George Kirkland writes a request for a promotion to President Adams via the President’s private secretary


Date Written

Jan. 12, 1801

George Whitefield Kirkland was 30 years old when this was written.
The recipient, William Smith Shaw, was 22 when it was received.

George Whitefield Kirkland died 4 years, 11 months, 20 days after writing this.
It was written 222 years, 10 months, 26 days ago.
It was a Monday.

Jany. 12th 1801

William S. Shaw, Esq.


The unexpected delay in making the Appointments for the Army, for one of which, I am a candidate, induces a renewal of my wishes to the President on that subject. Having learned that Mr. Dexter [Samuel Dexter, Secretary of War until Jan 31, 1801] is removed to another Department. It strikes me, that you, Sir, as private Secretary [to President John Adams], may be considered as the proper channel, through which communications should be made. On this principle, I hope the liberty I take will be admitted on your part. I have mentioned to the Ci-devant Secretary of War, that a Lieutenancy in one of the Regiments of the Infantry would be most acceptable to me, were I indulged with a choice, from the apprehension that the 4th Battalion of 2nd Regt. Art. & Engs , the only Corp in which vacancies for the rank of Captain existed, would too soon have the honor of retiring from service. In any event, an appointment in the Military-School would involve a kind of duty, to which I should attend with diligence and pleasure.”

I have informed that a Mr. Ray, who was a 2nd Lieut. of the 11th Regt., attached to the Union Brigade and under the command of Col. Smith, has been appointed and commissioned for one of the Infantry Regt., with rank pay, and emoluments commencing from the 15th of June last. The circumstance of his nomination was known at our camp previous to the disbandment—and it was said, that, Mr. M. Henry [James Mc Henry] presented his name to the President and procured his appointment, in obedience to the request of his (Mr. Ray’s) Brother with whom he was on terms of intimacy and friendship. I can declare with truth, that Genl. North and Col. Smith, did in my presence express their astonishment and surprise, that the then Secretary, had brought him forward as they had been consulted; he was one of the last Officers in the Brigade, who in point of character or talents would have been recommended by them—And especially as a list, containing the names of Officers worthy to be retained in service had been sanctioned by those gentlemen, and forwarded some weeks before. Recommendatory letters were dated and dispatched to the War Office, relative to myself, as early as the 31st of May, with the express desire and intention as those gentlemen told me, that I s hould not be superseded by any junior officer from that Brigade.

I arrived here on the 22nd of June last, where I have been waiting in the agony of suspense and procrastination and to calculate the remains of my scanty purse, would not require an elaborate display of arithmetical talents.—Since the first of December, I have in conformity with the order of Genl. Wilkinson, and from the daily expectation of an appointment superintended the Recruiting Service in this city. I would not discover too much tenacity on the subject of rank—a single grade, however, is of consequence.

It is submitted with much deference, to his Excellency, the President whether my pay and emoluments should not commence anterior to this period, should I be honored with his nomination, and whether, on military principles, if I am commissioned for the Infantry Establishment, I should not take rank next to those who were in that Service, on or before the 15th of June last. I ought not to expect nor do I desire, anything from favor which I cannot hope from justice. I am well aware, that my individual wishes are not to be gratified, unless they are compatible with the interest of my country and government; neither, would I make myself of too much consequence or importance.

Duty to my patrons and friends, as well as private interest, prompts me to every reasonable and modest exertion for securing an appointment. I may say with candor and truth, that I am honored with respectable patrons and friends, to whom I owe good services, fame and honor—they have endorsed a bill of my talents, and given bail for my reputation—if good intentions and industry can secure the debt, my country shall now call on them for damages. In this address, I may have presumed too much on your time—if any impropriety appears either in diction or sentiment, I shall be sorry and whatever communication you may think proper to make the Executive in my behalf. I shall acknowledge with a high sense of obligation.

I am his & your Obedt & Humble Sert
Geo. W. Kirkland

William S. Shaw, Esq.

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