George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Charles Carroll, Jr., 13 December 1798

To Charles Carroll, Jr.

Philadelphia 13th Decr 1798.


Mr McHenry—Secretary of War—communicated to me your wish to receive an Appointment in the Corps of Light Dragoons, about to be raised.1

Conceiving that the inducement to this application could be no other than a laudable zeal to serve your Country, and a desire to set an example to the young Gentlemen of family & fortune in it, which, undoubtedly would be attended with a happy effect; I informed him, that although it was not my practice to compromit my self beforehand by promises, yet, in this instance I would inform him that it had been, and still was my intention (if circumstances should call me to the field) to offer you a place in my Military family, as an Extra: or Volunteer Aid de Camp; under a presumption that, as you could not contemplate Arms as a profession, rank could be no object, and I was sure that the pay of an Officer would be none; and therefore, that he was at liberty to hint this matter to you. In what light you have understood him, I know not, wch is the reason of my giving you the trouble of this explanation.

My established Aids de Camp, for reason which I had the honor of communicating to Mr Carroll (your father) must be men of Military experience (if to be had)—and in the choice of whom, many circumstances ought to combine.2 It is unnecessary I hope to add, that at all times I should be glad to see you at Mount Vernon,3 and with best respects to Mr Carroll and the Ladies of your family I am—Sir Your Most Obedt Hble Servant

Go: Washington


1James McHenry wrote GW on 26 Nov.: “If I have understood your meaning right with respect to young Mr Carroll, and the inclosed meets your approbation you will oblige me by sealing it and sending it with your own letters to the post office. The death of an unckle of Mrs McHenry’s which happened this morning will prevent me from having the pleasure of dining with you to-day at the Presidents” (DLC:GW). A draft of McHenry’s letter to young Carroll, dated 26 Nov., is in DLC: McHenry Papers.

2Charles Carroll of Carroll ton wrote to GW on 29 July 1798 about his wish for his son Charles Carroll, Jr. (of Homewood), to become an aide-de-camp to GW. GW responded on 2 Aug. stating his policy to appoint no aides until he should actually take the field as commander in chief of the army. Carroll’s letter is printed in note 1 to GW’s letter of 2 Aug.; see also Carroll to GW, 9 August.

3For the visit of Charles Carroll, Jr., to Mount Vernon in March 1798, see GW to George Washington Parke Custis, 15 April 1798, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:288. Charles Carroll, Jr., replied from Annapolis on 23 Dec.: “I have had the honor to receive your Letter of the 13th of this month, and am happy that You have attributed my desire of obtaining an appointment in our Army to a zeal of rendering myself serviceable to my Country. The Letter I received from Mr McHenry, together with the flattering assurance which You have given me, that I shall be employed in your military Family as Extra or volunteer Aid de Camp, (should circumstances call You to the Field) have ultimately fixed my Determination to decline every military Situation, other than the one You have been pleased to offer me. When I first had the honor of applying to You through the medium of my Father to become your Aid de Camp, I did not for a moment contemplate any pecuniary emolument, being only regardful of the honor I should receive, and the probable good which my Example might produce. Since You have been pleased to consider this last circumstance as one of my inducements for the Application, It is sufficient for me to say, that Your notice of it, will be my best apology for a Declaration, which on any other occasion might not be so proper. For Your friendly Invitation to Mount Vernon, Receive, Sir, my warmest acknowledgements; and be assured, that whenever circumstances will permit me to embrace it, that nothing will afford me greater satisfaction” (DLC:GW).

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