALS, DLC:GW).

Purviance also had the support of Maryland congressman Samuel Smith, who wrote GW on 18 July that "the whole tenor" of Purviance’s "Conduct since he fill’d the present office has uniformly met the Approbation of those who had Opportunity of Offerring him in its Execution & that I have no doubt he will pay the same unremitting Attention to the Duties of Collector if he should be honord with the Appointment" and also cited Purviance’s family (ALS, DLC:GW).

GW appointed Purviance to the collector’s office on 9 Aug. (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 317) and sent his name to the Senate for confirmation in a message of 10 December.

Index Entries