Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 Back to the Exhibit

Petition of Mary Katherine Goddard, January 29, 1790

Petition of Mary Katherine Goddard, Baltimore, 29 January 1790
18 February 1790

      That She kept the Post Office at Baltimore from the Dissolution of the old Government, till the Month of November last, a term of fourteen Years and upwards—That from the Non- importation Agreement, and various other causes incident to the Revolution the Income of the Office was inadequate to its disbursements, as will appear by the Schedule hereunto annexed; and in order to accomplish this undertaking, she was obliged to advance hard money to defray the Charges of Post-Riders for several years, when they were not to be procured on any other terms, during which period, the whole of her labour and industry was necessarily unrewarded; therefore, she with great deference hoped, that having thus established and continued the Office when it was worth no Person’s acceptance, She would be considered as worthy of being retained, whenever it became more valuable.

      That She hath been discharged without the smallest imputation of any Fault, and without any previous notice whatever, ‘till an Order arrived from Mr. Burrell whilst at Baltimore, to deliver up the Office to Mr. White, the Bearer of his note, & although he remained several Days in town, yet he did not think proper to indulge her with a personal interview, whereby she might learn the cause other removal, or to what motives, it could possibly be ascribed. Such a Procedure contrasted with her conduct in Office, and the approbation of the public, testified by the number and respectability of those, who addressed Messrs. Osgood & Burrell on her behalf, leave no room to question, either her inclination or ability to discharge the duties of her appointment.

      That sundry public and private applications, prior to the 19th of November last, were made to the above Gentlemen, praying that She might be restored, but no answer was returned, till the latter End ofJanuary when Mr. Osgood wrote to the Merchants of Baltimore, that the Evil was irremediable by him. During this Interval She flattered herself that so long a consideration of the Subject would have infallibly terminated in her favour; but she has since learned that the neglect proceeded more from contempt than a desire of redress.

      She also represents that taking her Office, contrary to the Sense & Expectation of the whole Community. and delaying a determination of her Fate so long, whether she should be restored or not, has greatly augmented her anxiety and distress—these are but poor rewards indeed for fourteen Years faithful Services, performed in the worst of times, and acknowledged in the most public manner by all her Co-temporaries & Superiors in Office in these words, "that no change could possibly be for the benefit of the public."

      And further, as it has been universally understood that no Person should be removed from Office under the present Government, unless manifest misconduct appeared, and as no such charge could possibly be made against her, with the least colour of Justice, she was happy in the Idea of being secured both in her employ & the protection of all those who wished well to the federal Cause: And if it should so happen that she should be obliged to make room for one of more worth, or interest, that she would notwithstanding be allowed a reasonable time to prepare for the Event.

      That although Mr. White who succeeded her, might doubtless have been highly meritorious, in the different Offices, he has sustained, yet, she humbly conceives, he was not more worthy of public notice & protection in his Station, than She has uniformly been in hers. It must therefore become a matter of serious importance to her, if Government can find no means of rewarding this Gentleman’s Services, but by taking her little Office, established by her own Industry in the best years of her life, & whereon depended all her future Prospects of subsistence. In old Countries, People come in & go out, with the Minister of the day & his party, but here She never could suppose that any Minister, Party, or Individual, would deign to cast a wishful Eye upon so small an Object, whilst in the Hands of such a Possessor. Various reasons have from time to time been assigned & abandoned, to sanction her removal, but the only one worthy of either notice or belief, is to the following Effect, though equally fallacious with the rest, Viz., That the Deputy at Baltimore will hereafter be obliged to ride & regulate the Offices to the Southward, but that with great deference to the Post Master General will be found altogether impracticable, because the business of that Office will require his constant attendance, as no other than the Principal alone could possibly be relied on, or give satisfaction to the Merchants who, frequently make large remittances by post. If therefore the duties of Mr. Burrell's Office are to be performed by any other than himself, it cannot well be attempted by a Deputy, fully occupied with his own: and if two Persons must be employed, according to this new Plan, She apprehends herself, at least, as well qualified to give the necessary instructions to the Riding Post Master, as Mr. White, or any other person heretofore unexperienced in such business.

      That although it has been suggested that the Income of her Office for a few years last past, has made her amends for her former assiduity care and expence, yet She would beg leave to observe, that from the many failures which have distressed the Community since the Peace, She has met with her Share of losses and misfortunes, a Truth well known to all her Neighbours; And now to deprive her of this Office, to which She has a more meritorious & just claim than any other person, is a circumstance, pregnant with that Species of aggravation, which a Sense of Ingratitude inspires & which is much easier felt than described.

      She therefore humbly hopes that the honorable the Senate will take her case into their serious Consideration, & grant her such Assistance, as may be in their Power, in restoring her to the public Confidence & the Enjoyment of her former Office.



Goddard to Washington, 2/3 Dec. 1789. Washington to Goddard. 6 Jan. 1790. PGW 4: 426-28.


(Letter courtesy of the National Archives)

digitized from DHFFC transcription   
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