George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Wood, 19 September 1796

Richmond 19th September 1796.


I have had the honor to receive the Letter you were pleased to write me the 12th Instant. While I am highly gratified by your approbation and polite attention, in making me a tender of the Office of Surveyor General; I am Constrained to decline the acceptance of it; from a thorough Conviction that I am not Competent to an honorable discharge of the duties of so important an Office; Candor Obliges me to Confess, that I am Unacquainted with Astronomy or a Knowledge in Mathematics, and that I am superficial in practical surveying. Unfortunately for me, my father died when in my seventeenth year, and immediately after I had Commenced, under him, the study of the Mathematics; before his death I was well grounded in Arithmetic, and had become a good County Court Clerk, having been employed in his office some years previous to that event; since that period, I have been strugling through the world with a very limited fortune, and after more than thirty years employment in public service, I find myself rather poorer than the day I began. I have Continued in the Office I now fill about thirteen years, for the last three or four years, it has been extremely painful to me, and no Consideration wou’d have induced me to Continue in it, but the difficulty of working my Farm to advantage, as I had emancipated all my slaves soon after the Conclusion of the war.

I embrace with pleasure the Occasion which is Offered me of assuring you of the Sentiments of Sincere respect and attachment with which I have the honor to be Sir Yr Mo. Obt servt

James Wood


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