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    ...it has always been my aim to fill Offices with the most suitable characters I could obtain...

    George Washington Autograph Letter Signed "G Washington" as President with Autograph Address Leaf Free Franked "President U.S.". One page (with integral address leaf), 7.375" x 9", Mount Vernon, October 17, 1796, to Edward Carrington. Washington sends regrets having not received Carrington's recommendation for Surveyor General before nominating Rufus Putnam, and assures him that he continues to value his advice on appointments. It reads, in full:

    "Mount Vernon 17th Oct 1796

    Dear Sir,
    Your favor of the 10th instant/ has been received. __ Since the refusal by General Wood of the office of Surveyor Genl, it has been offered to General Rufus Putnam, whom it is presumed will accept it.__

    I do not recollect that Colo. Heths name was ever presented to me for this office. If it had, and any assurance could have been given of his scientific qualifications, he would have been an eligable [sic] character in my estimation.

    As it has always been my aim to fill Offices with the most suitable characters I could obtain, the aid of my friends to accomplish this desirable object, has (where characters were unknown to me) always been required;__ and the opinion of no one has been more acceptable than yours._

    With very great esteem & regard,
    I am__ Dear Sir
    Yr. obedt. & affecte. Servt
    G Washington

    Colo. Edwd. Carrington"

    Edward Carrington (1748-1810) was a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary War and served as a delegate from Virginia in the Continental Congress from 1786-1788. George Washington appointed him the first U.S. Marshall for Virginia, a position he held from 1789-1791. It is known that Washington often sought Carrington's advice in the areas of Virginia politics as well as his opinions on various Cabinet post candidates. Interestingly, Carrington was the foreman of the jury in 1807 when Aaron Burr was tried (and acquitted) for treason.

    An excellent displayable document from Washington's final months as president, demonstrating his commitment to the ideal of meritocracy. One of Washington's foremost concerns was to open up executive offices to people of talent and ability, no matter their wealth or station of birth, unlike the British system, which still rewarded candidates with noble connections. Appears as very fine with professional conservation and some restoration to free frank leaf. Not published in The Writings of George Washington.


    More Information:

    Historical Background:
    On the U.S. Department of Justice website devoted to Edward Carrington, the first Marshal of Virginia, it is noted that "his friend George Washington often turned to him for advice on political events in Virginia. On other occasions, Washington asked Carrington for his opinion about the qualifications of various individuals for posts in the Cabinet." The closeness of the two Virginians is evident in this heretofore unpublished letter.

     

    Late in his presidency, Washington was obliged to fill the newly created office of Surveyor General of the United States. Neither Simeon DeWitt, an eminent New York geographer, nor General James Wood, accepted. On July 15, Washington wrote future Chief Justice and fellow Virginian John Marshall for information "respecting the qualifications" of Wood, Thomas Posey, and Thomas Tinsley." Apparently, Marshall, upon discussing the matter with Carrington, thought Colonel William Heth would be a fine choice. On October 10, Carrington wrote to Washington, prompting the president's reply, here, seven days later. Carrington explained, "Previous to your offer of the office of Surveyor General to Genl Wood, some communications had taken place between you & General [John] Marshal[l] as to a proper person to fill that appointment which, as has been usual between him & myself, were made known to me - it was agreed in our examinations . that Colo. Wm. Heth would do great justice to the office, and Genl Marshall mentioned it to him, but he, at that time, was not inclined to accept it. A few days ago he came to Town, on hearing of the refusal of Genl Wood, in order to confer with Genl. Marshall on the subject of a proposition on his part, being now disposed to accept . I feel no difficulty in . communicating to you the inclination Colo. Heth now has. If the office is still vacant, I believe his acceptance may be counted on . I believe Genl. Marshall has given you his opinion as to his fitness for the office; and I, with more confidence than usual, would undertake to vouch for his fulfilling every duty requirable, being as well qualified, scientifically, as any person you will probably have an opportunity of obtaining.."

     

    Carrington's letter is in the George Washington Papers in the Library of Congress. Unbeknownst to Carrington, after Wood declined the post, Washington had offered the position to General Rufus Putnam who had been served as Chief of Engineers in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Putnam accepted, and was confirmed by the Senate on December 22.

     

    Less than a month prior to his letter to Carrington, Washington had published his "Farewell Address," announcing his decision not to seek a third term as president, and counseling his countrymen to allow neither partisan politics nor entangling alliances to arrest the expansion of liberty and union. On the same day as this letter, Washington penned an oft-quoted epistle to Landon Carter, expressing great joy that "a few months more will put an end to my political existence and place me in the shades of Mount Vernon under my Vine and Fig Tree." He left office in March 1797, upon the inauguration of John Adams.

     

    Edward Carrington (1748-1810) owned a large Southside Virginia plantation. Commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of Artillery in 1776, he served as Quartermaster General on the staff of General Nathaniel Greene. In 1781, Carrington led artillery at the battles of Hobkirks Hill and Yorktown. He served in the Continental Congress from 1786-1788. Carrington was appointed first U.S. Marshal of the District of Virginia on September 24, 1789. He served as marshal until March 4, 1791, when Washington appointed him the first Supervisor of Distilled Spirits for the District of Virginia. He held this office until 1794, when private affairs compelled his retirement from public office-he turned down Washington's offer to become Secretary of War in 1795.



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