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1792. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XII (1790-1794).
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TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.1
Philadelphia, 28 January, 1792.
My dear Sir,
Your favor of the 30th of September came duly to hand, and I thank you for the important information contained in it.
The official communications from the secretary of state, accompanying this letter, will convey to you the evidence of my nomination and appointment of you to be minister plenipotentiary for the United States at the court of France; and my assurance, that both were made with all my heart, will, I am persuaded, satisfy you as to that fact. I wish I could add, that the advice and consent flowed from a similar source. Candor forbids it, and friendship requires, that I should assign the causes, as far as they have come to my knowledge.
Whilst your abilities, knowledge in the affairs of this country, and disposition to serve it, were adduced and asserted on one hand; you were charged, on the other hand, with levity and imprudence of conversation and conduct. It was urged, that your habits of expression indicated a hauteur disgusting to those, who happen to differ from you in sentiment; and among a people, who study civility and politeness more than any other nation, it must be displeasing; that in France you were considered as a favorer of aristocracy, and unfriendly to its revolution (I suppose they meant constitution); that, under this impression, you could not be an acceptable public character, of consequence would not be able, however willing, to promote the interest of this country in an essential degree; that in England you indiscreetly communicated the purport of your mission in the first instance to the minister of France, at that court, who, availing himself in the same moment of the occasion, gave it the appearance of a movement through his court; this, and other circumstances of a similar nature, added to a close intercourse with the opposition members, occasioned distrust, and gave displeasure to the ministry, which was the cause, it is said, of that reserve which you experienced in negotiating the business, which had been intrusted to you.
But not to go further into detail, I will place the ideas of your political adversaries in the light, which their arguments have presented them to me, vizt, that the promptitude, with which your lively and brilliant imagination is displayed, allows too little time for deliberation and correction, and is the primary cause of those sallies, which too often offend, and of that ridicule of characters, which begets enmity not easy to be forgotten, but which might easily be avoided, if it was under the control of more caution and prudence; in a word, that it is indispensably necessary, that more circumspection should be observed by our representatives abroad, than they conceive you are inclined to adopt.
In this statement you have the pros and cons. By reciting them I give you a proof of my friendship, if I give none of my policy or judgment. I do it on the presumption, that a mind, conscious of its own rectitude, fears not what is said of it, but will bid defiance to and despise shafts, that are not barbed with accusations against honor or integrity; and because I have the fullest confidence (supposing the allegations to be founded in whole or part) that you would find no difficulty, being apprized of the exceptionable light in which they are viewed, and considering yourself as the representative of this country, to effect a change, and thereby silence, in the most unequivocal and satisfactory manner, your political opponents.
Of my good opinion, and of my friendship and regard, you may be assured, and that I am always your affectionate, &c.1
TO CHARLES PINCKNEY, GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
Philadelphia, 31 January, 1792.
I had the pleasure to receive your letter of the 22d of November last, with the enclosures from General Pickens and Colonel Anderson to yourself, respecting the deputation from the Cherokee nation. I have likewise the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 6th of the same month.
The Cherokees arrived in this city after a tedious passage from Charleston, which I believe they will consider as the most, if not the only disagreeable circumstance attending their mission; for the requests, which they had to make, were of a nature to be readily complied with, and they appeared not only satisfied, but highly pleased with their reception, and the manner in which their business had been done.
They have been detained here longer than was expected on their arrival, owing to the navigation of this river being totally obstructed, and that of New York harbor having been so for some days past by the severity of the weather. As soon as the harbor of New York opens, they will proceed to embark at that place for Charleston.
It is at all times very desirable, but peculiarly so at the present moment, that we should be upon terms of friendship and good understanding with those powerful tribes of Indians, who border on our southern and western frontiers; and I have strong hopes, that the favorable impression, which this deputation have received, will not only ensure the attachment of the Cherokees to the United States, but will likewise have a beneficial influence on the Creeks, the Chickasaws, and the Choctaws, from which nations they brought belts and messages, as well as from their own. For your attention to these Indians at Charleston, and in procuring them a passage to this place, permit me to offer you my thanks, and at the same time to assure you that I am, with great regard and esteem, dear Sir, your obedient servant.
TO H. D. GOUGH.
Philadelphia, 4 February, 1792.
I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your polite letter of the 1st instant, and to inform you that the very fine mutton which you have had the goodness to send me has come to hand in the best order.
While I beg your acceptance of my thanks for this mark of polite attention, permit me to express the satisfaction which I feel in learning from your letter the success you have met with in your laudable attempts to improve the breed of our sheep, by introducing among them the broad-tail’d Persian breed. I have ever been satisfied in my own mind, that by a proper attention to our sheep (particularly in Maryland and Virginia, where the climate and other circumstances seem to be peculiarly favorable to the object) they might be made not only a most profitable subject to the farmer, but rendered highly important in a public view, by encouraging extensive establishments of woollen manufactories from the abundance of wool which they could furnish.
During the time of my residing at home, between the close of the war and the entrance on my present office, I had paid much attention to my sheep, and was proud in being able to produce perhaps the largest mutton and the greatest quantity of wool from my sheep that could be then produced. But I was not satisfied with this; and contemplated further improvements both in the flesh and wool by the introduction of other breeds, which I should by this time have carried into effect, had I been permitted to pursue my favorite occupation.—I am, however, much pleased to see that some gentlemen seem to view this matter in the light which it deserves, and exert themselves in promoting it; and if I cannot give my aid by a personal attention to the object, those who do, will always have my best wishes for their success. I am.
TO REUBEN SLAUGHTER.
Philadelphia, 25 February, 1792.
I thank you for the information given me in your letter of the 21st of November last, of your claiming two hundred acres of the land within the limits of my survey on the Great Kanhawa, as it gives me an opportunity of letting you know my fixed determination to defend my title to all that land within the lines of my patent, and to warn you in the most pointed manner not to make any settlements thereon, or to exercise any other right of proprietorship within the limits of my patent.
It may be proper to inform you, that, in the year 1769 or 1770, there was a special order of the Governor and Council of Virginia for reserving all the lands on the Great Kanhawa, to satisfy the military claims of myself and others of the first Virginia regiment; that in 1770 I was myself on the Great Kanhawa with the surveyor to look out the land for the military claims; and that my patent for the tract you speak of has been in my possession for many years. I cannot therefore entertain the smallest doubt of the legality and validity of my title to every acre of land within the lines of that patent; and from a conviction of this I am resolved to defend it at all events, and to prosecute to the extremity of the law every encroachment, that may be made upon the boundaries of it. I therefore desire you will consider this letter as a solemn warning not to make any settlement, or exercise any other right of proprietorship, on any part of the land within the lines of my patent; assuring you, that if you should, after this warning, persevere in your intention of settling or otherwise encroaching upon my land, you must expect to be prosecuted as far as right and justice will admit. I am, Sir, your very humble servant.
TO DAVID STUART.
Philadelphia, 8 March, 1792.
In a short letter which I wrote to you by the last Post, I promised a lengthy one by the post of tomorrow; but such is my present situation that I must pass by some things, and be more concise on others than I intended.
That Mr. Johnson’s health did not permit him to come to this City as he proposed and was expected, is matter of exceeding great regret—as many things relative to the Federal district—the City and the public buildings might have been more satisfactorily arranged, and delays avoided; but as there is no contending against acts of Providence, we must submit as it becomes us so to do and endeavor to recover the time lost, in the best manner we can.
That the Commissioners have had more than a little trouble and vexation with Maj. L’Enfant, I can readily conceive (if your representation of the fact had been wanting) from the specimens he has given of his untoward temper since his arrival in this City. And I can as easily conceive that, in proportion to the yieldings of the Commissioners his claims would extend. Such upon a nearer view, appears to be the nature of the Man!
Every advantage will be taken of the Major’s dereliction. A vigorous counteraction, therefore, is essential.—If he does not come forward openly to declare it—his friends and the enemies to the measure will do it for him—that, he found matters were likely to be conducted upon so pimping a scale, that he would not hazard his character or reputation on the event, under the controul he was to be placed. It is even said (but nothing has appeared yet) that he meant to publish this to the world.—The half friends to the new City (if this is not allowing them more than their due) undertake to predict that it now stands in equilibrio: that a feather will turn the scale either way.—If, say they, the matter is pushed with vigor, and upon a plan commensurate to the design, and the public’s expectation, the permanent seat of Government will be fixed on the Potommack.—On the other hand, if inactivity and contractedness should mark the steps of the Commissioners of the District,—whilst in — on the part of this State is displayed in providing commodious buildings for Congress &c—the Government will remain where it now is. That exertions will be made by this State to effect the purpose there can be no doubt.—A late message from the Government to the Assembly proposing a certain grant of money for the erection of the buildings designed for the Presiident, is one among other instances which have occurred.
It would have been very agreeable to me that you should have shewn the copies of the letters I had written to Major L’Enfant declaratory of the subordinate part he was destined to act under the Commissioners. It does not appear to have been so understood by the Proprietors, from the sentiments expressed by Mr. Walker (while he was in this City), for when he was told in what explicit language Major L’Enfant was given to understand this, he seemed quite surprized. You did me no more than justice when you supposed me incapable of duplicity in this business. I have had but one idea on the subject from the beginning, nor but one design and that was to convince the Major of the subordinate part he was destined to act in it. I was obliged, as you have seen, to use stronger and stronger language as I found his repugnance encreasing until he was told, in even harsh terms, that the Commissioners stood between him and the President of the U. States, and that it was from them alone he was to receive directions.
The doubts and opinion of others with respect to the permanent seat have occasioned no change in my sentiments on the subject. They have always been, that the plan ought to be prosecuted with all the despatch the nature of the case will admit, and that the public buildings in size, form and elegance, should look beyond the present day. I would not have it understood from hence that I lean to extravagance.—A chaste plan sufficiently capacious and convenient for a period not too remote, but one to which we may reasonably look forward, would meet my idea in the Capitol. For the President’s House I would design a building which should also look forward but execute no more of it at present than might suit the circumstances of this country, when it shall be first wanted. A Plan comprehending more may be executed at a future period when the wealth, population, and importance of it shall stand upon much higher ground than they do at present.
How and when you will be able to obtain Plans of such buildings is with yourselves to decide on.—No aid, I am persuaded is to be expected from Major L’Enfant in the exhibition—rather I apprehend, opposition and a reprobation of every one designed by any other, however perfect.
The part which Mr. Johnson, by your letter to me, and another from Mr. Johnson to Mr. Jefferson, appears to have acted surprizes me exceedingly. His interest in the City, and the discernment with which he seems to have viewed the measure in the early stages of it, would have lead me to have drawn a different conclusion.—The — which seem to have been — to him and the Major are more to be despised than to be regarded or resented. More than once, you will remember, I have given it to you as my opinion, that it would be by by-blows and indirect — that attempts would be made to defeat the Law. To sow the seeds of dissension, jealousy and distrust are among the means that will be practised.—There is a current in this City which sets so strongly against every thing that relates to the federal district, that it is next to impossible to stem it. To this cause is to be ascrib’d the backwardness of the engraving. Danger from them is to be apprehended; and in my opinion, from no other. The best antidote against them is perseverance, and vigorous exertion on the part of the Commissioners; and good temper and mutual forbearance with one another, on the part of the Proprietors. For who are so much interested in the success and progress of the measure as they?
I see no necessity for diminishing the Square allotted for the President’s House, &c., at this time. It is easier at all times to retrench, than it is to enlarge a Square, and a deviation from the Plan in this instance, would open the door to the other applications, which might perplex, embarrass and delay business exceedingly; and end, more than probably in violent discontents.
Where you will find a character qualified in all respects for a Superintendent I know not,—none present themselves to my view—yet one must be had.—A better than Mr. Ellicott for all matters, at present, can not be had.—No one I presume who can lay out the ground with more accuracy—lay out the squares and divide them into lots, better. He must understand levelling also perfectly—and has, I suppose, competent skill in conducting the Water.—Beyond these your opportunities to form an opinion of him, must exceed mine. Whether he is a man of arrangement—sober and industrious are matters unknown to me. I believe he is obliging—and would be perfectly subordinate.—What he asks, 5 dollars a day (if Sundays are included), seems high; but whether a fit character can be had for less, I am unable to say.
The plan of the City having met universal applause (as far as my information goes) and Major L’Enfant having become a very discontented man,—it was thought that, less than from 2,500 to 3,000 dollars would not be proper to offer him for his services; instead of this, suppose five hundred guineas, and a Lot in a good part of the city were to be substituted? I think it would be more pleasing and less expensive. I have never exchanged a word with Mr. Roberdeau since he came to this place, consequently am unable to relate what his expressions have been, or what his ideas are; he lives with, and more than probably partakes of the sentiments of Major L’Enfant; unless the dismission of the latter may have worked a change in them which, not unlikely, is the case with both; as I can hardly conceive that either of them contemplated the result of their conduct.
Altho’ what I am going to add may be a calumny, it is nevertheless necessary that you should be apprized of the report that Colo. Deakins applies the public money in his hands to speculative purposes; and is unable, at times, to answer the call of the workmen. An instance has been given. There are doubts also of the sincerity of Mr. Francis Cabot. Of both these matters you are to judge from the evidence before you. I have nothing to charge either with myself, these hints are disclosed in confidence, to place you on your guard.
The idea of importing Germans and Highlanders as artizans, and laborers, has been touched upon in the letter from Mr. Jefferson to the Commissioners. It is, in my opinion, worthy of serious consideration, in an economical point of view, and because it will contribute to the population of the place.—The enclosed extract of a letter from Genl. Lincoln to Mr. Lear is sent, that you may see the prospect in that quarter.
The General is a candid undesigning man in whose word much confidence may be placed; and having been in this city, and lately returned from it, has had opportunities of making the remarks which are contained in the extract.
I began with telling you that I should not write a lengthy letter but the result has been to contradict it. It is to be considered as a private letter in answer to yours of the 26th ulto. but it may under that idea be communicated to your associates in office. They and you must receive it blotted and scratched as you find it, for I have not time to copy it. It is now ten o’clock at night, after my usual hour for retiring to rest, and the mail will be closed early tomorrow morning. Sincerely &c.
TO JOHN ARMSTRONG.
Philadelphia, 11 March, 1792.
I am persuaded, that no one will be more ready than yourself to make the proper allowances for my not having sooner acknowledged the receipt of your friendly letter of the 23d of December, as you there express a conviction, that the pressure of my public duties will allow me but very little time to attend to my private correspondences. This is literally the truth, and to it must be imputed the lateness as well as the brevity of this letter.
The loss of the brave officers and men, who fell in the late unfortunate affair at the westward, is, I hope, the only one which the public sustain on the occasion, that cannot be readily repaired. The loss of these is not only painful to their friends, but is a subject of serious regret to the public. It is not, however, our part to despond; we must pursue such measures as appear best calculated to retrieve our misfortune, and give a happy issue to the business. I am sure there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them.
Your friendly wishes for my happiness and prosperity are received with gratitude, and are sincerely reciprocated by, dear Sir, your affectionate, &c.1
TO CHARLES PINCKNEY, GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
Philadelphia, 17 March, 1792.
I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of the 8th of January, and their duplicates. That of a public nature, on the subject of a proposed application from yourself to the Governor of East Florida for the redelivery of certain fugitives, charged with having forged the indents assumed by the U. States, will be answered by the Secretary of State.1 To your private favor I shall now reply. And in the first place, let me beg your acceptance of my thanks for the remembrance of, and kind attention to, my wishes in sending the box of seeds, which I have received by Captain Ort.
I am flattered by the regret, which you express at having been absent from Charleston during the stay of Lord Wycombe2 in that city, and being thereby deprived of an opportunity of paying the attention which you wished to that nobleman, to whom I had given a letter for you; and am glad that his intention of returning among you after having visited the Floridas will permit you to do it.
I must say that I lament the decision of your legislature upon the question of importing slaves after March, 1793. I was in hopes, that motives of policy as well as other good reasons, supported by the direful effects of slavery, which at this moment are presented, would have operated to produce a total prohibition of the importation of slaves, whenever the question came to be agitated in any State, that might be interested in the measure.1
Our misfortune at the westward is certainly a circumstance much to be regretted; but it affords consolation to know, that every public loss on that occasion may be readily repaired, except that of the lives of the brave officers and men, who fell in the conflict. I believe with you, that the absence of the Cherokee chiefs from their nation at so critical a moment was a fortunate event; and I trust they have received such impressions here, as will not fail to have a happy influence in their nation with regard to us.
If in the course of our military arrangements, it should be found compatible with the plan, which it is proposed to adopt, to require the services of General Pickens, I shall not be unmindful of your recommendation of that gentleman; and from his talents, knowledge, and influence, should look for the best effects. But I most sincerely join with you in hoping, that the war with the Indians may not extend so far to the southward, as to render your frontiers an object of immediate defence. I beg my best respects may be presented to Mrs. Pinckney and to Colo. Laurens, when you see him. With very great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ARTHUR ST. CLAIR.
United States [Philadelphia], 4 April, 1792.
I have read and duly considered your letter of the 31st ultimo. The reasons you offer for retaining your commission, until an opportunity should be presented, if necessary, of investigating your conduct in every mode prescribed by law, would be conclusive with me under any other circumstances than the present. But the establishment of the troops allows only of one major-general. You have manifested your intention of retiring, and the essential interests of the public require, that your successor should be immediately appointed, in order to repair to the frontiers.
As the House of Representatives have been pleased to institute an inquiry into the causes of the failure of the late expedition, I should hope an opportunity would thereby be afforded you of explaining your conduct in a manner satisfactory to the public and yourself. I am, &c.1
TO JOHN CARROLL.2
Philadelphia, 10 April, 1792.
I have received and duly considered your memorial of the 20th ultimo, on the subject of instructing the Indians, within and contiguous to the United States, in the principles and duties of Christianity.
The war now existing between the United States and some tribes of the western Indians prevents, for the present, any interference of this nature with them. The Indians of the Five Nations are, in their religious concerns, under the immediate superintendence of the Reverend Mr. Kirkland; and those, who dwell in the eastern extremity of the United States, are, according to the best information that I can obtain, so situated as to be rather considered as a part of the inhabitants of the State of Massachusetts than otherwise, and that State has always considered them as under its immediate care and protection. Any application, therefore, relative to these Indians, for the purposes mentioned in your memorial, would seem most proper to be made to the government of Massachusetts. The original letters on this subject, which were submitted to my inspection, have been returned to Charles Carroll, Esq. of—1
Impressed as I am with an opinion, that the most effectual means of securing the permanent attachment of our savage neighbors is to convince them that we are just, and to show them that a proper and friendly intercourse with us would be for our mutual advantage, I cannot conclude without giving you my thanks for your pious and benevolent wishes to effect this desirable end, upon the mild principles of religion and philanthropy.2 And, when a proper occasion shall offer, I have no doubt but such measures will be pursued, as may seem best calculated to communicate liberal instruction, and the blessings of society, to their untutored minds. With very great esteem and regard, I am, Sir, &c.
TO THE EARL OF BUCHAN.
Philadelphia, 1 May, 1792.
I should have had the honor of acknowledging sooner the receipt of your letter of the 28th of June last, had I not concluded to defer doing it till I could announce to you the transmission of my portrait, which has been just finished by Mr. Robertson, (of New York), who has also undertaken to forward it.1 The manner of the execution does no discredit, I am told, to the artist, of whose skill favorable mention has been made to me. I was further induced to intrust the execution to Mr. Robertson, from his having informed me, that he had drawn others for your Lordship, and knew the size which would best suit your collection.2
I accept with sensibility and with satisfaction the significant present of the box, which accompanied your Lordship’s letter. In yielding the tribute due from every lover of mankind to the patriotic and heroic virtues of which it is commemorative, I estimate, as I ought, the additional value which it derives from the hand that sent it, and my obligation for the sentiments that induced the transfer.
I will, however, ask, that you will exempt me from a compliance with the request relating to its eventual destination. In an attempt to execute your wish in this particular, I should feel embarrassment from a just comparison of relative pretensions, and should fear to risk injustice by so marked a preference. With sentiments of the truest esteem and consideration, I remain your Lordship’s, &c.1
TO THOMAS PAINE.
Philadelphia, 6 May, 1792.
To my friends, and those who know my occupations, I am sure no apology is necessary for keeping their letters so much longer unanswered, than my inclination would lead me to do. I shall therefore offer no excuse for not having sooner acknowledged the receipt of your letter of the 21st of June. My thanks, however, for the token of your remembrances, in the fifty copies of “The Rights of Man,” are offered with no less cordiality, than they would have been, had I answered your letter in the first moment of receiving it.1
The duties of my office, which at all times, especially during the session of Congress, require an unremitting attention, naturally become more pressing towards the close of it; and as that body have resolved to rise to-morrow, and as I have determined, in case they should, to set out for Mount Vernon on the next day, you will readily conclude, that the present is a busy moment with me; and to that I am persuaded your goodness will impute my not entering into the several points touched upon in your letter. Let it suffice, therefore, at this time, to say, that I rejoice in the information of your personal prosperity, and, as no one can feel a greater interest in the happiness of mankind than I do, that it is the first wish of my heart, that the enlightened policy of the present age may diffuse to all men those blessings, to which they are entitled, and lay the foundation of happiness for future generations. With great esteem, I am, dear sir, &c.
P. S. Since writing the foregoing, I have received your letter of the 13th of February, with the twelve copies of your new work, which accompanied it, and for which you must accept my additional thanks.
TO CHARLES CARTER.
Mount Vernon, 19 May, 1792.
Your letter of the 30th ultimo was on its way to Philadelphia whilst I was on my journey to this place—owing to which I did not receive it until it reverberated—this must be my apology for not giving the receipt of it an earlier acknowledgment.
It would give me pleasure to receive your son into my family, if it could be made tolerably convenient to me—or if any advantage was likely to result from it to the young gentleman himself. I was in no real want even of Howell Lewis, but understanding that he was spending his time rather idly, and at the same time very slenderly provided for by his father, I thought for the few months which remained to be accomplished of my own servitude, by taking him under my care, I might impress him with ideas, and give him a turn to some pursuit or other that might be serviceable to him hereafter; but what that will be I am at present as much at a loss to decide as you would be—for as the heads of the different departments have by law the appointment of their own Clerks—are responsible for the conduct of them—are surrounded always with applicants—and, I presume, have their own inclinations and friends to gratify—I never have, in a single instance, and I am pretty sure I shall not now begin, recommending any one to either of them.
My family, now Howell is admitted into it, will be more than full, and in truth than is convenient for the House, as Mr. Dandridge (a nephew of Mrs. Washington’s) is already one of it, and but one room for him, Howell and another person to sleep in, all the others being appropriated to public or private uses.
If your son Charles is of age, and it should be yours and his own inclination to pursue a military course, I would, if any vacancy should happen (at present there is none) in one of the Regiments, endeavor to place him therein.—You will perceive I have made age the condition—the reason is, it is established as a rule in the War Office to appoint none knowingly, that are under it.
My best respects to Mrs. Carter. I am, &c.
TO JAMES MADISON.
Mount Vernon, 20 May, 1792.
My dear Sir,
As there is a possibility if not a probability, that I shall not see you on your return home;—or, if I should see you that it may be on the road and under circumstances which will prevent my speaking to you on the subject we last conversed upon; I take the liberty of committing to paper the following thoughts, and requests.
I have not been unmindful of the sentiments expressed by you in the conversations just alluded to:—on the contrary I have again, and again revolved them with thoughtful anxiety; but without being able to dispose my mind to a longer continuation in the office I now have the honor to hold.—I therefore still look forward to the fulfilment of my fondest and most ardent wishes to spend the remainder of my days (which I cannot expect will be many) in ease and tranquillity.
Nothing short of conviction that my deriliction of the Chair of Government (if it should be the desire of the people to continue me in it) would involve the Country in serious disputes respecting the chief Magestrate, and the disagreeable consequences which might result there from in the floating and divided opinions which seem to prevail at present, could, in any wise, induce me to relinquish the determination I have formed: and of this I do not see how any evidence can be obtained previous to the Election. My vanity, I am sure is not of that cast to allow me to view the subject in this light.1
Under these impressions then, permit me to reiterate the request I made to you at our last meeting—namely, to think of the proper time, and the best mode of announcing the intention; and that you would prepare the latter.—In revolving this subject myself, my judgment has always been embarrassed.—On the one hand, a previous declaration to retire, not only carries with it the appearance of vanity and self-importance, but it may be construed into a manœuvre to be invited to remain.—And on the other hand, to say nothing, implys consent; or, at any rate, would leave the matter in doubt; and to decline afterwards might be deemed as bad, and uncandid.
I would fain carry my request to you farther than is asked above, although I am sensible that your compliance with it must add to your trouble; but as the recess may afford you leizure, and I flatter myself you have dispositions to oblige me, I will, without apology, desire (if the measure in itself should strike you as proper, and likely to produce public good, or private honor) that you would turn your thoughts to a valedictory address from me to the public, expressing in plain and modest terms, that having been honored with the Presidential chair, and to the best of my abilities contributed to the organization and administration of the government—that having arrived at a period of life when the private walks of it, in the shade of retirement, becomes necessary and will be most pleasing to me;—and the spirit of the government may render a rotation in the elective officers of it more congenial with their ideas of liberty and safety, that I take my leave of them as a public man; and in bidding them adieu (retaining no other concern than such as will arise from fervent wishes for the prosperity of my Country) I take the liberty at my departure from civil, as I formerly did at my military exit to invoke a continuation of the blessings of Providence upon it, and upon all those who are the supporters of its interests, and the promoters of harmony, order and good government.
That to impress these things it might, among other things be observed, that we are all the children of the same country—a country great and rich in itself—capable and promising to be, as prosperous and as happy as any the annals of history have ever brought to our view—That our interest, however deversified in local and smaller matters, is the same in all the great and essential concerns of the Nation.—That the extent of our Country—the diversity of our climate and soil—and the various productions of the States consequent of both, are such as to make one part not only convenient, but perhaps indispensably necessary to the other part;—and may render the whole (at no distant period) one of the most independant in the world.—That the established government being the work of our own hands, with the seeds of amendment engrafted in the Constitution, may by wisdom, good dispositions, and mutual allowances; aided by experience, bring it as near to perfection as any human institution ever approximated; and therefore, the only strife among us ought to be, who should be foremost in facilitating and finally accomplishing such great and desirable objects; by giving every possible support, and cement to the Union.—That however necessary it may be to keep a watchful eye over public servants, and public measures, yet there ought to be limits to it; for suspicions unfounded, and jealousies too lively, are irritating to honest feeling; and oftentimes are productive of more evil than good.
To enumerate the various subjects which might be introduced into such an address would require thought; and to mention them to you would be unnecessary, as your own judgment will comprehend all that will be proper; whether to touch, specifically, any of the exceptionable parts of the Constitution may be doubted.—All I shall add therefore at present, is, to beg the favor of you to consider—1st, the propriety of such an address.—2d, if approved, the several matters which ought to be contained in it—and 3d, the time it should appear: that is, whether at the declaration of my intention to withdraw from the service of the public—or to let it be the closing act of my administration—which will end with the next session of Congress (the probability being that that body will continue sitting until March,) when the House of Representatives will also dissolve.
’Though I do not wish to hurry you (the case’s not pressing) in the execution of either of the publications beforementioned, yet I should be glad to hear from you generally on both—and to receive them in time, if you should not come to Philadelphia until the session commences, in the form they are finally to take.—I beg leave to draw your attention also to such things as you shall conceive fit subjects for communication on that occasion; and noting them as they occur that you would be so good as to furnish me with them in time to be prepared, and engrafted with others for the opening of the session. With very sincere and affectionate regard, I am, &c.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Philadelphia, 21 June, 1792.
My dear Sir,
Since writing to you on the 28th of January, I have received your several favors of the 27th of December from Paris; 4th of February, 17th and 21st of March, and 6th and 10th of April from London. I thank you very much for the interesting and important information contained in several of these letters, particularly that of the 4th of February. If the last article of which it is comprised should in your judgment require an acknowledgment, I shall rely on your goodness to make it in suitable and respectful terms. You can be at no loss to discover the paragraph to which I allude.1
The plot thickens and development must have begun; but what the final issue will be, lyes too deep for human ken. I will hope for the best, without allowing myself to wander in the field of conjecture for the result. Your letters, though extremely interesting in point of information, require but little to be said in the way of reply. The accts. given therein will be treasured up, to be acted upon as circumstances will warrant, and as occasions may present. One thing, however, I must not pass over in silence, lest you should infer from it, that Mr. D[undas] had authority for reporting, that the United States had asked the mediation of Great Britain to bring about a peace between them and the Indians. You may be fully assured, Sir, that such mediation never was asked, that the asking of it never was in contemplation, and I think I might go further and say, that it not only never will be asked, but would be rejected if offered. The United States will never have occasion, I hope, to ask for the interposition of that power, or any other, to establish peace within their own territory.
That it is the wish of that government to intermeddle, and bring this measure to pass, many concurrent circumstances (small indeed when singly considered) had left no doubt on my mind, before your letter of the 6th of April came to hand. What is there mentioned of the views of Mr. P[itt], as well as of the assertions of Mr. D., is strong as “proof of Holy Writ” in confirmation of it.1 The attempt has, however, in its remotest movements been so scouted as to have retarded, if it has not entirely done away the idea; but I do not hesitate to give it to you, my private and decided opinion, that it is to these interferences, and to the underhanded support, which the Indians receive, (notwithstanding the open disavowal of it,) that all our difficulties with them may be imputed. We are essaying every means in our power to undeceive these hostile tribes, with respect to the disposition of this country towards them, and to convince them that we neither seek their extirpation, nor the occupancy of their lands, as they are taught to believe, except such of the latter as has been obtained by fair treaty, and purchase bona fide made and recognised by them in more instances than one. If they will not, after this explanation (if we can get at them to make it), listen to the voice of peace, the sword must decide the dispute; and we are, though very reluctantly, vigorously preparing to meet the event.
In the course of last winter, I had some of the chiefs of the Cherokees in this city, and in the spring I obtained, (with some difficulty indeed,) a full representation of the Six Nations to come hither. I have sent all of them away well satisfied, and fully convinced of the justice and good dispositions of this government towards the Indian nations generally. The latter, that is the Six Nations, who before appeared to be divided and distracted in their councils, have given strong assurances of their friendship, and have resolved to send a deputation of their tribes to the hostile Indians with an acct. of all that has passed, accompanying it with advice to them to desist from further hostilities. With difficulty still greater, I have brought the celebrated Captain Joseph Brant to this city, with a view to impress him also with the equitable intentions of this government towards all the nations of his color. He only arrived last night, and I am to give him an audience at twelve this day.
Nothing has, as yet, been hinted on this side of the water to any of the officers of government, of the other matter mentioned in your letter of the 6th of April, though suspicions of it have been entertained.1
Knowing from the letters of the Secretary of State to you, that you are advised in all matters of public concern, and will have transmitted to you the laws as they are enacted, and the gazettes as they are published, I shall not trouble you with a detail of domestic occurrences. The latter are surcharged and some of them indecently communicative of charges that stand in need of evidence for their support.
There can be but few things of a public nature likely to fall in your line, requiring to be acted upon by this government, that may not be freely communicated to the department to which it belongs; because in proceeding thereon the head of the department will necessarily be made acquainted therewith. But there may, nevertheless, be other matters, more remote in their consequences, of the utmost importance to be known, that not more than one intermediate person would be entrusted with. Here, necessity as well as propriety will confine you to a point. Cases, not altogether under the control of necessity, may also arise to render it advisable to do this, and your own good judgment will be the best direction in these. With much truth and affection, I am, &c.
TO JAMES ANDERSON.
Philadelphia, 26 June, 1792.
I had the pleasure a few days ago to receive your letter of the 28th of September, enclosing a letter from the Earl of Buchan, and accompanied with some seeds of the Swedish turnip, or ruta baga. At the same time I received from Mr. Campbell, a bookseller in New York, six volumes of The Bee,1 which he informed me were transmitted by your directions. In your letter you mentioned having sent the first four volumes of The Bee, and the Earl mentions in his that he has sent me a set. I therefore concluded, that the six volumes which I have received are those mentioned by his Lordship, and especially as the pamphlet on wool, by Sir John Sinclair, which you observed in your letter accompanied the books which you sent, was not with those which I received. I mention these circumstances in order that, if there is any mistake in the transmission of the books, it may be set right.
I feel no less grateful, Sir, for your polite attention, whether the books which I have received be those sent by yourself or by the Earl. I must beg your acceptance of my best thanks for the Swedish turnip seed, and the particular account which you were so good as to give me respecting it. As I have spent a great part of my life, and that not the least pleasing, in rural affairs, I am always obliged by receiving such communications or novelties in that way, as may tend to promote the system of husbandry in this country.
When you first determined upon publishing The Bee, the Earl of Buchan had the goodness to transmit to me the plan of the work, with which I was much pleased; and, from the answer which I then gave to his Lordship’s letter, I have considered myself as a subscriber to the publication, and must beg to be informed to whom, or in what manner, I shall cause payment to be made for it.
I have not yet had it in my power to peruse those volumes of The Bee, which I have received, but I promise myself much entertainment and information from them; for the extensive and liberal ground, upon which you appear to have undertaken the work, must make it interesting to the good citizens of every country, and for your complete success in it you have my best wishes. I am, Sir, &c.
TO HENRY LEE, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
Philadelphia, 30 June, 1792.
Your favor of the 15th came duly to hand, but at a time when I was much engaged with the Secretary of State in despatching Mr. Pinckney to the court of London, and in considering other business of importance.
I shall repeat in this letter, what I have declared to you on a former occasion, vizt., that, wishing to promote the public weal, and to make justice and impartiality the lines by which to walk to accomplish this, every information that can enable me to tread on such firm ground, or which would enable me to investigate with more accuracy the characters of public men, or the utility of public measures, cannot fail of being acceptable to me, whilst I have any thing to do with either, particularly the latter.1
Having premised these truths, I shall add, on the subject of your letter, that I can no more condemn G. K.1 on the evidence of Colonel D.’s2 letter to you, than I am disposed to go into a full vindication of his conduct against the implications, which are contained in that letter. When assertion stands against assertion, recourse must be had to collateral circumstances to come at the truth, or the preponderating weight; but these are not necessary in the instance before us, for it will not be unfair to declare, that the conduct of Colonel D. is uncandid, and that his letter is equivocal. He acknowledges in it, that, when I asked if he would serve if you should be appointed to the chief command, he gave no answer; but does not in any part of his letter tell you what answer he gave G. K. to the same question, unless you take the following for one, when he was applied to, to know if he would accept of an appointment. “I told him I first wanted to know who would command the army, and said something of you and some others.” But are these equivocal expressions to be placed against the positive declarations of the other? Especially, too, when Colonel D., in relating the conversation which passed between himself and me, has mistaken both the substance and tendency of it. For you may be assured, Sir, I never mentioned your name, or the name of any man living, to him as one who was in the smallest degree fixed on for the command. The Secretary of War himself was unacquainted with the final decision, when Colonel D. left this city. The truth is, I never was more embarrassed in any appointment; and the object of my conversation with the latter was, to learn the public sentiment, as far as it could be obtained from him, with respect to this matter. To questions of this tendency, he said he had heard Morgan, Scott, and yourself mentioned on his journey through and from Kentucky to his own house; and, if I understood the significancy of things not expressed, he complimented himself. I took an occasion then to observe, that I conceived few men were better qualified for such a command than you were, and asked if he thought your junior rank in the late army would be an objection with those, who had been your seniors in it, to serve under you. His reply, (when a little pushed by bringing the case home to himself, for I wanted to draw an explicit declaration from him), was, that he believed it would be an unpleasant or grating thing, or words to that effect; but the manner, more than the expression, throughout the whole of the conversation, which was after dinner, and when we were alone, led me to conclude that it would not be relished by him. What his real intentions might be at that time, when he was speaking to G. K., or lastly to you, no one but himself is master of.
I have no hesitation in declaring to you, that the bias of my inclination was strongly in your favor; but that the result of my inquiries, direct and indirect, of military and indeed of other characters, (who were well disposed to see you in nomination,) was, that, if you were appointed to the command, it would be vain to look for senior officers to act subordinately, or, if they consented, it would be so grudgingly as that more than probably the seeds of sedition would be coeval with the formation of the army, such being the nature of military pride. Admitting this, then, one of two things would inevitably have followed; either an army composed of discontented materials, or of junior characters. The first might be attended with fatal consequences; the other, (however excellent the officers might be,) if any disaster should befall the army, it would instantly be ascribed to the inexperience of the principal officers in stations to which they had never been accustomed, thereby drawing a weight upon my shoulders too heavy to be borne. This was my own view of the subject, and the principle upon which I acted; not, be assured, because G. K. was of this or of that opinion. The fact, I sincerely believe, is, that he was as much puzzled as I was to fix on the first officer, under the circumstances that existed.
How far the appointment of G. W.1 is a popular or an unpopular measure is not for me to decide. It was not the determination of a moment, nor was it the effect of partiality or of influence; for no application (if that in any instance could have warped my judgment) was ever made in his behalf from any one, who could have thrown the weight of a feather into his scale, but because, under a full view of all circumstances, he appeared most eligible. To a person of your observation and intelligence it is unnecessary to remark, that an appointment, which may be unpopular in one place, and with one set of men, may not be so in another place, or with another set of men, and vice versâ; and that to attempt to please every body is the sure way to please nobody; of course, the attempt would be as idle, as the execution would be impracticable. G. W. has many good points as an officer, and it is to be hoped, that time, reflection, good advice, and, above all, a due sense of the importance of the trust, which is committed to him, will correct his foibles, or cast a shade over them. With esteem and regard, I am, &c.
TO JOHN FRANCIS MERCER.
Mount Vernon, 23 July, 1792.
Your favor of the 10th did not get to my hands until Saturday last, although I sent to the Post Office regularly, every Post day since I came to this place for the letters which I expected.
Your letter conveys no specific assurance of the time, or manner of discharging the bal’e which is due to me.—I am placed on no better, indeed on no worse ground, than I stood years ago with respect to this debt; and you cannot have forgotten that these were my apprehensions, which I expressed to you upon more occasions than one.—Why then should I be told at this late day, after every endeavor on my part to accommodate matters to your convenience, of your intention of offering all your property for sale when part of it ought to have been applied to my use years since?—or to what purpose (for me I mean) is it that you should offer property for sale, if the price set thereon will admit no purchasers,—or if sold that the money is to be converted to other uses than for my benefit? The latter you must be sensible I know to have been the case, and the other, as it respects negroes which you offered to me formerly, and from other circumstances, I have no reason to disbelieve.
It is not from inclination, that I become acquainted with any Gentleman’s circumstances, and far is it from my practice to investigate what he owes; but you must excuse me when I tell you that I have heard enough of yours to give me some uneasiness, as well on your acct. as on mine.—To two facts I shall glance.—A Gentn. in Phila., without having the least suspicion (I believe) how matters stood between you and me, was enquiring into the value of your Marlborough Estate; and through another channel I understd. the reason was that your debt to him was considerable; and that that was the mean by which he was to be secured.—The other is the agency of Mr. Montague, who I know is determined to push the settlement of that business.—Others I have also heard of: but nothing, I beg you to be persuaded, Sir, but my own interest in the case would have induced me to mention them to you.—Hard indeed then would it be upon me, if after twenty odd years endulgence and receiving any thing and driblets as they were offered, which dissipated NA as inscru bly as the morning dew, that I should be still postponed, or put off with vague promises, until perhaps you and your property may have parted.
There can be no difficulty in settling this, or any account where the debits and credits are regular, and the intentions of the parties are fair; and I am persuaded if you will be at the trouble of riding to this place, a few hours will ascertain the bal’e which is due to me—Or in case a disagreement should arise on any point, it might be so stated as that an impartial umpire might decide it for us, witht. trouble or lawsuit.—Besides, I have at this place a number of Letters, Papers, and the Mill Books, which might throw light upon things which to you may seem to want explanation, and cannot be had elsewhere. Other matters also might be more clearly explained, and better understd. by oral conversation than is practicable by letter.—I know of nothing (at present) that will call me from home soon, unless I should go to the New City the first day of next month; of which I gave the Commrs. some, but no positive intimation.—However if you are inclined to comply with this request, and will name the precise day you will be here, I will not be from home.
I beg you to be assured, that it will be extremely irksome and painful to me to go into a Court of Justice for the recovery of what is due to me, and for which I have with very great inconvenience and disadvantage to myself, waited so long; but it must be the case unless it can be averted by some measure wch. possibly may be adopted at the meeting, wch. is now proposed, and which it may be well for you to think on previous thereto.
I have not yet been called upon legally to answer the complaint of Henshaw; but shall be ready to do it whenever it shall be found necessary or expedient, and for that purpose shall keep the Bill, and the answer which you have drawn until I either see you, or hear from you again.—The answer as drawn mistated a fact with respect to the power vested in Mr. Lund Washington.—The truth of that matter stands thus—the sale as you have recited, was made in Novr., 1774, on 12 month’s credit.—In May following, I went to the second Congress, as a member thereof, without giving Lund Washtn., then or at any time thereafter NA powers, fully expecting to return as soon as the business of the session should close; but being chosen to commd. the Army, I proceeded to Cambridge and from thence—as soon as it became apparent to me that my absence from home was likely to be of much longer continuance than I had calculated upon, I wrote to Col. Tayloe informing him thereof, and desiring him to take the sole management of the trust wch. had been commitd. to us, upon himself, as my situation would no longer permit me to pay any further attention to it, and because I should not consider myself responsible for any transaction subsequent to the sale—previous to which he had thrown the whole burthen upon me, and nothing remained for him to do but appoint a collector (if he did not chuse to be at the trouble himself), and submit the money to the decision of the court, agreeably to its decretal order—What he did—or rather what he neglected to do, would be tedious to relate, and I presume can compose no part of my answer.—And with respect to the particular instance of depreciation as stated in the answer my memory is not furnished with the circumstance at present. I am, Sir, Yr. most obedt. Hble. Servt.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 29 July, 1792,
My dear Sir,
I have not yet received the new regulations of allowances to the surveyors or collectors of the duties on spirituous liquors; but this by the by. My present purpose is to write you a letter on a more interesting and important subject. I do it in strict confidence, and with frankness and freedom.
On my way home, and since my arrival here, I have endeavored to learn from sensible and moderate men, known friends to the government, the sentiments which are entertained of public measures. These all agree, that the country is prosperous and happy, but they seem to be alarmed at that system of policy, and those interpretations of the constitution, which have taken place in Congress. Others less friendly, perhaps, to the government, and more disposed to arraign the conduct of its officers (among whom may be classed my neighbor and quondam friend Colonel M.1 ), go further, and enumerate a variety of matters, which, as well as I recollect, may be adduced under the following heads, viz.:
1. “That the public debt is greater than we can possibly pay, before other causes of adding new debt to it will occur; and that this has been artificially created by adding together the whole amount of the debtor and creditor sides of the accounts, instead of taking only their balances, which could have been paid off in a short time.
2. “That this accumulation of debt has taken for ever out of our power those easy sources of revenue, which, applied to the ordinary necessities and exigencies of government, would have answered them habitually, and covered us from habitual murmurings against taxes and tax-gatherers, reserving extraordinary calls for extraordinary occasions, would animate the people to meet them.
3. “That the calls for money have been no greater than we must generally expect for the same or equivalent exigencies, yet we are already obliged to strain the impost till it produces clamor, and will produce evasion, and war on our own citizens to collect it; and even to resort to an excise law, of odious character with the people, partial in its operation, unproductive, unless enforced by arbitrary and vexatious means, and committing the authority of the government in parts where resistance is most probable and coercion least practicable.
4. “They cite propositions in Congress, and suspect other projects on foot, still to increase the mass of the debt.
5. “They say, that by borrowing at two thirds of the interest we might have paid off the principal in two thirds of the time; but that from this we are precluded by its being made irredeemable but in small portions and long terms.
6. “That this irredeemable quality was given it for the avowed purpose of inviting its transfer to foreign countries.
7. “They predict, that this transfer of the principal, when completed, will occasion an exportation of three millions of dollars annually for the interest, a drain of coin, of which as there has been no example, no calculation can be made of its consequences.
8. “That the banishment of our coin will be completed by the creation of ten millions of paper money in the form of bank bills, now issuing into circulation.
9. “They think the ten or twelve per cent. annual profit, paid to the lenders of this paper medium, are taken out of the pocket of the people, who would have had without interest the coin it is banishing.
10. “That all the capital employed in paper speculation is barren and useless, producing, like that on a gaming-table, no accession to itself, and is withdrawn from commerce and agriculture, where it would have produced an addition to the common mass.
11. “That it nourishes in our citizens vice and idleness instead of industry and morality.
12. “That it has furnished effectual means of corrupting such a portion of the legislature, as turns the balance between the honest voters, whichever way it is directed.
13. “That this corrupt squadron, deciding the voice of the legislature, have manifested their dispositions to get rid of the limitations imposed by the constitution on the general legislature; limitations, on the faith of which the States acceded to that instrument.
14. “That the ultimate object of all this is to prepare the way for a change, from the present republican form of government to that of a monarchy, of which the British constitution is to be the model.
15. “That this was contemplated in the Convention they say is no secret, because its partisans have made none of it. To effect it then was impracticable, but they are still eager after their object, and are predisposing every thing for its ultimate attainment.
16. “So many of them have got into the legislature, that, aided by the corrupt squadron of paper-dealers, who are at their devotion, they make a majority in both houses.
17. “The republican party, who wish to preserve the government in its present form, are fewer, even when joined by the two, three, or half-dozen antifederalists, who, though they dare not avow it, are still opposed to any general government; but, being less so to a republican than a monarchical one, they naturally join those whom they think pursuing the lesser evil.
18. “Of all the mischiefs objected to the system of measures before mentioned, none, they add, is so afflicting and fatal to every honest hope, as the corruption of the legislature. As it was the earliest of these measures, it became the instrument for producing the rest, and will be the instrument of producing in future a king, lords, and commons, or whatever else those who direct it may choose. Withdrawn such a distance from the eye of their constituents, and these so dispersed as to be inaccessible to public information, and particularly to that of the conduct of their own representatives, they will form the worst government upon earth if the means of their corruption be not prevented.
19. “The only hope of safety, they say, hangs now on the numerous representation, which is to come forward the ensuing year; but, should the majority of the new members be still in the same principles with the present, show so much dereliction of republican government, and such a disposition to encroach upon or explain away the limited powers of the constitution in order to change it, it is not easy to conjecture what would be the result, nor what means would be resorted to for the correction of the evil. True wisdom, they acknowledge, should direct temperate and peaceable measures; but, they add, the division of sentiments and interest happens unfortunately to be so geographical, that no mortal can say that what is most wise and temperate would prevail against what is more easy and obvious. They declare they can contemplate no evil more incalculable, than the breaking of the Union into two or more parts; yet when they view the mass, which opposed the original coalescence, when they consider that it lay chiefly in the southern quarter, and that the legislature have availed themselves of no occasion of allaying it, but, on the contrary, whenever northern and southern prejudices have come into conflict, the latter have been sacrificed and the former soothed.
20. “That the owers of the debt are in the southern, and the holders of it in the northern division.
21. “That the antifederal champions are now strengthened in argument by the fulfilment of their predictions, which has been brought about by the monarchical federalists themselves; who, having been for the new government merely as a stepping-stone to monarchy, have themselves adopted the very constructions of the constitution, of which, when advocating the acceptance before the tribunal of the people, they declared it unsusceptible; whilst the republican federalists, who espoused the same government for its intrinsic merits, are disarmed of their weapons, that which they denied as prophecy being now become true history. Who, therefore, can be sure, they ask, that these things may not proselyte the small number, which was wanting to place the majority on the other side? And this, they add, is the event at which they tremble.”1
These, as well as my memory serves me, are the sentiments, which directly and indirectly have been disclosed to me. To obtain light and to pursue truth being my sole aim, and wishing to have before me explanations of, as well as the complaints on, measures, in which the public interest, harmony, and peace is so deeply concerned, and my public conduct so much involved, it is my request, and you would oblige me by furnishing me with your ideas upon the discontents here enumerated; and for this purpose I have thrown them into heads or sections, and numbered them, that those ideas may be applied to the correspondent numbers. Although I do not mean to hurry you in giving your thoughts on occasion of this letter, yet, as soon as you can make it convenient to yourself, it would for more reasons than one be agreeable and very satisfactory to me.
The enclosure in your letter of the 16th was sent back to the post, after I received it, with my approving signature, and in a few days I will write to the purport mentioned in your letter of the 22d, both to the Secretary of War and yourself. At present all my business public and private is on my own shoulders; the two young gentlemen who came home with me, being on visits to their friends, and my nephew, the Major, too much indisposed to afford me any aid.
With affectionate regard, I am, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 1 August, 1792.
Your despatches of the 14th and 21st ultimo came duly to hand; and it is probable the servant, who carries this letter to the post-office, will bring me a third of this week’s date. I did not acknowledge the receipt of the first letter at an earlier date, because there was nothing contained in it, which required a reply; and I am too little acquainted with the authority, under which Colonel Henry Kerr detached Lieutenant-Colonel Phillips, or the cause or the object of that detachment, to form so good an opinion of the propriety of the measure, as it is easy for me to predict the probable consequences of it. I hope Major Gaither has before this embarked for that quarter, strongly impressed with the views of the general government, and the disposition of it to preserve peace, if it can be done upon just and honorable grounds.
The tranquillity, which, (by your last accounts handed to me,) prevails on our northwestern frontiers, gives me much satisfaction, and affords a pleasing prospect, that the exertions of government to bring the hostile Indian tribes into a pacific mood will not have been made in vain. This, however, is not to relax any preparation for a contrary event. Proceed as if war was inevitable; but do it, I entreat you, with all the economy which can result from system and good regulations. Our finances call for it, and, if these did not, our reputation does. The supplies of an army, through so long and rugged a land transportation, must under the best management be expensive; our attention, therefore, ought to be proportionate. That I may form some ideas of the former, I desire you would report to me the regulations, which you have adopted for providing, forwarding, and issuing of them, and the mode of having them accounted for to the department of war. I have written to the Secretary of the Treasury for similar information on these points, so far as any of them may come within the purview of his department. Reiterate, in your letters to General Wayne, the necessity of employing the present calm in disciplining and training the troops under his command for the peculiar service for which they are destined. He is not to be sparing of powder and lead, in proper and reasonable quantities, to make the soldiers marksmen.
There is no propriety, that I can perceive, in giving the rank of brigadier to Major Sargent; nor do I conceive that General Wilkinson would, or indeed ought to relinquish his present command. I have turned this matter in my thoughts, but as yet have not been able to hit upon a character to my mind for the office of adjutant-general. I will think again and again on the subject, and will inform you of the result.
So long as the vice of drunkenness exists in the army, so long, I hope, ejections of those officers, who are found guilty of it, will continue; for that and gaming will debilitate and render unfit for active service any army whatsoever. I am, Sir, &c.
P. S. Would Major Fish accept the appointment of adjutant-general with the rank of lieutenant-colonel? He strikes me as an eligible character. Colonel Posey, also, who wants to be employed, might, if ready at his pen, make a good one; for, in other respects, (and I do not know that he is deficient in this,) he is said to be an excellent officer.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 5 August, 1792.
Since the date of my last despatch to you of the 1st instant, I have received your letters of the 26th and 30th ultimo, and have affixed my signature to the arrangement of compensations to the officers of inspection, in consequence of additional latitude given to the President of the United States by the act of the last session, entitled “An act concerning the duties on spirits distilled within the United States.”
I have done this on full conviction, that the best information the nature of the case would admit has been obtained at the treasury, to keep the aggregate within the limitations of the law, and to proportion the compensations to the services of the respective officers; presuming, also, that it appeared essential, (from a full view of circumstances, and the benefits likely to be derived from the measure to the public,) that an increase of the officers of revenue was really necessary; for I should be unwilling to add to the former establishment, unless the propriety of it was apparent. Unless the attorney-general should be of opinion, that the President of the United States has power, under the act of March, 1791, or the subsequent one of last session, to appoint, (in the recess of the Senate,) an inspector of the survey newly constituted in Maryland, it must remain, as is proposed, under the immediate direction of the supervisor.
If, after these regulations are in operation, opposition to the due exercise of the collection is still experienced, and peaceable procedure is no longer effectual, the public interest and my duty will make it necessary to enforce the laws respecting this matter; and, however disagreeable this would be to me, it must nevertheless take place. * * *
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 13 August, 1792.
My last to you was dated the 5th instant, since which I have received your letters of the 4th, 5th, and 7th, and shall reply to such parts of them as appear to require it.
It is painful to find the recruiting service advancing so slowly as your last letters indicate. Endeavor to rouse the officers, who are engaged in this business, to fresh exertions. The unhappy fate of our messengers is a lamentable proof of Indian barbarity, and a strong evidence of the bad dispositions of at least some of their tribes.1 This ought to stimulate every nerve to prepare for the worst.
If the banditti, which made the successful stroke on the station at Nashville, could be come at without involving disagreeable consequences with the tribes to which they respectively belong, an attempt to cut them off ought by all means to be encouraged.2 An enterprise judiciously concerted, and spiritedly executed, would be less expensive to the government, than keeping up guards of militia, which will always be eluded in the attack, and never be overtaken in a pursuit.
No measures should be left unessayed to treat with the Wabash Indians; nor can the goods be better applied, than in effectuating this desirable purpose; but I think a person of more dignified character than Major Hamtranck should be employed in the negotiation. No idea of purchasing land from them ought to be admitted; for no treaty or other communications with the Indians have ever been satisfactory to them when this has been the subject. The principles and general outlines of all these treaties ought to be given to the negotiator, notwithstanding the right of disannulling is reserved to the government. Illiterate people are not easily made sensible of the propriety or policy of giving a power, and rejecting what is done under it. These may be contained in General Putnam’s instructions.1
General Putnam merits thanks, in my opinion, for his plan, and the sentiments he has delivered on what he conceives to be a proper mode of carrying on the war against the hostile nations of Indians; and I wish he would continue to furnish them without reserve in future. But in the present instance two reasons are so strongly opposed to the measure recommended by him, as to render it unadvisable and dangerous. One of which, the collision it might occasion, and the consequences thereof in the pending negotiation with Great Britain, he could not be acquainted with. The other, the inadequacy of our force to admit a division, and thereby running the hazard of being beaten in detail by encountering the enemy’s whole strength with part of our own, are such as not to be overcome. The other reasons assigned by you are not without weight, but less in degree; for peace and war are now in balance. Which will preponderate, remains to be known. If the latter, (which heaven avert!) we must expect to encounter a powerful confederacy, and ought not to put any thing to hazard, which can be avoided by military foresight.
I can form no judgment of the object or propriety of establishing the post on the Muskingum, mentioned in General Putnam’s letter to you of the 9th of July, as no copy of that letter has been sent to me. Equally unable am I to give any opinion on the speeches and wishes of Fish-carrier, as I know not the contents of them; twenty copies having accompanied the letter of General Chapin.
General Wilkinson has displayed great zeal and ability for the public weal since he came into service. His conduct carries strong marks of attention, activity, and spirit, and I wish him to know the favorable light in which it is viewed. With esteem, I am, Sir, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 19 August, 1792.
In my letter of the 15th, I promised you my sentiments on Mr. Seagrove’s1 communications; and, though I am not enabled to do it so fully as I could wish, I shall nevertheless give them as fully as I can.
His letters, and the enclosures therein contained, with the evidence in support, go to points which may be classed under six heads.
1st. Spanish interferences to prevent the treaty between the United States and the Creek nation from being carried into effect. To accomplish which, these Indians, together with the Cherokees, Chickasaws and Choctaws, are invited to a grand council at Pensacola; where, if they will attend, it is intimated to them, they shall be furnished with arms, ammunition, and goods of all sorts. An agent of Spain, a Captain Oliver, who is established at Little Tellassee in the Creek nation, and supposed to be acting in concert with McGillivray, has forbid their running the line, that was established by treaty with these people, promising them the support of Spain against any measures, which may be pursued by the United States, in case of their refusal; and, in a word, aided by McGillivray and Panton,1 is stimulating all the southern Indians to acts of hostility against the United States; to facilitate which, he is distributing goods and holding talks with the chiefs. Three things, it is said, will be attempted at the proposed meeting at Pensacola: 1st, to establish posts in the Indian country. 2d, to fix three agents amongst them, of whom McGillivray is to be the principal. And, 3d, to exclude the citizens of the United States from having any trade with these Indians. To carry the whole of this plan into effect, it is further said, that five regiments of about six hundred men each, and a large quantity of ordnance and stores, are actually arrived from Old Spain, and the like number of troops are expected from the Havana; and suspicions are alive, that the capture of Bowles2 was a preconcerted scheme between the Spanish government and himself.
2d. The turbulent disposition of the settlers on the western frontier of Georgia, and their endeavors (as appears by the declaration of Colonel Alexander and others, which could be adduced,) to oppose the measures of the general government, and to bring on a war between the United States and the Creek nation; with the nefarious means practised by them to accomplish this project, and the effect it has had upon the latter who are afraid, though generally welldisposed towards the United States, and in all their public talks have given strong assurances of their intention to execute the treaty, and the attempts to induce them to meet at Rock Landing on the Oconee, in the vicinity of these characters.
3d. His conditional engagement to meet the lower Creeks on the head of St. Mary’s River in November next. His opinion, that, with more extensive powers, and a larger field to display in, he should be able not only to counteract the unprovoked interference of the Spaniards, by keeping the Indians in our interest, but could even engage them to act for us, if circumstances should make it desirable; but, to do this, he must be furnished with goods, and be authorized to distribute them as occasion should require. That, but for his endeavors to support the authority of McGillivray, and to reinstate him in the good opinion of his nation, who began to see into his views, and nine tenths of it to despise him, this might have been in a more progressive state than it is at present.
4th. The necessity of restricting the licenses of traders, and passes to people of other descriptions, who, under various pretences, (but oftentimes with bad intentions,) go into the Indian villages; and the expediency and the advantages, which would result from having proper forms for both, with checks to prevent counterfeits and impositions on the Indians.
5th. The probable consequence of a severe drought to the Indians, and the policy of relieving them from impending famine.
6th. The intemperance of Major Call; his improper conduct in raising three troops of horse, with promise of payment from the general government; leaving a party on the southwestern frontier of Georgia without an officer, or even a sergeant; and the agent’s opinion of the necessity of a respectable force on the southwestern frontier of that State, and the little use of them in its present stations.
These heads, as well as I can recollect, contain the substance of Mr. Seagrove’s communications, on which I give the following sentiments and observations.
1st. The conduct of Spain in this business is so unprovoked (by any event that has come to my knowledge,) so mysterious, and so hostile in appearance, that, although the evidence is strong and corroborated by a variety of information through a variety of channels, and even confirmed by McGillivray himself, yet the mind can scarcely realize a procedure so base and inhuman, as the encouraging (not only without the exhibition of complaint, but under professions of good neighborhood and friendship towards us) a war, which must expose helpless women and children to the relentless fury of savages, and to the cruelties of the tomahawk and scalpingknife; but the evidence of their intrigues to set aside the treaty, to exclude the United States from having trade or intercourse with the southern Indians, will scarcely admit of a doubt; and there is too much reason to suspect that McGillivray has an agency in promoting these measures.
My opinion, therefore, is, that the commissioners of Spain, in Philadelphia, should be informed, delicately, and perhaps informally, (until matters can be more fully investigated or developed,) that, though we are ready to acquit the Spanish government of measures so unfriendly to the United States, yet the evidence of these proceedings in some of its officers is too strong to admit of a doubt, and of too important a nature to pass over in silence; that it creates serious alarms in the minds of our citizens in the southern quarter, and gives much trouble to the government of the United States, which has no views incompatible with good faith towards Spain, and with justice and honor towards the Indians.
Something to this effect was written or spoken to these gentlemen by the Secretary of State, on the first representation of this matter from the southern agent for Indian affairs; but what notice was taken of it by them, or whether any, I do not recollect to have been informed. Inquiry, however, should be made; but, whether documents respecting it are to be found in his office, or are deposited among the private transactions in his own keeping, is uncertain. In the latter case no information can be obtained in time.
2d. My opinion on this head is, that Governor Tellfair should be written to, and informed in delicate, but in firm and unequivocal terms, that the United States, from a concatenation of causes are so delicately circumstanced as to render peace in the southern quarter indispensably necessary, if it be possible to preserve it upon just and honorable terms; that government has received information, unequivocal in its nature, of designs in some of the frontier inhabitants of Georgia, not only to impede but absolutely to oppose running the line, which was agreed upon as a boundary between that State and the Creeks; and of conduct, in some of them, tending to provoke war, rather than to promote peace with these Indians; that it was (and subsequent events have proved it) with great difficulty the boundary, then agreed on, could be obtained; that now it has become a law of the land, and, if the Indians can be prevailed on to carry it into execution, it must be enforced; and, lastly, to exhort him by every motive to peace and good order, that he would use his influence and address to redress all turbulent and illegal proceedings in this behalf, as the consequences cannot fail to be distressing from a contrary conduct.
3d. Although the opinions and propositions of the southern agent ought, in this case, to be received with a due degree of caution, inasmuch as he is removing the theatre of action from Rock Landing to his own or brother’s store, at the head of the St. Mary’s, covering thereby that frontier where his interest is more immediately affected; building his own consequence upon the ruins of another, as occasion and circumstances may require; acquiring a power to distribute goods, which, though they are limited and issued under certain restrictions, may nevertheless be abused; and investing himself with more ample power to act from the circumstances of the moment; I say, notwithstanding the liability to abuse in some or all of these cases, I am of opinion from the circumstances which exist and press, and from the delay which would result from references, at the distance he is from the seat of the government, that he ought, as far as I have the power of doing it, to be instructed—
To hold a meeting with the Indian chiefs, at the time and place mentioned in his letter of the 27th ultimo,—and,
That he should, under defined restrictions, have authority given him to distribute goods as circumstances and his own judgment shall dictate.
That he ought to counteract the nefarious schemes of Spain, by all the influence and address he is master of.
That if, upon further and more unequivocal proof, McGillivray’s duplicity and treachery should appear more evident, that he is, in that case, to destroy as far as it is in his power the consequence of that man in the Creek nation; and, as the most effectual step towards it, and serving the United States, to take, if he can, his place in the nation.
4th. The propriety of this restrictive proposition is apparent, but to draw the line is difficult. To vest it solely (which I believe would be the least evil) with the Indian agents would increase their consequence amazingly, and would give them in a manner, if they are indirectly engaged in trade, a monopoly thereof, and all other intercourse with the Indians; and, in the instance before us, would create much jealousy and disgust in the executive of the State of Georgia. Under this impression of my sentiments, decide as shall appear best upon a full view of the case. The idea of an engraving, with the proposed check, to prevent counterfeit passes and impositions, is a good thought, and merits adoption.
5th. If the Indians should be reduced to the deplorable situation, which is apprehended, by an act of Providence, which human foresight is unable to avert, it is my opinion, that we ought, if they exhibit signs of good dispositions towards us, as well from motives of policy as those of humanity, to afford them relief. But the power of the executive to do this, the state of the treasury, the extent of the evil, and the consequences of giving to one nation and not to all, if it should be asked, are matters to be considered before any explicit assurance is given, that supplies will be granted.
6th. There can be no doubt of the propriety of bringing Major Call before a general court-martial for his intemperate conduct, for authorizing the raising of three troops of horse at the expense of the Union (unless as commanding officer he was instructed or empowered to do it, of which I have no recollection), and for leaving a party of soldiers on the southwestern frontier, without an officer, or even a sergeant, to command and provide for them.
As to the necessity of having a respectable force on the southwestern frontier of Georgia, and of the little use of those on the more western part of the State, no reasons are assigned for either by which a judgment can be formed; and, having no accurate map of that country with me, I am unable to give any other sentiment on either of these points, than that, for the reason which has been given under another head, this measure should be decided on with caution.
I do not give these opinions, or any one of them, as decisive, or as directions to be implicity followed; because that would render deliberation, and the request contained in my letter of the 15th, nugatory. They are given as crude and undigested first thoughts only, to be closely examined, compared, and combined with other information, which may be found in the public offices, and the letters and instruction drafted accordingly.
Let these (except the communication, if any, to the commissioners of Spain) pass through my hands unsealed. I am persuaded there will be no delay on account of disapprobation and consequent alterations. The express not expecting, as he says, to have proceeded further than Mount Vernon, will want a supply of money to take him back, to be accounted for with the Indian agent. He has already received two guineas from me.
I presume Mr. Seagrove would wish to be placed upon some more permanent establishment, with respect to his pay; but, if there be any doubt of my power to fix this, and to render his office more stable, matters, with assurances that his services will neither pass unnoticed nor unrewarded, must remain as they are until the meeting of Congress. And as he appears to have acted with zeal and intelligence, he ought to be informed of the satisfaction his conduct has given, and to be requested, in a particular and pointed manner, to have some one or more persons in whom entire confidence can be placed, as well in their ability as fidelity, to attend the meeting at Pensacola, to watch the motions of Oliver, and to be informed precisely and accurately of the Spanish movements in both East and West Florida. Money (reasonably bestowed) must not be spared to accomplish these objects.
What is become of the surveyor Ellicott, and what is proper to be done with him? He ought not to be retained in that country at a certain expense, awaiting a very uncertain event.
I did not think of it when I was writing my letter of the 15th, but now request, that the attorney-general may be called on to aid with his sentiments in the several matters, which are referred for your consideration and decision.1
Not having thought of any character more eligible for adjutant-general than Major Fish, I request that he may be sounded, or even directly applied to. Should he be indisposed to the office, some other must be appointed without delay. With esteem and regard, I am, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 22 August, 1792.
In my letter of the 15th I acknowledged the receipt of yours of the 11th; since which your despatches of the 16th are come to hand, and convey but a gloomy prospect of peace with the Indians, but show the necessity of preparing more vigorously if possible for the dernier resort. That the western Indians are stimulated to acts of hostility on one side, and every mean, which can be devised, to set aside the treaties, which exist between the southern Indians and the United States, and to encourage them to break with us, on the other, admits of no doubt in my mind; and that it may be a concerted plan between certain powers to check the growth of this rising country, is far from improbable, diabolical as it may seem.
The enclosure of General Putnam’s letter of the 9th of July enables me (which I could not do before) to form some idea of his proposition to establish a post on the Muskingum; and, though I shall give no decided opinion on this particular case, my sentiments generally with respect to posts are not changed, and are shortly these; that, except for the preservation of stores, and the security of convoys upon a communication, they are of no use but to protect the people within them; for unless the garrison is of such strength, and can detach in such force, as to bid defiance to the enemy, it is always cooped up. Except for the purposes I have mentioned, of what advantage are Forts Hamilton, St. Clair, and Jefferson? The strength of stationary parties is soon discovered by the Indians, and, when discovered, they are liable to be cut off, unless they confine themselves solely to the defence of the post; and of what avail would this be on the Muskingum or elsewhere? Posts can be insulted or avoided at the option of the enemy in a covered country; but the best vigilance of the most cautious enemy cannot prevent scouting parties falling on their trail. Besides, we shall never be respectable at any point, if the troops are divided and subdivided for the quietude of particular settlements or neighborhoods; nor will they ever be disciplined and under due subordination, whilst they are scattered over the country in small parties under subaltern officers; except when they are employed in ranging, which is an essential part of their military education in the service for which they are designed.
If all the measures, which have been pursued by government to convince the hostile Indians of the just and honorable intentions the United States towards them, should prove ineffectual, we may certainly calculate upon a powerful opposition from their combined force; in which case we shall not only be unprepared to penetrate their country this year, but there appears to me to be very little prospect of doing it early in the next, unless there can be some stimulus to the recruiting service, and the officers absolutely restrained from enlisting improper men. I am told, notwithstanding the pointed instructions, which have been issued to them on this head, that boys in many instances, and the worst miscreants in others, are received; to the latter of which may be attributed the number of desertions, that are reported to the war office. Under this view of the matter, your intimation to General Wayne, respecting the Chickasaws and Choctaws, was prudent and proper; but I conceive, nevertheless, if a few of each southern nation, say six or eight respectable characters, were to visit and remain with the army as long as should be agreeable to themselves, be well fed and clothed, and in all respects treated with attention and kindness, it would be an effectual inducement to the coming of the number that might be required next year.
I perceive by Mr. Belli’s1 letter, that the difference between supplying the troops with their rations by contracts, and by a purchasing commissary, must be very great indeed, although he has not given the wages and other charges of the latter gentry. I am of opinion, that the difference in favor of the latter will be found, from the nature of things, much greater on the exterior than it would be in the interior country; and as the public pays for all lost provisions (by the enemy), is at the expense of stores and guards, it is a matter worthy of serious investigation and consequent decision. Consult, therefore, with the Secretary of the Treasury, and act as in the result may appear best.
The hair must have stood on Major S.’s head, and a stake full in his view, when his letter of the 8th of July was writing to General Wilkinson, or the style of it would certainly have been varied. With esteem and regard, I am, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 23 August, 1792.
My dear Sir,
Your letters of the 12th and 13th came duly to hand, as did that enclosing Mr. Blodget’s plan of a Capitol. The latter I forwarded to the commissioners, and the enclosures of the two first are now returned to you.
I believe we are never to hear from Mr. Carmichael, nor of him, but through the medium of a third person. His — I really do not know with what epithet to fill the blank, is, to me, amongst the most unaccountable of all the unaccountable things! I wish much to hear of the arrival of Mr. Short at Madrid, and the result of their joint negotiations at that court, as we have fresh and much stronger representations from Mr. Seagrove of the extraordinary interference of the Spaniards in West Florida to prevent running the boundary line, which had been established by treaty between the United States and the Creeks; of their promising them support in case of their refusal; and of their endeavoring to disaffect the four southern tribes of Indians towards this country. In these projects Seagrove is convinced McGillivray and his partner Panton are embarked, and have become principal agents; and there are suspicions, he adds, that the capture of Bowles was a preconcerted measure between the said Bowles and the Spaniards. That the former is gone to Spain (and to Madrid I think) is certain. That McGillivray has removed from Little Tellassee to a place he has within or bordering on the Spanish line; that a Captain Oliver, a Frenchman (but an officer in a Spanish regiment at New Orleans), has taken his place at Tellassee, and is holding talks with the chiefs of the several towns in the nation; and that every exertion is making by the governor of West Florida to obtain a full and general meeting of the southern tribes at Pensacola, are facts that admit of no doubt. It is also affirmed that five regiments of about six hundred men each, and a large quantity of ordnance and stores, arrived lately at New Orleans, and that the like number of regiments (but this can only be from report) was expected at the same place from the Havana. Recent accounts from Arthur Campbell, I hope without much foundation, speak of very hostile dispositions in the lower Cherokees, and of great apprehension for the safety of Governor Blount and General Pickens, who had set out for the proposed meeting with the Chickasaws and Choctaws at Nashville, and for the goods which were going down the Tennessee by water for that meeting.
Our accounts from the western Indians are not more favorable than those just mentioned. No doubt remains of their having put to death Major Trueman and Colonel Hardin, and the harbingers of their mission. The report from their grand council is, that war was, or soon would be, decided on, and that they will admit no flags. The meeting was numerous, and not yet dissolved, that we have been informed of. What influence our Indian agents may have at it, remains to be known. Hendricks left Buffalo Creek between the 18th and 20th of June, accompanied by two or three of the Six Nations. Some of the chiefs of those nations were to follow in a few days, only waiting, it was said, for the Caughnawaga Indians from Canada; and Captain Brant would not be long after them. If these attempts to disclose the just and pacific disposition of the United States to these people should also fail, there remains no alternative but the sword to decide the difference; and recruiting goes on heavily. If Spain is really intriguing with the southern Indians, as represented by Mr. Seagrove, I shall entertain strong suspicions that there is a very clear understanding in all this business between the courts of London and Madrid, and that it is calculated to check, as far as they can, the rapid increase, extension, and consequence of this country; for there cannot be a doubt of the wishes of the former (if we may judge from the conduct of its officers) to impede any éclaircissement of ours with the western Indians, and to embarrass our negotiations with them, any more than there is of their traders and some others, who are subject to their government, aiding and abetting them in acts of hostility.1
How unfortunate, and how much is it to be regretted then, that, while we are encompassed on all sides with avowed enemies and insidious friends, internal dissensions should be harrowing and tearing our vitals. The last, to me, is the most serious, the most alarming, and the most afflicting of the two; and, without more charity for the opinions and acts of one another in governmental matters, or some more infallible criterion by which the truth of speculative opinions, before they have undergone the test of experience, are to be forejudged, than has yet fallen to the lot of fallibility, I believe it will be difficult, if not impracticable, to manage the reins of government, or to keep the parts of it together; for if, instead of laying our shoulders to the machine after measures are decided on, one pulls this way and another that, before the utility of the thing is fairly tried, it must inevitably be torn asunder; and in my opinion the fairest prospect of happiness and prosperity, that ever was presented to man, will be lost perhaps for ever.
My earnest wish and my fondest hope, therefore, is, that instead of wounding suspicions and irritating charges, there may be liberal allowances, mutual forbearances, and temporizing yieldings on all sides. Under the exercise of these, matters will go on smoothly, and, if possible, more prosperously. Without them, every thing must rub; the wheels of government will clog; our enemies will triumph, and, by throwing their weight into the disaffected scale, may accomplish the ruin of the goodly fabric we have been erecting.
I do not mean to apply this advice, or these observations, to any particular person or character. I have given them in the same general terms to other officers of the government; because the disagreements, which have arisen from difference of opinions, and the attacks, which have been made upon almost all the measures of government, and most of its executive officers, have for a long time past filled me with painful sensations, and cannot fail, I think, of producing unhappy consequences at home and abroad.
The nature of Mr. Seagrove’s communications was such, and the evidence in support of it so strongly corroborative, that I gave it as my sentiment to General Knox, that the commissioners of Spain ought to have the matter brought before them, in the manner it was before, but in stronger, (though not in committing) language; as the government was embarrassed, and its citizens in the southern States made uneasy by such proceedings, however unauthorized they might be by their courts.
I pray you to note down, or rather to frame into paragraphs or sections, such matters as may occur to you as fit and proper for general communication at the opening of the next session of Congress, not only in the department of state, but on any other subject applicable to the occasion, that I may in due time have every thing before me. With sincere esteem and friendship, I am always your affectionate, &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 26 August, 1792.
My dear Sir,
Your letter of the 18th, enclosing answers to certain objections communicated to you in my letter of the 29th ultimo, came duly to hand; and although I have not as yet, from a variety of causes, been able to give them the attentive reading I mean to bestow, I feel myself much obliged by the trouble you have taken to answer them; as I persuade myself, from the full manner in which you appear to have taken up the subject, that I shall receive both satisfaction and profit from the perusal.
Differences in political opinions are as unavoidable, as, to a certain point, they may perhaps be necessary; but it is exceedingly to be regretted, that subjects cannot be discussed with temper on the one hand, or decisions submitted to without having the motives, which led to them, improperly implicated on the other; and this regret borders on chagrin, when we find that men of abilities, zealous patriots, having the same general objects in view, and the same upright intentions to prosecute them, will not exercise more charity in deciding on the opinions and actions of one another. When matters get to such lengths, the natural inference is, that both sides have strained the cords beyond their bearing, and that a middle course would be found the best, until experience shall have decided on the right way, or (which is not to be expected, because it is denied to mortals) there shall be some infallible rule by which we could forejudge events.
Having premised these things, I would fain hope, that liberal allowances will be made for the political opinions of each other; and, instead of those wounding suspicions, and irritating charges, with which some of our gazettes are so strongly impregnated, and cannot fail, if persevered in, of pushing matters to extremity, and thereby to tear the machine asunder, that there might be mutual forbearances and temporizing yieldings on all sides. Without these, I do not see how the reins of government are to be managed, or how the Union of the States can be much longer preserved.
How unfortunate would it be, if a fabric so goodly, erected under so many providential circumstances, and in its first stages having acquired such respectability, should, from diversity of sentiments, or internal obstructions to some of the acts of government (for I cannot prevail on myself to believe, that these measures are as yet the deliberate acts of a determined party), be harrowing our vitals in such a manner as to have brought us to the verge of dissolution. Melancholy thought! But, at the same time that it shows the consequences of diversified opinions, when pushed with too much tenacity, it exhibits evidence also of the necessity of accommodation, and of the propriety of adopting such healing measures as may restore harmony to the discordant members of the Union, and the governing powers of it.
I do not mean to apply this advice to any measures, which are passed, or to any particular character. I have given it in the same general terms to other officers of the government. My earnest wish is, that balsam may be poured into all the wounds, which have been given, to prevent them from gangrening, and from those fatal consequences, which the community may sustain if it is withheld. The friends of the Union must wish this. Those, who are not, but wish to see it rended, will be disappointed, and all things, I hope, will go well.
We have learnt, through the medium of Mr. Harrison to Dr. Craik, that you have some thoughts of taking a trip this way. I felt pleasure at hearing it, and hope it is unnecessary to add, that it would be considerably increased by seeing you under this roof; for you may be assured of the sincere and affectionate regard of yours, &c.
P. S. I pray you to note down whatever may occur to you, not only in your own department, but other matters also of general import, that may be fit subjects for the speech at the opening of the ensuing session.1
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
Mount Vernon, 26 August, 1792.
My dear Sir,
The purpose of this letter is merely to acknowledge the receipt of your favors of the 5th2 and 13th instant, and to thank you for the information contained in both, without entering into the details of either.
With respect, however, to the interesting subject treated on in that of the 5th, I can express but one sentiment at this time, and that is a wish, a devout one, that, whatever my ultimate determination shall be, it may be for the best. The subject never recurs to my mind but with additional poignancy; and, from the declining state in the health of my nephew, to whom my concerns of a domestic and private nature are entrusted, it comes with aggravated force. But as the All-wise Disposer of events has hitherto watched over my steps, I trust, that, in the important one I may soon be called upon to take, he will mark the course so plainly, as that I cannot mistake the way. In full hope of this, I will take no measures yet a while, that will not leave me at liberty to decide from circumstances, and the best lights I can obtain on the subject.
I shall be happy, in the mean time, to see a cessation of the abuses of public officers, and of those attacks upon almost every measure of government, with which some of the gazettes are so strongly impregnated; and which cannot fail, if persevered in with the malignancy with which they now teem, of rending the Union asunder. The seeds of discontent, distrust, and irritation, which are so plentifully sown, can scarcely fail to produce this effect, and to mar that prospect of happiness, which perhaps never beamed with more effulgence upon any people under the sun; and this too at a time, when all Europe are gazing with admiration at the brightness of our prospects. And for what is all this? Among other things, to afford nuts for our transatlantic (what shall I call them?) foes.
In a word, if the government and the officers of it are to be the constant theme for newspaper abuse, and this too without condescending to investigate the motives or the facts, it will be impossible, I conceive, for any man living to manage the helm or to keep the machine together. But I am running from my text, and therefore will only add assurances of the affectionate esteem and regard, with which I am, &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 7 September, 1792.
The last post brought me your letter of the 1st instant, with the enclosures respecting the disorderly conduct of the inhabitants of the western survey of the district of Pennsylvania, in opposing the execution of what is called the excise law; and of the insults which have been offered by some of them to the officers, who have been appointed to collect the duties on distilled spirits agreeably thereto.1
Such conduct in any of the citizens of the United States, under any circumstances that can well be conceived, would be exceedingly reprehensible; but, when it comes from a part of the community for whose protection the money arising from the tax was principally designed, it is truly unaccountable, and the spirit of it much to be regretted.
The preliminary steps taken by you in ordering the supervisor of the district to repair to the survey, where these disorders prevail, with a view to ascertain in person “the true state of the survey; to collect evidences respecting the violences that have been committed, in order to a prosecution of the offenders; to ascertain the particulars as to the meeting which appears to have been held at Pittsburg; to encourage the perseverance of the officers in their duty, and the well-disposed inhabitants in discountenancing such violent proceedings,”1 are prudent and proper, and I earnestly wish they may have the desired effect. But if, notwithstanding, opposition is still given to the due execution of the law, I have no hesitation in declaring, if the evidence of it is clear and unequivocal, that I shall, however reluctantly I exercise them, exert all the legal powers with which the executive is invested to check so daring and unwarrantable a spirit. It is my duty to see the laws executed. To permit them to be trampled upon with impunity would be repugnant to it; nor can the government longer remain a passive spectator of the contempt, with which they are treated. Forbearance, under a hope that the inhabitants of that survey would recover from the delirium and folly into which they were plunged, seems to have had no other effect than to increase the disorder.
If it shall be the attorney-general’s opinion, under a full consideration of the case (adverting, as I presume he will, as well to the laws and constitution of Pennsylvania, as to those of the United States), that the meeting, which appears to have been held at Pittsburg, was illegal, and the members of it indictable, and it shall further appear to you from such information as you may be able to obtain from a comparative view of all circumstances, that it would be proper to bring the matter before the circuit court to be holden at Yorktown in October next, you have all the sanction and authority I can give to do it. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 7 September, 1792.
Your letters of the 31st of August, and the 1st of the present month, have been duly received. The enclosures in the first for Governor Tellfair and Mr. Seagrove have been approved and forwarded. Those of the second I have read, but will give them a second and more attentive consideration before I express any decisive opinion upon General Wayne’s plan for carrying on the war.
My first impression of it however is, that it differs immaterially, if in any thing, from the basis or principal features of the one that has been and now is pursuing; except in the establishing of a post on Big Beaver Creek, and in the two desultory strokes to be aimed at Sandusky and St. Joseph’s. The latter will be right or wrong according to the actual state of things at those places at the time it is proposed to make them (to be ascertained from indubitable information), and by a comparison of the hazards, which must be run, of failure, with the advantages to be gained in case of success. In all other respects, I see little more than the incidents and detail of the original plan; for, if all the pacific overtures are rejected by the hostile Indians, and the troops are neither in force nor discipline to make a forward movement the ensuing fall, it follows of course, that it must be delayed till the spring, and every exertion used, in the establishment of posts, magazines, &c., for as early an expedition as high water and the state of the forage will permit at that period. If General Wayne has any doubt of this, and his power to arrange and effectuate these, you have, I perceive by the copy of your letter to him, very properly removed; and it is my wish and desire, that his exertion to accomplish the objects he has contemplated may be commensurate to the importance of them.
With respect to the proposition for establishing a magazine on Big Beaver, there is but one objection to it in my mind, admitting that it does not look forward to the event contemplated by General Wayne, and provided the position is judiciously chosen, and that is, the multiplication of posts; for it has for a great length of time been my opinion, that a strong post at that place would cover much more effectually the western frontier of Pennsylvania and the northern parts of Virginia, than a post at Pittsburg. But habit, and the deep root the latter has taken, to which may be added its being a convenient deposit, and a place of more safety with a small garrison, (on account of its inhabitants,) than any other, have restrained my mentioning of it before. But in case of a movement towards Sandusky, one there does in that design become important.
If, upon more mature consideration of the ideas submitted by General Wayne, I should find cause to change the sentiments herein expressed, the alterations shall be communicated in my next; if not, you will consider what I have here said as the substance of my opinion thereon. * * *
A caution, both to General Wayne, and through him to General Wilkinson, ought to be given to guard effectually the hay at the outposts. Unless this is done, the Indians will most assuredly set fire to it; and to do it without having the stacks in the range of their defences, or as a cover to the approaches of the enemy, is no easy matter. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 16 September, 1792.
Your private letter of the 11th, accompanying an official one of the 9th, came safe, as did your other private letter of the 9th, and I feel myself obliged by the observations contained in the first respecting the proclamation.
As the former proclamations on similar occasions have been countersigned by the Secretary of State, I have for that reason, and for another which has some weight in my mind, thought it best not to depart in this instance from the precedent, which has been set; and therefore, as it cannot, (unless unforeseen delays happen,) be withheld from you more than six days longer than if it had been returned by this day’s post, I despatched by express the proclamation to Mr. Jefferson for the purpose above mentioned.
I have no doubt but that the proclamation will undergo many strictures; and, as the effect proposed may not be answered by it, it will be necessary to look forward in time to ulterior arrangements. And here not only the constitution and laws must strictly govern, but the employing of the regular troops avoided, if it be possible to effect order without their aid; otherwise there would be a cry at once, “The cat is let out; we now see for what purpose an army was raised.” Yet, if no other means will effectually answer, and the constitution and laws will authorize these, they must be used as the dernier resort.1
If you remain in opinion, that it would be advisable for the President to transmit the proclamation to the governors of North and South Carolina, and to the governor of Pennsylvania, I pray you to draft such letters to them, to be forwarded from hence (with proclamations, which must also be sent to me), as you may think best calculated to produce the end proposed. I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 17 September, 1792.
Your letters of the 8th and 9th inst. are received. The latter came to me on Saturday morning by express, from the post office in Alexandria. I gave the proclamation my signature, and forwarded it in the afternoon of the same day, by a special messenger, to the Secretary of State, for his countersign. If no unforeseen delay happens, the return of it may be in time for Friday’s post, so as to be with you on the Tuesday following.
It is much to be regretted that occurrences of a nature so repugnant to order and good government should not only afford the occasion, but render such an interference of the executive indispensably necessary. When these happen, and lenient and temporizing means have been used, and serve only to increase the disorder, longer forbearance would become unjustifiable remissness, and a neglect of that duty which is enjoined on the President. I can have no hesitation, therefore, under this view of the case, to adopt such legal measures to check the disorderly opposition which is given to the execution of the laws laying a duty on distilled spirits, as the constitution has invested the executive with; and however painful the measure would be, if the Proclamation should fail to produce the effect desired, ulterior arrangements must be made to support the laws, and to prevent the prostration of government.
Were it not for the peculiar circumstances of my family, I would return to the seat of Government immediately; at any rate, I hope to do it in the early part of next month, or before the middle thereof.
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 24 September, 1792.
Your letter of the 15th instant with its enclosures came duly to hand. It is exceedingly to be regretted, that all the attempts of government to bring the hostile Indians acquainted with the real designs of it, (so far as it respects the disputes with them,) should be so pointedly marked with misfortune, disappointment, or delay. Captain Brant’s illness, and the sickness and delays of the other chiefs of the Six Nations, are inauspicious of a favorable result; for much is not to be expected from the single attempt of Captain Hendricks, however zealously he may labor in the cause of humanity and peace. As present appearances are so ominous of a continuation of the war, no pains nor no expense within the bounds of moderation ought to go unessayed to ascertain the nature, extent, and strength of the confederation, against which we are to contend, that our measures may be regulated accordingly. Without a competent knowledge of these facts we shall grope in the dark, and may meet disaster when danger is not expected. To this end General Wayne should be particularly instructed, and the Indian agents also; nor would it be amiss, if some expedient could be devised to obtain intelligence from Detroit that the British, accounts of these matters might be likewise known. From the nature and circumstances of this war, good information is scarcely to be obtained, at least not to be relied on, but from a comparison of the intelligence, which is obtained through different channels.
In your letter to General Wayne of the 7th instant, a copy of which is among the enclosures you have forwarded to me, he is informed that you will “immediately write to the President of the United States, and request his orders on certain conditional statements relatively to the proportion of troops which it may probably be necessary to retain on the upper parts of the Ohio.” No such statement is yet come to my hands. Of course I am unprovided with the means by which to form a judgment on this head; but, under my present view of the matter, and the uncertainty in which we seem to be of the final and positive result of the grand council of the Indians holden at the Miami, the longer the decision is withheld the better; provided sufficient time is allowed the troops to cover themselves comfortably for the winter. And here, while it occurs, let me ask why the same kind of huts and mode of covering, that was adopted by the army in the last war, may not be again used, except permanent barracks for sufficient garrisons at the established posts? If scantling, brick, &c., are to be provided by the quartermaster, it will be attended with considerable expense, and, if for a temporary purpose only, will be thought injudiciously incurred. Besides, how can this be done conveniently before the disposition of the troops is resolved on?
I am in sentiment with you, that sub-legionary paymasters and sub-legionary adjutants, the latter aided by the sergeant-majors, are competent to their respective duties without battalion officers of this description. At any rate, I conceive that the experiment ought to be made with the latter in the first instance.
My observation on every employment in life is, that, wherever and whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty by close application thereto, it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein; besides, as you have very properly observed, the danger of money is increased in proportion to the number of hands into which it is committed. * * *
If the evidence in the case of Ensign Morgan is all given in, it becomes proper he should be ordered to the army for his trial; and, if it is necessary in this case, and will not be establishing a bad precedent to do it in the name of the President, I have no objection to the measure. If discretion was a trait of this officer’s character, or fairness the view of his advisers, I should hope he would abandon the idea of presenting a memorial to be tried in Philadelphia, and that he would not hesitate a moment to go where he is ordered. If, however, the latter should happen, it would be well, before it is reported to me, to have him and his friends admonished in a friendly way of the consequences, that must follow disobedience; for neither the military nor civil government shall be trampled upon with impunity whilst I have the honor to be at the head of them. I have no objection to his being tried at Pittsburg, and if there are no reasons opposed to it, unknown to me, I would advise it. That it cannot happen in Philadelphia is certain. Military propriety, the public service, and the precedent such a measure would establish, are so strongly opposed to it, that it is wonderful he should ever have suffered the idea to enter into his mind. Why might not another officer, if indulgence was granted in this instance, apply for a similar one? Nay, why not be carried to Boston, or Charleston, as inclination, or the expectation of benefits to be derived from it, might prompt.
I perceive by the copy of General Wayne’s letter to you before mentioned, that there has been some remissness on the part of the contractors at Pittsburg. This ought not to be suffered in the smallest degree, for one neglect or omission is too apt to beget another, to the discontentment of the troops and injury of the service; whereas a rigid exaction in every case checks a departure on their part from the contract in any; and no indulgence is ever allowed by them to the public. * * *
TO JOHN FRANCIS MERCER.
Mount Vernon, 26 September, 1792.
Your Letter of the 15th inst. was presented to me by Mr. Carlin, on his return from Philadelphia.
As my object in taking your Land near Monocacy (in payment of the debt due from the Estate of your decd. Father to me) is to convert it into cash as soon as possible without loss, I can have no other objection to an advantageous portion of the Tract than what might result from the uncertainty of the price that may be affixed to it, and the consequent possibility that the amount of a moiety may exceed the Sum which is due to me by the last Settlement of the accts., thereby occasioning a payment of money instead of receiving it. If these difficulties were removed, I have none other to your proposal of dividing the Tract into two equal parts, and fixing the property therein by Lot. A mean of doing this, I will suggest. It is—if you have not heard the sentiments of the Gentlemen, or either of them, who were chosen to affix a ready money price on the land (and I give you my honor I have not—and moreover that I have never exchanged a word on the subject with any one, except what I told you was Colo. Wm. Deakins’s opinion of it’s worth)—I will allow you seven Dollars per acre for a moiety; to be ascertained in the manner before mentioned. I name seven Dollars for the following reasons: 1st. because I have been assured by the above Gentleman (who professes to be well acquainted with the Land) that, in his judgment, it would not sell for more than six Dollars cash, or seven Dollars on credit, and 2d. because you have set it at Eight Dollars yourself, without being able to obtain that price. Five hundred and fifty acres (if the Tract contains 1100) would then be within the compass of my claim; and the surplus, if any, I would receive in young cows, or full grown heifers from Marlborough at three pounds a head, if more agreeable to you than to pay the cash. Your answer to this proposal, soon, would be convenient to me, as I shall be on my return to Philadelphia in a short time.
I come now to another part of your letter, and in touching upon it, do not scruple to declare to you that I was not a little displeased to find by a letter from Captn. Campbell, to a gentleman in this neighborhood, that my name had been freely used by you or your friends for electioneering purposes, when I had never associated your name and the election together; and when there had been the most scrupulous and pointed caution observed on my part, not to express a sentiment respecting the fitness or unfitness of any candidate for representation that cou’d be construed, by the most violent torture of the words, into an interference in favor of one, or to the prejudice of another. Conceiving that the exercise of an influence (if I really possess any) however remote would be highly improper; as the people ought to be entirely at liberty to chuse whom they pleased to represent them in Congress. Having pursued this line of conduct steadily, my surprise, and consequent declaration can be a matter of no wonder, when I read the following words in the letter above alluded to.
“I arrived yesterday from Philada. since which I find Colo. Mercer has openly declared, that Mr. Richd. Sprigg, Junr., informed him, that Bushrod Washington told him that the President in his presence declared, that he hoped Colo. Mercer would not be left out of the next representation in Congress; and added that he thought him the best representative that now goes or ever did go to that Body from this State.”
I instantly declared to the person who shewed me the Letter;—“that to the best of my recollection, I never had exchanged a word to, or before Bushrod Washington on the subject of your election, much less to have given such a decided opinion. That such a measure would have been incompatible with the rule I had prescribed to myself, and which I had invariably observed, of not interfering directly, or indirectly with the suffrages of the people, in the choice of their representatives,—and added, that I wished B. Washington might be called upon to certify what, or whether any conversation had ever passed between us on this subject, as it was my desire that every thing should stand upon its proper foundations.” Other sentiments have been reported as mine, that are equally erroneous.1
Whether you have, upon any occasion, expressed yourself in disrespectful terms of me, I know not—it has never been the subject of my enquiry. If nothing impeaching my honor or honesty is said, I care little for the rest. I have pursued one uniform course for three score years, and am happy in believing that the world have thought it a right one—of it’s being so, I am so well satisfied myself, that I shall not depart from it by turning either to the right or to the left, until I arrive at the end of my pilgrimage.
I am, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 28 September, 1792.
Your letter of the 22d inst. and the enclosures came to my hands by Wednesday’s post.
I adhere to my resolution of commencing my journey for Philadelphia the 8th of next month, if the condition of my servants will admit of it. Two of them, one a postilion, having been extremely ill with remittent fevers, which have not yet left them. My order for the carriage from Philadelphia, to be here by the 8th for my accommodation back, is not countermanded on this account.
But as my journey may be delayed something longer than was expected, as the cold is approaching, I shall, in addition to what I said on the subject in my last, give you in general terms my ideas for the disposition of the troops for the winter, under the uncertainty in which we are of peace with the western Indians.
My first wish would be to keep the army as compact as possible, for the purpose of disciplining and training the men to such kinds of manœuvres and firings, as are proper for Indian warfare. But, as this would involve one of two evils of magnitude, namely, an exposed frontier, or an expensive militia for its protection, this wish is scarcely attainable. How to dispose of the troops, then, to the best advantage for defence is next to be considered; and, to do this properly, the ulterior movements of the army must be held in view, and the period of their commencement also.
There are two principal and one intermediate points on the Ohio, which claim particular attention, to wit, Pittsburg, or some place not far from it, Fort Washington, and Marietta. The grand movement, in the present train of things, must certainly proceed from Fort Washington; but it does not follow, unless circumstances should point to advantages to be derived from a winter campaign, when frost would prevent the descent of the Ohio, that the force ought necessarily to be assembled at that place, until about to make a forward movement. 1st, because the enemy’s attention would be less fixed to it. 2dly, because the magazines of provisions, military stores, and forage, would accumulate with more ease at that place by lessening the consumption there. And, 3dly, because the river from Pittsburg to that post might be descended when the waters are up in six or eight days, and, matters being previously arranged thereat, the army might march as soon as the junction should be formed; whilst the desultory movement, which has been contemplated, might proceed, if from good intelligence it might be thought advisable, from Big Beaver to Sandusky. Under this idea of the matter, one sublegion might be posted under the command of General Wilkinson at the post below; one at Marietta, under the command of General Putnam; and the other two in the upper part of the river, under the commander-in-chief, with whom the intercourse would be easy from Philadelphia, and his orders quickly despatched to the subordinate parts of the army below.
Without being decided, I ask whether the upper division of the army, (except the garrison of Fort Franklin and a sufficient one for the stores, &c., at Pittsburg,) had not better be hutted in a secure manner on some convenient spot near the mouth of, or somewhere on, Big Beaver Creek; keeping out, as ought also to be the case at other stations, a regular succession of scouts to scour the country above and below, as well for defence as an essential part of their tactics? Such a disposition of the force, if the real movements and plan of operations is kept secret, which they undoubtedly ought to be, would embarrass the enemy not a little, and more than probably be attended with solid advantages. I do not, however, convey these sentiments to you as an order, but give them rather as thoughts, that have arisen from the incomplete state of our force and the uncertainty of the result of the Indian councils, and for free observations and remarks both by yourself and General Wayne, if there is time to obtain them, than from any other motive at present.
Perhaps a sufficient garrison might be better at Marietta, (as the intermediate post,) than a larger force; and two sub-legionary corps, including the said garrison and all others lower down, as the calls for troops below are great on account of the communication with the advanced posts, be wintered in huts secured by intrenchments, or a fortified camp at Fort Washington, if there are not barracks sufficient to contain them at that place. I am, &c.
TO MRS. BETTY LEWIS.
Mount Vernon, 7 October .
My dear Sister:
As Mrs. Washington and myself expect to set out to-morrow for Philadelphia, I have taken advantage of the good opportunity afforded by Mr. Robt. Lewis of sending Harriet to Fredericksburg. It is done at this time (notwithstanding your proposed visit to Albemarle), 1st. because it would be improper to leave her here after we are all gone; 2nd. because there would be no person to accompany her down afterwards; and 3rd. because it might be inconvenient for her to travel alone.
She comes, as Mrs. Washington informs me, very well provided with everything proper for a girl in her situation. This much I know, that she costs me enough. I do not however, want you (or any one else) to do more by her than merely to admit her into your family, whilst this House is uninhabited by a female white woman, and thereby rendered an unfit place for her to remain at. I shall continue to do for her what I have already done for seven years past, and that is to furnish her with such reasonable and proper necessaries as she may stand in need of, notwithstanding I have had both her brothers upon my hands and I have been obliged to pay several hundred pounds out of my own pocket for their board, schooling, and cloathing, &c., for more than the period aforementioned, their father’s estate being unable to discharge the executions as fast as they are issued against it.
Harriet has sense enough but no disposition to industry, nor to be careful of her cloathes. Your example and admonition may with proper restraints overcome the two last; and to that end I wish you would examine her cloathes, and direct her in their use and application of them, for without this they will be (I am told) dabbed about in every hole and corner, and her best things always in use. Fanny was too easy, too much of her own indolent turn, and had too little authority to cause either by precept or example any change in this for the better, and Mrs. Washington’s absence has been injurious to her in many respects. But she is young and, with good advice, may yet make a fine woman. If, notwithstanding the suggestion that she is well provided with everything (except a cloak which may not be had in Alexandria and may be got at Fredericksburg,) a deficiency is found and you wish to supply it, there will be no occasion for your laying in advance more than ten days, as I could at any time remit a bank note in a letter in four days after I was made acquainted with the amount. I do not mean by this to launch into expensiveness; she has no pretensions to it, nor would the state of my finances enable me to indulge her in that if she had.
Mrs. Washington joins me in best wishes for the perfect restoration of your health, and every other blessing.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE.
18 October, 1792.
My dear Sir,
I did not require the evidence of the extracts, which you enclosed to me, to convince me of your attachment to the constitution of the United States, or of your disposition to promote the general welfare of this country; but I regret, deeply regret, the difference in opinions, which have arisen and divided you and another principal officer of the government; and wish devoutly there could be an accommodation of them by mutual yieldings.
A measure of this sort would produce harmony and consequent good in our public councils. The contrary will inevitably introduce confusion and serious mischiefs; and for what? Because mankind cannot think alike, but would adopt different means to attain the same ends. For I will frankly and solemnly declare, that I believe the views of both of you to be pure and well-meant, and that experience only will decide, with respect to the salubrity of the measures, which are the subjects of dispute. Why, then, when some of the best citizens in the United States, men of discernment, uniform and tried patriots, who have no sinister views to promote, but are chaste in their ways of thinking and acting, are to be found, some on one side and some on the other of the questions, which have caused these agitations, should either of you be so tenacious of your opinions, as to make no allowances for those of the other? I could, and indeed was about to add more on this interesting subject, but will forbear, at least for the present, after expressing a wish, that the cup, which has been presented to us may not be snatched from our lips by a discordance of action, when I am persuaded there is no discordance in your views. I have a great, a sincere esteem and regard for you both, and ardently wish that some line could be marked out by which both of you could walk. I am, always, &c.1
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Philadelphia, 20 October, 1792.
My dear Sir,
Although your letter of the 10th of June, which I have received, did not paint the prospects of France in the most pleasing colors, yet the events which have since taken place give a more gloomy aspect to the public affairs of that kingdom, than your letter gave reason to apprehend.
A thousand circumstances, besides our distance from the theatre of action, made it improbable that we should have, in this country, a fair statement of facts and causes through the medium of the public prints; and I have received no other accounts, than what have come in that channel. But, taking up the most favorable of these, and gloomy indeed appears the situation of France at this juncture, it is hardly probable, that even you, who are on the spot, can say with any precision how these things will terminate; much less can we, at this distance, pretend to augur the event. We can only repeat the sincere wish, that much happiness may arise to the French nation, and to mankind in general, out of the severe evils which are inseparable from so important a revolution.
In the present state of things we cannot expect, that any commercial treaty can now be formed with France; but I have no doubt of your embracing the proper moment of arrangement, and of doing whatever may be in your power for the substantial interests of our country.
The affairs of the United States go on well. There are some few clouds in our political hemisphere, but I trust the bright sun of our prosperity will disperse them.
The Indians on our southern and western frontiers are still troublesome, but such measures are taking as will, I presume, prevent any serious mischief from them; I confess, however, that I do not believe these tribes will ever be brought to a quiescent state, so long as they may be under an influence, which is hostile to the rising greatness of these States.
From the complexion of some of our newspapers, foreigners would be led to believe, that inveterate political dissensions existed among us, and that we are on the very verge of disunion; but the fact is otherwise. The great body of the people now feel the advantages of the general government, and would not, I am persuaded, do any thing that should destroy it; but these kind of representations is an evil, which must be placed in opposition to the infinite benefits resulting from a free press; and I am sure you need not be told, that in this country a personal difference in political sentiments is often made to take the garb of general dissensions.
From the department of State you are, I am told, furnished with such papers and documents from time to time, as will keep you more particularly informed of the state of our affairs. I shall therefore add nothing further to this letter, than assurances of being, with very sincere regard, yours, &c.
TO DAVID STUART.
Philadelphia, 21 October, 1792.
You informed me when I was at Georgetown on my way to this city that Colo. Mercer upon receiving, or being told of Colo. Hamilton’s letter to him, requesting to know if the words with which he was charg’d by Major Ross as having uttered in his public harangues against the conduct of the Secretary of the Treasury, were true; expressed, if I understand you rightly, much surprize at the application; as he, Colo. Hamilton, must be conscious of his having attempted to bribe him, Colo. Mercer, to vote for a further assumption of the State debts,—and that this surprize was expressed at a public table before many gentlemen.
This is a charge of so serious a nature that it is incumbent on Colo. Hamilton to clear it up, or for the President of the United States to take notice of it. For this reason, before I communicate the matter to Colo. Hamilton, I beg to be informed whether I precisely understand the information you gave me, and in that case, who were the persons that heard Colo. Mercer express himself to that effect. It was my intention to have asked this at the time you mentioned the matter, but I was diverted from it by something that occurred at the moment and the variety of things which have been thrown in my way since I came to this place have prevented it till now.
With great esteem and regard, &c.
SPEECH TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS, NOVEMBER 6th, 1792.
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
It is some abatement of the satisfaction, with which I meet you on the present occasion, that, in felicitating you on a continuance of the national prosperity generally, I am not able to add to it information, that the Indian hostilities, which have for some time past distressed our northwestern frontier, have terminated.
You will, I am persuaded, learn, with no less concern than I communicate it, that reiterated endeavors towards effecting a pacification have hitherto issued only in new and outrageous proofs of persevering hostility on the part of the tribes with whom we are in contest. An earnest desire to procure tranquillity to the frontiers, to stop the further effusion of blood, to arrest the progress of expense, to forward the prevalent wish of the nation for peace, has led to strenuous efforts through various channels to accomplish these desirable purposes; in making which efforts I consulted less my own anticipations of the event, or the scruples which some considerations were calculated to inspire, than the wish to find the object attainable, or, if not attainable, to ascertain unequivocally, that such is the case.
A detail of the measures which have been pursued, and of their consequences, which will be laid before you, while it will confirm to you the want of success thus far, will, I trust, evince that means, as proper and as efficacious as could have been devised, have been employed. The issue of some of them, indeed, is still depending; but a favorable one, though not to be despaired of, is not promised by any thing that has yet happened.
In the course of the attempts which have been made, some valuable citizens have fallen victims to their zeal for the public service. A sanction commonly respected, even among savages, has been found, in this instance, insufficient to protect from massacre the emmissaries of peace; it will, I presume, be duly considered, whether the occasion does not call for an exercise of liberality towards the families of the deceased.
It must add to your concern to be informed, that, besides the continuation of hostile appearances among the tribes north of the Ohio, some threatening symptoms have of late been revived among some of those south of it.
A part of the Cherokees, known by the name of Chickamagas, inhabiting five villages on the Tennessee River, have long been in the practice of committing depredations on the neighboring settlements.
It was hoped that the treaty of Holston, made with the Cherokee nation in July, 1791, would have prevented a repetition of such depredations; but the event has not answered this hope. The Chickamagas, aided by some banditti of another tribe in their vicinity, have recently perpetrated wanton and unprovoked hostilities upon the citizens of the United States in that quarter. The information which has been received on this subject will be laid before you. Hitherto, defensive precautions only have been strictly enjoined and observed.
It is not understood that any breach of treaty, or aggression whatsoever, on the part of the United States, or their citizens, is even alleged as a pretext for the spirit of hostility in this quarter.
I have reason to believe, that every practicable exertion has been made (pursuant to the provision by law for that purpose) to be prepared for the alternative of a prosecution of the war, in the event of a failure of pacific overtures. A large proportion of the troops authorized to be raised have been recruited, though the number is still incomplete; and pains have been taken to discipline and put them in condition for the particular kind of service to be performed. A delay of operations (besides being dictated by the measures which were pursuing towards a pacific termination of the war) has been in itself deemed preferable to immature efforts. A statement, from the proper department, with regard to the number of troops raised, and some other points which have been suggested, will afford more precise information as a guide to the legislative consultations; and, among other things, will enable Congress to judge whether some additional stimulus to the recruiting service may not be advisable.
In looking forward to the future expense of the operations, which may be found inevitable, I derive consolation from the information I receive, that the product of the revenues for the present year is likely to supersede the necessity of additional burthens on the community for the service of the ensuing year. This, however, will be better ascertained in the course of the session; and it is proper to add, that the information alluded to proceeds upon the supposition of no material extension of the spirit of hostility.
I cannot dismiss the subject of Indian affairs, without again recommending to your consideration the expediency of more adequate provision for giving energy to the laws throughout our interior frontier, and for restraining the commission of outrages upon the Indians; without which all pacific plans must prove nugatory. To enable, by competent rewards, the employment of qualified and trusty persons to reside among them as agents, would also contribute to the preservation of peace and good neighborhood. If, in addition to these expedients, an eligible plan could be devised for promoting civilization among the friendly tribes, and for carrying on trade with them upon a scale equal to their wants, and under regulations calculated to protect them from imposition and extortion, its influence in cementing their interests with ours could not but be considerable.
The prosperous state of our revenue has been intimated. This would be still more the case, were it not for the impediments, which in some places continue to embarrass the collection of the duties on spirits distilled within the United States. These impediments have lessened, and are lessening, in local extent; and, as applied to the community at large, the contentment with the law appears to be progressive.
But, symptoms of increased opposition having lately manifested themselves in certain quarters, I judged a special interposition on my part proper and advisable; and under this impression have issued a proclamation, warning against all unlawful combinations and proceedings having for their object, or tending, to obstruct the operation of the law in question, and announcing that all lawful ways and means would be strictly put in execution for bringing to justice the infractors thereof, and securing obedience thereto.
Measures have also been taken for the prosecution of offenders. And Congress may be assured, that nothing within constitutional and legal limits, which may depend on me, shall be wanting to assert and maintain the just authority of the laws. In fulfilling this trust, I shall count entirely upon the full co-operation of the other departments of government, and upon the zealous support of all good citizens.
I cannot forbear to bring again into the view of the legislature the subject of a revision of the judiciary system. A representation from the judges of the Supreme Court, which will be laid before you, points out some of the inconveniences that are experienced. In the course of the execution of the laws, considerations rise out of the structure of that system, which in some measure tend to relax their efficacy. As connected with this subject, provisions to facilitate the taking of bail upon processes out of the courts of the United States, and supplementary definition of offences against the constitution and laws of the Union, and of the punishment for such offences, will, it is presumed, be found worthy of particular attention.
Observations on the value of peace with other nations are unnecessary. It would be wise, however, by timely provisions, to guard against those acts of our own citizens which might tend to disturb it, and to put ourselves in a condition to give that satisfaction to foreign nations, which we may sometimes have occasion to require from them. I particularly recommend to your consideration the means of preventing those aggressions by our citizens on the territory of other nations, and other infractions of the law of nations, which, furnishing just subject of complaint, might endanger our peace with them. And, in general, the maintenance of a friendly intercourse with foreign powers will be presented to your attention by the expiration of the law for that purpose, which takes place, if not renewed, at the close of the present session.
In execution of the authority given by the legislature, measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our mint; others have been employed at home. Provision has been made for the requisite buildings, and these are now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has also been a small beginning in the coinage of half-dimes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them.
The regulation of foreign coins, in correspondency with the principles of our national coinage, as being essential to their due operation, and to order in our money concerns, will, I doubt not, be resumed and completed.
It is represented that some provisions in the law, which establishes the post-office, operate, in experiment, against the transmission of newspapers to distant parts of the country. Should this, upon due inquiry, be found to be the fact, a full conviction of the importance of facilitating the circulation of political intelligence and information will, I doubt not, lead to the application of a remedy.
The adoption of a constitution for the State of Kentucky has been notified to me. The legislature will share with me in the satisfaction, which arises from an event, interesting to the happiness of the part of the nation to which it relates, and conducive to the general order.
It is proper likewise to inform you, that, since my last communication on the subject, and in further execution of the acts, severally making provision for the public debt, and for the reduction thereof, three new loans have been effected, each for three millions of florins; one at Antwerp, at the annual interest of four and one half per cent, with an allowance of four per cent, in lieu of all charges; and the other two at Amsterdam, at the annual interest of four per cent, with an allowance of five and one half per cent, in one case and of five per cent, in the other, in lieu of all charges. The rates of these loans and the circumstances under which they have been made, are confirmations of the high state of our credit abroad.
Among the objects to which these funds have been directed to be applied, the payment of the debts due to certain foreign officers, according to the provision made during the last session, has been embraced.
GENTLEMEN OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
I entertain a strong hope that the state of the national finances is now sufficiently matured to enable you to enter upon a systematic and effectual arrangement for the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt, according to the right which has been reserved to the government. No measure can be more desirable, whether viewed with an eye to its intrinsic importance, or to the general sentiment and wish of the nation.
Provision is likewise requisite for the reimbursement of the loan, which has been made for the Bank of the United States, pursuant to the eleventh section of the act by which it is incorporated. In fulfilling the public stipulations in this particular, it is expected a valuable saving will be made.
Appropriations for the current service of the ensuing year, and for such extraordinaries as may require provision, will demand, and I doubt not will engage, your early attention.
GENTLEMEN OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
I content myself with recalling your attention, generally, to such objects not particularized in my present, as have been suggested in my former communications to you.
Various temporary laws will expire during the present session. Among these, that which regulates trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes will merit particular notice.
The results of your common deliberations hitherto will, I trust, be productive of solid and durable advantages to our constituents; such as, by conciliating more and more their ultimate suffrage, will tend to strengthen and confirm their attachment to that constitution of government, upon which, under Divine Providence, materially depend their union, their safety, and their happiness.
Still further to promote and secure these inestimable ends, there is nothing which can have a more powerful tendency, than the careful cultivation of harmony, combined with a due regard to stability in the public councils.
TO BENJAMIN STODDERT.
Philadelphia, 14 November, 1792.
Your favor of the 24th ultimo came duly to hand, but the variety of important matters, which pressed between the receipt of it and the meeting of Congress, allowed me no time to give it an earlier acknowledgment; and now I pray you to consider what I am about to say, as coming from me in my private capacity.
It has always been my opinion, and still is so, that the administration of the affairs of the Federal City ought to be under the immediate direction of a judicious and skilful superintendent, appointed by and subject to the orders of the commissioners (who, in the eye of the law, are the responsible characters), one in whom is united knowledge of men and things, industry, integrity, impartiality, and firmness; and that this person should reside on the spot. This, I believe, is also the opinion of the commissioners; and, if they think Mr. Blodget possesses these qualifications (I know very little of him myself, and after what has happened shall be cautious in recommending), or that he is the most competent character that presents, who is willing to undertake and ready to enter upon the duties of such an office, their appointment of him will meet my entire approbation.
I can readily conceive, Sir, that the motives to your communication were pure and laudable, and shall give you credit for them accordingly. On my part, permit me to add, that I have a mind open to information, and a disposition always to correct abuses, (that shall come properly before me,) as far as I am able; but I am sure it is unnecessary to remark to a person of your observation, that, from the two great interests, which divide the Federal City, and the lesser ones into which these are branched, it will be found difficult, if not impossible, for any set of commissioners whatsoever to steer clear of censure. One wants this thing, another wants that thing, and all, or most of them, perhaps, want things which our resources are incompetent to the accomplishment of. You will excuse my candor, therefore, my good Sir, for observing that there is, in my own judgment, but one line of conduct proper for these gentlemen to pursue, and that is to take a comprehensive view of the trust reposed in them, the general expectation of the community at large and the means to effect it, form their plans agreeably thereto, upon sound and just principles, and to see that they are carried into effect by whomsoever they shall employ in the execution thereof, without regard to any local concern or interest whatsoever. Such a conduct will meet general approbation, and of none, I am persuaded, more than your own. With esteem, I am, Sir, &c.
TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE FEDERAL DISTRICT.
Philadelphia, 17 November, 1792.
I have duly received your letter of the 13th of October, enclosing a list of the sale of Lots in the federal City with the prices, of which I am more gratified than I am by the numbers which have been disposed of. I am pleased to find that several of your mechanics were among the purchasers of Lots, as they will not only, in all probability, be among the first improvers of them, but will be valuable citizens.
I agree with you in opinion that ground in such eligible places as about the Capitol and the President’s house, should not be sold in squares, unless there are some great and apparent advantages to be derived from specified buildings—immediate improvement, or something which will have a tendency to promote the advancement of the City.
The circumstances under which Mr. Blodget bid off the square near the Capitol, were such as occur at almost every public sale,—and, in that instance his having done so appeared very proper for the interest of the public. I agree, however, with you that it wou’d be best for the circumstance, not to be generally known.
How far the idea which Mr. Blodget suggests of having an Agent to pass through the several States to dispose of Lots, might be beneficial or not, I am unable to say; but it appears to me that if a respectable and responsible character in the principal town of each State, could be authorised to dispose of the public Lots, as purchasers might appear; provided the matter could be so arranged that no confusion or inconvenience should arise from the same Lot being disposed of by two or more Agents (which might possibly be done by monthly returns being made to the Commissioners, from the several Agents, ascertaining the day and even hour, of each sale, to be by them confirmed previous to any payment—a small per centum to be allowed the vendor—and all private sales to cease a month before every public sale,) it would be a means of accommodating persons in different parts of the Union,—and would expedite the sales of the Lots. But this, as well as Mr. Blodget’s suggestion (which rather appears to me to be hawking the Lots about,) must be weighed and determined upon according to your best judgment and information.
I think that a further public sale in the Spring, or early in the summer would be advantageous—for it is desirable that every opportunity which could be made convenient, on account of the season and other circumstances, to dispose of Lots in this way, should be embraced.
In proportion as numbers become interested in the Federal City and the public works advance, a constant attendance at the spot will be more and more requisite on the part of those who superintend or direct the business thereof; and I am of opinion it will be found necessary, as neither of the Commissioners reside there, that some active and competent character vested with proper authority by them should be constantly on the ground to superintend the business carrying on there. But who this person shall be, is altogether with yourselves to choose, and the various and essential qualifications requisite in him will readily occur to you. With great esteem,
I am, &c.
TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE FEDERAL DISTRICT.
Philadelphia, 18 December, 1792.
Your letter to the Secretary of State dated if I recollect rightly the 5th instant intimating among other things that you had failed in an attempt which had been made to import workmen from Scotland, equally with that for obtaining them from Holland, fills me with real concern; for I am very apprehensive if your next campaign in the Federal City is not marked with vigor, it will cast such a cloud over this business and will so arm the enemies of the measure, as to enable them to give it (if not its death blow) a wound from which it will not easily recover. No means therefore, in my opinion, should be left unessayed to facilitate the operations of next year. Every thing, in a manner, depends upon the celerity with which the public buildings are then carried on.—Sale of Lots—private buildings—good or evil report—all, all will be regulated thereby.—Nothing therefore short of the absolute want of money, ought to retard the work.
The more I consider the subject, the more I am convinced of the expediency of importing a number of workmen from Europe to be employed in the Federal City. The measure has not only œconomy to recommend it, but is important by placing the quantity of labor which may be performed by such persons upon a certainty for the term for which they shall be engaged.
Upon more minute enquiry I am informed that neither the merchants here nor in Holland will undertake to procure redemptioners from Germany; and that the most eligible and certain mode of obtaining from thence such mechanics and laborers as may be thought advisable to procure from that quarter, will be to engage some person, a German, to go from hence into Germany, where he is acquainted, to procure the requisite number of men and bring them to the shipping port, which is generally Amsterdam or Rotterdam, and that any merchant here (who is engaged in shipping trading to Holland) will engage to have a vessel ready to take them on board at a time which shall be fixed, and bring them to any port of the United States that may be specified and receive the amount of their passage on delivery of them. The person who may be employed to go over to Germany will expect, it is said, an advance of one guinea per head for the number wanted, to enable him to pay the expenses of such as may not be able to bear their own from the place where he procures them to the shipping Port, and this advance is accounted for and taken into consideration at the time of paying for their passage when they arrive here. The customary passage it seems, is Eleven guineas per head—and the compensation of the person employed to procure them, is either one guinea a head for as many as he may deliver, part of which is paid by those who employ him to go over, and part by the merchant who furnishes the vessel to bring them, as he receives a benefit by the freight—or the person employed keeps an account of his necessary expences while on this business, which is paid by his employers, and a consideration for his services is made him according to a previous agreement.
The term of time for which these people are bound to serve, depends much, it is added, upon their age, or ability as laborers, or their skill as mechanics—the former generally serve three or four years; and the latter, if good workmen at their trade, two.—But in this case that it would be better for the person employed to get them, to have them indented at the time of engaging them—Specifying the number of years they are to serve to commence at the time of their landing in the United States; and that he ought to be furnished with the necessary forms of indentures and particular instructions on this head before he goes over. And if mechanics of a particular description are most essential it would be well, in order to secure their services beyond the term for which they might be engaged for their passages, to stipulate at the time of engaging them that they should serve one, two or three years over and above that time at £— per annum. And, as it may happen, that some good mechanics may be willing to come over, who are able to pay their own passage, might it not be well to empower them at NA per year for (say) four years? In all cases to provide, that if those who engage as mechanics should be found incompetent to the business for which they engage from a want of skill or knowledge in it, and shall appear to have used imposition in engaging themselves as such, they shall be obliged to serve the time of common laborers.
Should you be of opinion that it would be expedient to import a number of workmen and the mode here pointed out, meets your ideas, no time should be lost in carrying it into effect;—and if you have not contemplated a proper character for this business and will inform me thereof, I will endeavor to obtain one in this City to go over to Germany, and a merchant also to furnish the vessel at the time and place which shall be agreed on between them.1
It is not however, my wish that the idea of importing workmen should be confined solely to Germany—I think it ought to be extended to other places particularly Scotland, from whence many good and useful mechanics may undoubtedly be had. I have been more particular in respect to Germany because they may probably be obtained from thence on better terms than from other quarters, and they are known to be a steady, laborious people. It will be necessary, if you should determine upon an importation from Germany, to state the number of mechanics you would wish in each trade, to be brought from thence, as well as the number of Laborers.
Mr. George Walker, who is in this City informs me, that he shall sail for Scotland about the first of January, and says if he could render any service in this business he would willingly do it. To get workmen is part of the business which carries him over; but how far, after the part he has acted with respect to yourselves you may chuse to confide in him, is fitter for you than it is for me to decide; especially as I know no more of his private character and circumstances, than I do of the terms on which he would undertake to render the service.
A thought has also occurred to me and altho’ crude and almost in embryo, I will nevertheless mention it.—It is, if the character of Mr. Hallet (from the knowledge you have acquired of it) is such as to have impressed you with confidence in his abilities and activity, whether in the unsettled state of things in France, he might not be employed this winter in engaging from that country and bringing over in the Spring such workmen, and on such terms as might be agreed upon.
Boston too has been mentioned as a place from whence many and good workmen might be had; but the reasons which have been assigned for the failure here are not within my recollection, if I ever heard them.
Upon the whole it will readily be perceived in what a serious light I consider delay in the progress of the public buildings, and how anxious I am to have them pushed forward.—In a word, the next is the year that will give the tone to the City,—if marked with energy, individuals will be inspirited,—the sales will be enhanced—confidence diffused and emulation created. Without it I should not be surprized to find the Lots unsaleable, and every thing at a stand. With great and sincere regard and esteem. I am.
TO ROBERT LEWIS.
Philadelphia, 23 December, 1792.
I have been informed within these few days, that Major Harrison of Loudoun County who owns a piece of Land adjoining mine in Fairfax, is disposed to sell it; and to convert the money to more useful purposes.
I am led from the rascally set of tenants who occupy that land, and by no other consideration whatsoever, to become the purchaser of it, that I may be relieved by that means from the villainies which the livers thereon are frequently committing on my property, in the practice of which their art and cunning is too great for detection.—I have said my only motive to this purchase is to get rid of this pest of society, and in saying so I have declared the honest truth; for the land would not answer for a farm, being without timber, and too poor for cultivation—nor would it be profitable in Tenements, because men who intended a livelihood by honest industry, would give little or no rent for it—and my inducement to buy is to get rid of those of a contrary description.
Major Harrison must be sensible that no one can be better acquainted with the land than I am; it would be unnecessary therefore (if he has any inclination to sell it) to ask a price which it will not bear; but if he is disposed to take a reasonable price, and will act the part of a frank and candid man in fixing it, I would not have you higgle (which I dislike) in making a bargain. I will pay ready money, if we can agree—but it must be on two conditions—first, that the title is good—and secondly, that it is not under the incumbrance (any part of it) of a lease; for that would defeat the sole end I should propose by the purchase—namely, to purge the neighborhood of these impure characters.
Under this view of my ideas, and the knowledge you have of my sentiments respecting the Land, any bargain you shall make in my behalf with Major Harrison, shall be binding on me.
Your Aunt unites with me in best regards for yourself and Mrs. Lewis, and I am, &c.
Certainly, one of the most interesting characteristics of Washington was his intense love of the country and his eagerness in the pursuit of agriculture. In the early years of his life he was a thorough student of agricultural writings, and he made very full summaries in note-books of what he read. Tull’s and Duhamel’s Husbandry and The Farmer’s Compleat Guide were thus digested, and the MS. shows that this was done when he was still a youth. The absence, also, of any notes or comments, comparison of views, or records of his own experiments, points to a very early date for these note-books. Not only was he an excellent farmer, but a gardener as well; and the voluminous notes among his papers attest the zeal, and often the profit, with which he pursued his fancies.
This constituted but a very small part of his activity in agriculture, but it was probably the influence that made him one of the pioneers in modifying the culture in Virginia. During the colonial days, English interest had imposed upon Virginia and Maryland the culture of tobacco, and legislation had been called into action to create, as far as possible, a British monopoly in the commerce and marketing of that commodity. This was enormously profitable to English and Scotch factors, into whose hands the navigation and tariff laws of the mother country had turned the colonial trade, both export and import. Adam Smith noted that of the 96,000 hogsheads of tobacco annually imported into Great Britain from the colonies of Virginia and Maryland, only 14,000 hogsheads were consumed in that country, and the rest was sent to the markets of continental Europe. The prosperity of Glasgow was based upon this tobacco trade. There was a “Virginia walk” on the Royal Exchange, in London, where transactions in that commodity were conducted; and at the “Virginia Coffee House” the planters (when in England), ship captains, and factors would congregate and arrange for future operations. This compression of a very large trade into one channel was greatly to the profit of the British merchant, factor, and ship-owner, but ruinous to the planter. The latter sold his commodity in a monopoly market, at prices determined by those who were interested in keeping them low. He bought all the manufactured articles used on the the plantation, in the same market, not only at high prices, but under the risk of getting an indifferent article, made principally for the colonial market, and technically known as “colonials.” The lack of market towns in Virginia for the establishment of prices based upon the fluctuating conditions of crops, supply, etc., the infrequent opportunities for shipping and receiving goods, and the length of time that must elapse before an error could be rectified or complaint made, placed the planter in a very disadvantageous position, and practically at the mercy of the English agent. There are many proofs of this in the letters printed in the early volumes of this collection.
Nor were outside relations alone responsible. The tastes of the planters were extravagant, and their style of living inclined to lavishness of expense. But few of the plantations raised a sufficiency to cover even the necessary cost of keeping them in condition, and a partial failure of the crop would throw the planter into the hands of the usurer, and induce him to mortgage his tobacco crops years in advance; while a total failure meant ruin. That is to say, most of the planters were not only poor (except in land, which might almost be had for the asking), but they were continually becoming poorer, and estate after estate passed by foreclosure into the hands of factors, who had made advances to the planters. More than this, the land itself was deteriorating, because of the insistance upon taking crop after crop of tobacco from it—exhausting in itself—and without undertaking by intensive culture to restore the land to heart. The usual course of Virginia agriculture is accurately described by Washington in his letter to Arthur Young, November, 1787, vol. xi, p. 178, ante.
At a very early period Washington became convinced that tobacco was not a very profitable crop, and he began to look to the English writers on agriculture for some suggestions. If I may judge of the writing, etc., Tull’s Husbandry was the first systematic work on agriculture that he studied, and the important improvements suggested by that experimenter in drilling and horse and hand hoeing, were adopted by him. David Henry’s Complete English Farmer , Duhamel’s work based upon Tull’s, and Henry Home’s popular work, The Gentleman Farmer  exercised an influence in preparing for the better understanding of what ought to be done to improve his estate. In all these years before the Revolution he was experimenting in a small way, and had come to the conclusion that tobacco culture was to be practically abandoned, only sufficient quantity being raised each year to pay for what he imported from England.
The Revolution intervened and prevented his continuing his experiments at Mount Vernon, but greatly increased his knowledge of different cultures. For in the course of that contest he had abundant opportunity of noting what was the practice in the different Eastern and Middle States and the results, a fund of information to be used in later years. He was not only confirmed in his intention of abandoning the culture of tobacco as a staple, but he was convinced of the necessity of high farming if profit was the end. In New England and Pennsylvania he noted the importance of cattle and sheep to an estate, and in Pennsylvania and Delaware the milling industry attracted his notice. Grains, roots, and live stock, a succession or rotation of crops, and the value of flour as an article of export, may be said to sum up in a few words, the results of his observations. More important still was the realization that slave labor was far more costly and inefficient than free, that the cheapness of slave labor was disproved by economic reasons of the gravest weight. But saddled as he was with this quality of labor, and disapproving of it on moral as well as economic grounds, he saw no way of making a change without selling his negroes—a step he was unwilling to take.
Washington returned to Mount Vernon after the war better prepared to carry out a new plan of farming his estates than he was in 1775, and into this new plan he threw himself heart and soul, for he loved Mount Vernon and delighted in schemes for improving and beautifying it. From Europe he received many seeds and cuttings, and his friends at home and abroad were constant in supplying him with novelties, and in keeping him acquainted with what improvements in methods were being devised. He corresponded with Arthur Young, who had just begun to publish his Annals of Agriculture , and with Doctor James Anderson, whose journal, the Bee, never attained the reputation that the Annals justly gained. In closely written notebooks Washington jotted down what attracted his notice in the Annals, classifying his notes by articles, and particular attention being paid to grains and roots, courses of crops, and cattle. In Maryland, he watched with interest the experiments of John Beale Bordley, who was working upon the same lines, and was among the first to publish the results—A View of the Courses of Crops in England and Maryland .1 An elaborate record of his plowings, sowings, and crops extending from 1785 to 1789 is preserved, in which was noted every detail that could enable him to come to a conclusion on the best available system. First came a day-to-day record of what was done, as follows:—
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
April 7th, 1785.—Cut two or three rows of the wheat (Cape wheat) within six inches of the ground, it being near eighteen inches high, that which was first sown, and the blades of the whole singed with the frost.
8th.—Sowed oats to-day in drills at Muddy Hole with my barrel plough. Ground much too wet; some of it had been manured, but had been twice ploughed, then listed, then twice harrowed before sowing; which, had it not been for the frequent rains, would have put the ground in fine tilth. Ploughed up the turnip patch at home for orchard grass.
10th.—Began bricklaying to-day. Completed sowing, with twenty-four quarts of oats, thirty-eight rows at Muddy Hole ten feet apart, in the ground intended for corn.
11th.—Sowed twenty-six rows of barley in the same field at Muddy Hole in the same manner, with the drill plough, and with precisely the same workings the oats had adjoining thereto. This was done with twelve quarts of seed. After three ploughings and three harrowings, sowed millet in eleven rows three feet apart, opposite to the overseer’s house in the Neck. Perceived the last sowed oats at Dogue Run, and those sown in the Neck, were coming up.
12th.—Sowed sixteen acres of Siberian wheat, with eighteen quarts, in rows between corn, eight feet apart. This ground had been prepared in the following manner. 1. A single furrow; 2. another in the same to deepen it; 3. four furrows to throw the earth back into the two first, which made ridges of five furrows. These, being done some time ago, and the sowing retarded by frequent rains, had got hard; therefore, 4. before the seed was sown, these ridges were split again by running twice in the middle of them, both times in the same furrow; 5. after which the ridges were harrowed; and, 6. where the ground was lumpy, run a spiked roller with a harrow at the tail of it, which was found very efficacious in breaking the clods and pulverizing the earth, and would have done it perfectly, if there had not been too much moisture remaining from the late rains. After this, harrowing and rolling were necessary, the wheat was sown with the drill plough on the reduced ridges eight feet apart, as above mentioned, and harrowed in with the small harrow belonging to the plough. But it should have been observed, that, after the ridges were split by the middle double furrows, and before they were closed again by the harrow, a little manure was sprinkled in them.
At Dogue Run, listing the ground intended for Siberian wheat, barley, &c., a second time.
At Muddy Hole sewed with the drill plough two rows of the Albany pease between the corn rows, to see whether they would come to any thing for want of the support which they give one another when sown broad-cast. The same management given the ground as for oats and barley at this place.
13th.—Sowed oats in drills ten feet apart, between corn rows in the Neck, twenty-four rows, in the following manner. 1. A single furrow; 2. another and deep furrow in this; 3. four bouts to these; 4. ploughed again in the same manner; 5. a single furrow in the middle of these; 6. manure sprinkled in this furrow; 7. the great harrow over all these; and, 8. the seed sowed after the harrow with the drill or barrel plough, and harrowed in with the harrow at the tail of it. Note.—It should have been observed, that the field intended for experiments at this plantation is divided into three parts, by bouting rows running crosswise; and that manure, and the last single furrow, are (at least for the present) bestowed on the most westerly of those nearest the Barn.
14th.—Harrowed the ground at Muddy Hole, which had been twice ploughed, for Albany pease in broad-cast. At Dogue Run began to sow the remainder of the Siberian wheat, about fourteen quarts, which had been left at the Ferry; run deep furrows in the middle, and made five-feet ridges. Did the same for carrots in the same field on the west side next the meadow. Ordered a piece of ground, two acres, to be ploughed at the Ferry around the old corn-house, to be drilled with corn and potatoes between, each ten feet apart, row from row of the same kind. Sowed in the Neck, or rather planted, next to the eleven rows of millet, thirty-five rows of the rib-grass seeds, three feet apart and one foot asunder in the rows.
At the end of the season the pages of notes and observations (thirty-one folio pages closely written) were carefully indexed, and the results for each crop on each plantation were summarized, particular attention being paid to the dates of sowing, first appearance and gathering of the different crops, and finally were entered his “conclusions, drawn from the foregoing statement of facts,” of which a few extracts are given.
Clover. That it is not worth raising for the seed, to get which out is very troublesome.1
Corn. On rows 10 feet one way, and 18 Inches thick single stalks; will yield as much to the Acre in equal ground, as at 5 feet each way with two stalks in a hill; & that Potatoes, Carrots & Pease between the drilled Corn, if not exhaustive, which they are declared not to be, are nearly a clear profit, except in putting them in, and taking them from the ground—the same labor—which is necessary for the Corn, being sufficient for the other things. Corn ought, if practicable, to be planted by the 15th of May at furthest; by the 10th would be better—perhaps by the first preferable to either—In short as soon as the ground has acquired warmth enough to vegetate the plant, the grain ought to be put in. It should be kept clean and well worked in the early part of its growth—till it shoots and tassels at least; this when the sod is light may be done with the Hoe Harrow.—
The Corn blades to be pulled before the tops are cut & when there are two stalks in a hill laid between them untied, that they may cure quick and without moulding under the band.—
* * * * * *
Carts.—Should be well supplied with oxen, that by shifting them they may be always in good heart, & do the work well, without grain, or extra feed.—They should carry rails, or other materials for fencing to the spot where the fences are to be erected in the Winter (whilst the grd.—is froze) that they may not be interrupted in carting out dung in the Spring, before the last plowing is given to the land.
Flax. That which was sowed on the 28th of April was very good, but whether this was owing to the proper time of sowing, or the very moist weather that followed is not certain.
Farm-Pens.—To be made by the first, or at furthest the middle of November well covered with mud; and this spread over with broom straw or whatever is intended for litter of which a plentiful store should be laid up by the yard. After the middle of Novr. the Cattle ought never to go out of the Pens but to water, if it is not provided in them.—The dung by this management is more than an equivalent for the extra feed; little food being to be got in common Pastures after the middle of November,—when it is too late in the season (the nights being too long & cold) to confine them in open pens at night.—
An Acct. of the number and kind of Cattle to be taken at the times of putting them up in the fall, & turning them out to grass in the Spring.—
Fallows. As soon as the Corn is laid by and the Winter grain and seeds in the ground, the Plows shd. be breaking it up for Barley, Oats, Turnips, and other Spring & Summer Crops.—& as soon as these are in the ground should be plowed for Wheat, Rye, and Winter sowing; unless sowing on lay land is adopted and found to answer.—In a word the Plows should never stop when the ground is in order to be worked; for if they do, the business of a farm will never be carried on fully and to advantage. * * *
Meadows. To get them cut in due Season, & that Hay making may be over before harvest commences,—begin as soon as the head of the Timothy appears through the blade—and the clover as soon as it gets pretty fully into the blossom.—The Orchard grass will all be wanted for seed. * * *
Plowing.—This business should never stop.—For Spring and Summer Crops, the ground shd. be broke in the Fall & Winter;—and for Winter grain, in the Spring and Summer.—From the experience of this spring’s sowing as also from the fall’s sowing, on lay land (but the weather in the fall being uncommonly moist, might have occasioned the latter) it appears that the quicker the sowing and harrowings after it, follow the Plow the mellower & more crumbling the land works.—When much time intervenes between the Plowing & sowing, hard rains beat and high winds dry the ground in such a manner as to make it work rough and cloddy.—quære then.—Would it not be better, instead of plowing a whole field through (before the sowing commences) to lay it off by the furrows of a Plow into such squares, as that the Plowing, sowing, harrowing, and cross harrowing, may all be accomplished in 3 or 4 days—or at most not to exceed a week. This too wd. be a means of detecting idleness in, & keeping the Plowmen to their duty.—When Oats, or other grain is to be sown on a single plowing, the furrow ought to be narrow—when the ground is to be cross plowed, this is not so necessary.—It is always best when circumstances will admit not to plow when the ground is wet—but (when not bound together by the sward) when it will crumble as it is turned from the mould board.
* * * * * *
Wheat.—The earlier it is sown the better. The latter end of July is to be preferred to any sown after the middle of September. August is a good seed month.—If it is sown on lay land Plow (as has been mentioned under the article plowing) in no larger squares than may be compleated in a week, at farthest. Try the experimt. of sowing with a six foot barrel, and with grain dropped 6 Inches square,—to be harrowed in.—Water drains should be cut to let the Water pass of freely from all low places; otherwise those that would yield most wheat produce none at all. Begin to cut it, if circumstances will admit, as soon as the Milk is out of the grain,—and manage it as directed page 20. Where there is no Barn and the grain must be tred out, begin this operation before the Corn is gathered; for if it is delayed beyond it the Weather rarely admits of its being done to advantage—and where the fly is, it may be lost.
A Weekly allowance of Meat to the Negro Oversrs. is preferable to an Annual one—because the annual one is not taken care of but either profusely used, or stolen.—
By having the Corn & Rye, for the Negros and horses sent to the Mill from the several Plantations, and the weekly allowance for both delivered from thence, great saving will accrue and no embezzlement can well take place—because by this means no more will go throw the Mill than is allowed—and the Miller passing receipts for what is sent to the Mill, the remainder of the Crop which was measured and lofted must be accted. for by the Overseer—or the Doors may be locked and the keys taken away.
That this may be done with greater propriety leave no horses on the Plantations but those which work—and such horse Colts as are to be raised without grain; and
Raise no more Hogs on them than can be supported with the offal—and these only to the age of a year old when they may be bro’t to a place to be provided & properly constructed at the Mansion house to fat them for Bacon.
Such a record, kept for six years by an enthusiastic and very practical observer, would prove an invaluable guide and lead to a system of cultivation, in which the different uses of each field could be accurately laid down for years in advance, and every contingency provided for as far as care and intelligence could provide. And so long as Washington was in person superintending his estate, good results were obtained. A steady advance in product, more labor accomplished by the slaves, and a marked improvement in live stock, were the immediate issues; while the increasing diversity of crops and a milling industry promised in the near future to give a surplus over expenditure.
The election to the Presidency came when the new order was progressing, and made it necessary for Washington to entrust the care of his estate to the hands of agents, but acting under his specific directions. Not only did he draw up with great care a schedule of what was to be done, leaving it for the guidance of his agent, but each week he received a full report of what was done on the different properties, and each week he wrote with his own hand such additional instructions as might seem necessary. A failure to remit the report was to him a grievous fault, and his replies, often extending over sixteen closely written pages, would constitute, if complete, one of the most noticeable features of the man’s character. Two series of these letters have been preserved, one to Anthony Whiting, and the other to William Pearce, and from these, extending as they do from 1792 to 1797, I shall make such extracts as may illustrate their general nature. The letters to Pearce have been published by the Long Island Historical Society, under the editorship of Moncure D. Conway. That there may be a certain continuity, the general instructions given to his first agent, George Augustine Washington, and a specimen weekly report of the manager or agent, are inserted.
DIRECTIONS FOR GEORGE A. WASHINGTON.
31 March, 1789.
Having given very full and ample details of the intended crops, and my ideas of the modes of managing them at the several plantations, little, if these are observed, needs be added on this subject. But as the profit of every farm is greater or less, in proportion to the quantity of manure, which is made thereon, or can be obtained by keeping the fields in good condition, these two important requisites ought never to be lost sight of.
To effect the former, besides the ordinary means of farm-yards, cow-pens, sheep-folds, stables, &c., it would be of essential use, if a certain proportion of the force of each plantation could be appropriated, in the summer or early part of autumn, to the purpose of getting up mud to be ameliorated by the frosts of winter for the spring crops, which are to follow. And to accomplish the latter, the gullies in these fields, previous to their being sown with grain and grass-seeds, ought invariably to be filled up. By so doing, and a small sprinkling of manure thereon, they will acquire a green sward, and strength of soil sufficient to preserve them. These are the only means I know of, by which exhausted lands can be recovered, and an estate rescued from destruction.
Although a precise number of tobacco hills is by my general directions allotted to each plantation, yet my real intention is, that no more ground shall be appropriated to this crop, than what is either naturally very good (for which purpose small spots may be chosen), or what can be made strong by manure of some kind or other; for my object is to labor for profit, and therefore to regard quality, instead of quantity, there being, except in the article of manuring, no difference between attending a good plant and an indifferent one. But in any event, let the precise number of hills be ascertained, that an estimate may be formed of their yield to the thousand.
Being thoroughly convinced, from experience, that embezzlement and waste of crops (to say nothing of the various accidents to which they are liable by delays) are increased proportionably to the time they are suffered to remain on hand, my wish is as soon as circumstances will permit after the grain is harvested, that it may be got out of the straw, especially at the plantations where there are no barns, and either disposed of in proper deposits, or sold, if it is wheat, and the price is tolerable, after it has been converted into flour. When this work is set about as the sole, or as a serious business, it will be executed properly. But when a little is done now, and a little then, there is more waste, even if there should be no embezzlement, than can well be conceived.
One or two other matters I beg may be invariably attended to. The first is to begin harvest as soon as the grain can be cut with safety; and the next, to get it in the ground in due season. Wheat should be sown by the last of August; at any rate by the 10th of September; and other fall grain as soon after as possible. Spring grain and grass seeds should be sown as soon as the ground can possibly, with propriety, be prepared for their reception.
For such essential purposes as may absolutely require the aid of the ditchers, they may be taken from that work. At all other times they must proceed in the manner, which has been directed formerly; and in making the new roads from the Ferry to the Mill, and from the Tumbling Dam across the Neck, till it communicates with the Alexandria road, as has been pointed out on the spot. The ditch from the Ferry to the Mill along this road may be a common four-feet one. But from the Mill to the Tumbling Dam, and thence across to the head of the old field by Muddy-Hole fence, it must be five feet wide at top, but no deeper than the four-feet one, and the same width at bottom as the latter.
After the carpenters have given security to the old barn in the Neck, they must proceed to the completion of the new one at the Ferry, according to the plan and the explanations, which have been given. Gunner and Davis should get bricks made for this purpose; and if John Knowles could be spared (his work, not only with respect to time, but quantity and quality to be amply returned) to examine the bilged walls, and the security of them, but to level and lay the foundations of the other work, when the bricks are ready, it would be rendering me an essential service; and, as the work might be returned in proper season, would be no detriment to your building.
When the brick work is executed at the Ferry Barn, Gunner and Davis must repair to Dogue Run, and make bricks there; at the place and in the manner, which have been directed, that I may have no salmon bricks in that building.
Oyster shells should be bought, whenever they are offered for sale, if good and on reasonable terms.
Such moneys as you may receive for flour, barley, fish, as also for other things, which can be spared and sold; and for rents, the use of the jacks, &c.; and for book debts, which may be tried, though little is expected from the justice of those who have been long indulged; may be applied to the payment of workmen’s wages as they arise, Fairfax,1 and the taxes, and likewise to the payment of any just debts, which I may be owing in small sums, and have not been able to discharge previous to my leaving the State. The residue may await further orders.
As I shall want shingles, plank, nails, rum for harvest, scantling, and such like things, which would cost me money at another time, fish may be bartered for them. The scantling, if any is taken, must be such as will suit for the barn now about to be built, or that at Dogue Run, without waste and of good quality.
I find it is indispensably necessary, for two reasons, to save my own clover and timothy seed; first, because it is the only certain means of having it good and in due season; and, secondly, because I find it is a heavy article to purchase.
Save all the honey-locusts you can, of those which belong to me; if more could be obtained, the better. And, in the fall, plant them on the ditches where they are to remain, about six inches apart, one seed from another.
The seeds, which are on the case in my study, ought, without loss of time, to be sown and planted in my botanical garden, and proper memoranda kept of the times and places.
You will use your best endeavors to obtain the means for support of G. and L. Washington, who, I expect, will board, till something further can be decided on, with Dr. Craik; who must be requested to see that they are decently and properly provided with clothes from Mr. Porter’s store. He will give them a credit on my becoming answerable to him for the payment. And, as I know of no resource, that H. has for supplies but from me, Fanny will, from time to time, as occasion may require, have such things got for her, on my account, as she shall judge necessary. Mrs. Washington will, I expect, leave her tolerably well provided with common articles for the present.
My memorandum books, which will be left in my study, will inform you of the times and places, when, and where, different kinds of wheat, grass-seeds, &c., were sown. Let particular attention be paid to the quality and quantity of each sort, that a proper judgment of them may be formed. To do this, great care must be taken to prevent mixture of the several sorts, as they are so contiguous to each other.
The general superintendence of my affairs is all I require of you; for it is neither my desire nor wish, that you should become a drudge to it, or that you should refrain from any amusements or visitings, which may be agreeable, either to Fanny or yourself to make or receive. If Fairfax the farmer, and Thomas Green on each of whom I have endeavored to impress a proper sense of their duty, will act their part with propriety and fidelity, nothing more will be necessary for you to do, than would comport with amusement and that exercise which is conducive to health. Nor is it my wish, that you should live in too parsimonious a manner. Frugality and economy are undoubtedly commendable, and all that is required. Happily for this country, these virtues prevail more and more every day among all classes of citizens. I have heard of, and I have seen with pleasure, a remarkable change in the mode of living from what it was a year or two ago; and nothing but the event, which I dreaded would take place soon, has prevented my following the example. Indeed, necessity, if this had not happened, would have forced me into the measure, as my means are not adequate to the expense at which I have lived since my retirement to what is called private life. Sincerely wishing you health and happiness, I am ever your warm friend and affectionate uncle.
MANAGER’S WEEKLY REPORT.
Increase, 2 Calves and 2 Mules. Received from Mill, 22 bushels of Meal, and 29 bushels of Bran; from Ferry, 3 barrels of Corn. Stock, 11 head of Cattle, 4 Calves, 60 Sheep, 28 Lambs, 4 working Mares, 4 working Horses, 5 Colts, 4 Spring Colts, 2 Jacks, 2 old Jennies, 1 do. three years old, 1 do. two years old, 1 do. one year old. 15 Mules, 10 one year old, 2 spring do.; and 11 Mares.
N. B. There has been almost one day and part of another lost by rain this week.
Received from Mill 6 bushels of Meal, and 6 bushels of Rye Meal.—Stock, 37 head of cattle, 5 Calves, 30 Sheep, 8 working Horses, and 1 Mule.
Increase 2 Calves, and 5 Lambs.—Received from Mill, 12¼ bushels of Meal, sent do. 54 bushels of Corn. To Mansion-House 3 barrels of do. feed to Horses 1 barrel of do.—Stock, 83 head of Cattle, 5 Calves, 136 Sheep, 60 Lambs, 16 working Horses, and 2 Mules.
Increase, 2 Calves.—Received from Mill, 9¾ bushels of Meal, and 10 bushels of Rye Meal.—Stock, 83 head of Cattle, 5 Calves, 221 Sheep, 45 Lambs, 4 working Mares, 13 working Horses, and 1 Mule.
Received from Mill, 6¾ bushels of Meal.—Stock, 57 head of Cattle, 1 Calf, 124 Sheep, 9 working Horses, and 1 Mule.
LETTERS TO ANTHONY WHITING, 1792.1
I would have the gardener also, with these people, if the autumn is a proper season for it, if not, without fail, in the Spring, plant cuttings of the weeping willow, yellow willow or Lombardy poplar, preferring the first and last mentioned, at a distance of a foot or 18 inches apart from the Smith’s shop, quite as the post and rail fence runs around both these inclosures;—and also the vine yard inclosure;—also that lately sown in Lucern from the ster-corary to the river fence; that by entwining them as they grow up I may have a substitute for the fences that are now there. To do this, is of the utmost importance to my interest; as it also is in a more essential degree, to supply by hedges of this, or some other kind all my other fences; as well the exterior ones as those which separate the different fields from one another. I have labored to effect this latter point for years. I have pressed it, and pressed it again, but, strange to tell! the season has either been suffered to pass away before it is set about; or it has either been set about improperly; or no care has been taken afterwards to preserve and nourish the young plants so as to fit them for the purpose they were intended. Let me therefore in the strongest terms possible, call your attention to this business, as one, than which nothing is nearer both to my interest and wishes; first, because it is indispensably necessary to save timber and labor; and secondly, because it is ornamental to the farm, and reputable to the farmer. * * *
Let the hands at the Mansion House grub well, and perfectly prepare the old clover lot at the Mansion House for whatever you may incline to put into it, preparatory for grass, with which it is to be laid down. When I say grub well, I mean that everything, which is not to remain as trees, should be taken up by the roots, so as that the plow may meet with no interruption, and the field lye perfectly smooth for the scythe. Let this, I earnestly request, be received as a general and positive direction; for I seriously assure you, that I had rather have one acre cleared in this manner, than four in the common mode; especially in all grounds designed for grass; and for the reasons which I have often mentioned to you. It is a great and very disagreeable eye-sore to me, as well as a real injury in the loss of labor and the crop (ultimately), and the destruction of scythes, to have foul meadows. * * *
Although it is last mentioned it is foremost in my thoughts, to desire you will be particularly attentive to my negros in their sickness; and to order every overseer positively to be so likewise; for I am sorry to observe that the generality of them view these poor creatures in scarcely any other light than they do a draught horse or ox; neglecting them as much when they are unable to work; instead of comforting and nursing them when they lye on a sick bed. I lost more negros last winter than I had done in 12 or 15 years before, put them altogether. If their disorders are not common, and the mode of treating them plain, simple and well understood, send for Doctor Craik in time. In the last stage of the complaint it is unavailing to do it. It is incurring an expense for nothing.
I shall now briefly say, that the trust I have reposed in you is great, and my confidence that you will faithfully discharge it, is commensurate thereto. I am persuaded of your abilities, industry and integrity; cautioning you only against undertaking more than you can execute well, under almost any circumstances, and against (but this I have no cause to suspect) being absent from your business; as the example, be it good or bad, will be followed by all those who look up to you. Keep every one in their places, and to their duty; relaxation from, or neglects in small matters, lead to like attempts in matters of greater magnitude, and are often trials in the under-overseers to see how far they durst go. * * * 14 October, 1792.
* * * It is not to be wondered at that the field No. 7 at the River Plantation should want a new post and rail fence, when it is seen what kind my people make (in spite of all I can do to prevent it); that is, posts when morticed that a strong man could break across his knee, and rails so long, and so weak, as to warp or be unable to bear the weight of a child in getting over them. This custom I hope you will get the better of. * * *
I suppose it was owing to the hurry and distress in which Mrs. Fanny Washington was at the time she left Mount Vernon that a little wine, &c., was not left out for extraordinary occasions; because I know it was intended—but not for sick negros, unless it might be in particular cases which rendered it indispensably necessary; for Dr. Craik never practiced anything of this kind when Mrs. Washington and myself were at home, or even suggested it as necessary. Nor was it my intention to leave it for the purpose of entertaining travellers, because there is a striking impropriety in travellers making use of it as a house of convenience, knowing, as they certainly must do, that neither my family nor the Major’s, is there; and when it is far removed from the post, or any other public road. And if people were led there by curiosity, as soon as that was satisfied, they would retire, without expecting, under the circumstances just mentioned, to be invited to lodge, dine, or spend their time there. However, as it may happen that characters to whom one would wish to shew civility, and others, that may have a line from me (as was the case the other day with the Hon’ble Judge Cushing) may call there, I shall, by a vessel which will leave this according to the master’s account on Thursday next, send you a little wine, tea and coffee, along with the iron, and some things which will accompany it.
When I recommended care of, and attention to my negros in sickness, it was that the first stage of, and the whole progress through the disorders with which they might be seized (if more than a slight indisposition) should be closely watched, and timely applications and remedies be administered; especially in the pleurisies, and all inflammatory disorders accompanied with pain, when a few days’ neglect, or want of bleeding, might render the ailment incurable. In such cases sweeten’d teas, broths and (according to the nature of the complaint, and the doctor’s prescription) sometimes a little wine, may be necessary to nourish and restore the patient; and these I am perfectly willing to allow, when it is really requisite. My fear is, as I expressed to you in a former letter, that the under overseers are so unfeeling, in short viewing the negros in no other light than as a better kind of cattle, the moment they cease to work, they cease their care of them. * * * 28 October, 1792.
I was very glad to receive your letter of the 31st ultimo, because I was afraid, from the accounts given me of your spitting blood, by my nephews George and Lawrence Washington, that you would hardly have been able to have written at all. And it is my request that you will not, by attempting more than you are able to undergo, with safety and convenience, injure yourself, and thereby render me a disservice. For if this should happen under present circumstances, my affairs, in the absence of both the Major and myself, will be thrown into a disagreeable situation. I had rather therefore hear that you had nursed than exposed yourself. And the things which I sent from this place (I mean the wine, tea, coffee and sugar), and such other matters as you may lay in by the doctor’s directions for the use of the sick, I desire you will make use of as your own personal occasions may require. * * *
It would be difficult for me, if I was ever so well disposed, to procure the full quantity of clover seed mentioned in your memorandum, as it is (from such information as I have received) both scarce and dear in these parts. But while I am on this subject, I beg that whatever you do sow (if covered at all) may be very slightly covered. Harrowing clover seed, in the vicinity of this city [Philadelphia], is quite disused, and I never saw better clover any where than is about it. Five or six pounds of seed, if they can depend upon its goodness, is all they allow to an acre, and in no case more than 10 lbs., or as many pints. I mention these things for your government; and that from experience they find no better season for sowing than towards the last of winter, or opening of the spring, on winter grain, leaving it to the snow or frosts to bury the seeds. * * *
Doll at the Ferry must be taught to knit, and made to do a sufficient day’s work of it—otherwise (if suffered to be idle) many more will walk in her steps. Lame Peter, if no body else will, must teach her, and she must be brought to the house for that purpose.
Tell house Frank I expect he will lay up a more plentious store of the black common walnut than he usually does. Nor ought he to spend his time wholly in idleness. 4 November, 1792.
* * * I send you also, under cover with this letter, some seeds, which were given to me by an English farmer from the county of Essex, in England, lately arrived in this country to settle, and who appears to be a very sensible and judicious man, and a person of property. He also gave me a pamphlet upon the construction of the kind of plough, which he has used for many years; and the principles for putting the parts together, to make it work true and easy, which I will send to you so soon as I shall receive it from a gentlemen to whom I lent it. The plough is simple in its make. The oats, which he gave me as a sample, exceed very little, if any, what I have grown myself. They may, however, in the spring be put into the ground by single seeds, to try what can be made of them. The cattle cabbage may also be tried.
Mr. Lambert, the name of the farmer from whom I had these things, says that the land, on which he and his father before him have lived for fifty or sixty years, is a stiff white clay; and, being at a distance from any source of manure, besides that which is made on the farm, they have pursued a different mode of cropping from that which is usually followed in England; and by so doing, with the aid of the internal manure of the farm, they have brought their poor, stiff land, which originally did not yield them more than five or six bushels of wheat to the acre, and other grain in proportion, to produce very generally from twenty-five to thirty of wheat, and from forty to fifty of barley. Their method has been to keep the arable land always perfectly clean, and alternately in crop or fallow; that is, to take a corn crop from it one year, and have it under the plough in a naked fallow, by way of preparation for the next crop, the next year; beginning this fallow in the autumn, when the ground is dry, again in the spring, as soon as it becomes dry, and three or four times after, before seeding for wheat (if wheat is the crop); never ploughing it wet, which is the cause, he says, of its running. He seems to understand the principles as well as the practice of husbandry, being a sensible man, and inured for a number of years (I suppose he is sixty) to the labor and practice of it. He has travelled a good deal about this country, and is of opinion that our great error lies in not keeping our arable land clean, and free from weeds. I observed to him, that the people of this country are of opinion, that naked fallows under our hot sun are injurious. He will not by any means admit the principle or the fact; but ascribes the impoverished state of our lands and bad crops to the weeds which he everywhere sees, and which both exhaust and foul it. By constant ploughing, these, he says, are eradicated; and when the fields come to be laid in grass, which is sown, the hay will be pure and unmixed with any thing hurtful to it. * * *
Desire Thomas Green to date his reports. That of the week before last I send back for explanation of his measurement of the sawing. I fancy it will puzzle him to make out 508 feet in the twenty-four plank there set down; for, as plank, length and breadth only could be measured. This would amount to no more than 296 feet. As scantling, length and side and edge would be measured, and this would give only about 310 or 312 feet. If he goes on at this rate, he will, in appearance, amend their work, though it will not in reality be any better. But, admitting that the true admeasurement was 508 feet, this would make but a miserable quantity for the time they were about it. That these people (sawyers I mean) may have no pretence for such idleness, not only get them two saws, but let them be of the largest and best kind. * * *
How does your growing wheat look at this time? I hope no appearance of the Hessian fly is among it. On Patuxent, not far from you, I am told it is making such havoc amongst the growing wheat, as to render it necessary to sow over again. I am sorry to find No. 1, at French’s, turn out so poor a crop of wheat, and that the fields at Muddy Hole have yielded still worse. How much wheat at that place came off the lot by the overseer’s house?
In ploughing fields No. 3 and No. 4, Dogue Run, let them be so begun as that the rows when planted may run north and south, or as nearly so as the situation of the fields will admit.
In making your weekly reports, instead of referring to the preceding week or weeks, for the state of your stock of different kinds, enumerate the number of each. I shall have it in my power then to see at one view the precise state of it without resorting to old accounts. And let me entreat, that you will examine them yourself, frequently, as a check upon the overseers; without which, rather than be themselves at the trouble of counting them, they will make you that kind of general report. * * *
P. S. In clearing the wood, mark a road by an easy and graduated ascent from the marsh or low ground, up the hollow which leads into the lot beyond the fallen chestnut, about midway of the lot; and leave the trees standing thick on both sides of it, for a shade to it. On the west side of this hollow, if I recollect rightly, there was an old road formerly, but not laid out agreeably to the directions here given. It would look well, and perhaps might be convenient, if there was a road on both sides of this hollow, notwithstanding the hill-side on the east is steep. At any rate, trees where the road would go, if made, might be left for future decision, as they might also be along the side of the low land at the foot of the hill quite from the wharf to the gate by Richard’s house. If that meadow should ever be thoroughly reclaimed, and in good grass, a walk along the edge of it would be an agreeable thing; and leaving trees for this purpose may not be amiss, as they may at any time be removed, although time only can restore them if taken away in the first instance. And this would be a good general rule for you to observe in other parts of the same ground; as, if too thick, they can always be thinned; but, if too thin, there is no remedy but time to retrieve the error. 11 November, 1792.
Your letter of the 9th came to my hands last night, and though I am much hurried will briefly observe that I had rather repair my seins and fish myself, than hire the landing with the negros. If a good price could be obtained for the landing without the negros, and an express prohibition of wagons coming thither, I should like and would prefer that. But at any rate repair and keep the seins dry and out of the way of mice, that you may have an alternative. In the meanwhile give it out, and make it as public as you can, that the landing alone, or landing and boat (with the prohibition above) is to be rented; but that the person renting it is to furnish me with a certain quantity of shad and herring, to be specified in the early part of the season. Or if the boat is reserved, I could easily catch what fish I should want at the landing by Bishop’s house, which used to be, and no doubt still is, a good fishery. * * * 14 November, 1792.
* * * As you think (as I do also) that the new part of the old clover lot at the Mansion House had better be in potatoes, perhaps it would be well to apply those you have to this purpose; and instead of cultivating field No. 4 at Dogue Run in this article, let it lay over, and in lieu thereof, fallow (with buckwheat for manure) No. 1. at that place, for wheat. This is the rotation I had marked out for that plantation before you suggested potatoes for No. 4 next year. By this alteration the last mentioned field will, as was intended, come into corn in 1794; succeeding No. 3, which will be in that article next year, and succeeded by No. 5 the year following, that is in 1795, and so on, bringing them all on with corn, in the order of their numbers. And this, considering you have not a sufficiency of potatoes for both purposes (and I find it too expensive, and too much unlike a farmer to be always upon the purchase of my seeds), and that by the double dressing with green manure may be got in fine order for wheat, if you can prepare and sow it with buckwheat early in the Spring, to be plowed in before harvest, when seed enough is ripe to bring forward a second crop for plowing in timously for wheat seeding. I feel more inclination for the adoption of this plan than I do for planting No. 4. at Dogue Run with the potatoes you have, especially as the quantity on hand are inadequate to the demands of that field, and because they are at the Mansion House in readiness for the other purpose. * * *
I am very willing, nay desirous, that part of the vineyard inclosure should be appropriated to raising any and all kind of plants fit for hedging, or to repair hedges. Those of the most valuable and scarcer kind of plants for this purpose may receive nourishment in my little garden, as the firze, for instance. But I am of opinion that all such hedges as are to be raised from the seed, for instance, cedar, honey locust, white thorn, sycamore, &c. &c., had better be sown in places where they are to remain, having the ground well prepared previous to the reception of it, and well attended to afterwards, for I have been very unsuccessful in all my transplantation. * * *
I perceive by the last report that 8 sheep are missing, but that it is not known whether taken from Dogue Run, or the Ferry, or French’s. This confirms what I observed to you, in my last, or one of my last letters, viz, that the overseers know very little of what relates to their own stock, giving in the number from old reports instead of from actual weekly counting; by which means half my stock may be stolen, or eaten, before they are missed:—whereas a weekly, or even a more frequent count of the sheep, and inspection of the hogs (articles most likely to be depredated upon) would prevent, or if not prevent, enable them to pursue while the scent was hot, those atrocious villainies, and either bring them to light or so alarm the perpetrators of them, as to make them less frequent. As the overseers, I believe, conduct matters, a sheep or hog or two, may every week be taken without suspicion of it for months. An enquiry then comes too late; and I shall have to submit to one robbery after another, until I shall have nothing left to be robbed of. * * *
It is now, I believe, ten or 12 months ago, since I desired that ten or 12 shoats might be put into a stye, as soon as they were weaned, and well fed; to see what they could be brought to at a year old (keeping an exact account of the expence), but whether it was ever done, or what the result of it was, I know not. I wish however that directions of this kind may be always duly attended [to]. Few things will bear delay, but those of experiment worst of all; as it defeats the ascertaining of facts which might be of infinite importance, as in this very instance; for as the case now is, I am raising hogs to a certain age for others, not for myself. Whereas, if this method would succeed, a stye by a house could not be robbed, and fewer sows would raise more hogs, and I believe at infinite less expence. I am your friend and well wisher. 25 November, 1792.
* * * You were perfectly right in discharging Jones.1 He always appeared to me to be incapable of the management of a plantation from his want of capacity; but for his insolent and wilful neglects, there can be no excuse; and he would meet with no more than his deserts if he was made to pay for the damage my wheat fields have sustained: for he had sufficient warning from myself, before I left home, to guard him against this evil. It is to such inattention, and want of exertion, together with the opportunities that are given to my negros, that robberies have got to the height they are. If some of the nights in which these overseers are frolicking at the expense of my business and to the destruction of my horses, were spent in watching the barns, visiting the negro quarters at unexpected hours, waylaying the roads, or contriving some device by which the receivers of stolen goods might be entrapped, and the facts proved upon them, it would be no more than the performance of a duty which I have a right to expect for the wages they draw from me; and it would redound much more to their own credit and reputation as good and faithful overseers than running about. * * *
That you may never forget directions that are given, it would be well to extract them from my letters, and place them in a pocket memorandum book, that they may be easily and frequently resorted to; without this, they may when a letter is laid by go out of your mind, to my disappointment. And I would have nothing left undone which is required to be done, without being informed of it, and the reasons assigned, that I may judge of their weight. * * *
In one of my last letters, I think I desired (I know I intended to do it) that you would, after you had finally designated the Mansion House gang, keep them steadily at work at that place, suffering them on no occasion (unless very immergent ones) to be sent to any of the plantations to work. For besides loosing much time in marching and countermarching, it weakens the exertion, and destroys the ambition of the different overseers to excel one another in the good condition of their respective plantations, when by extraneous force they are relieved from difficulties which, more than probable, their own idleness has been the cause of. I can conceive nothing except ditching (which is a kind of trade) that the hands of every plantation are not competent to, and should be made to execute. * * *
Perhaps you may not know that if the Thursday post (which leaves Alexandria before day) is missed, no letter if sent to the office even half an hour afterwards, will reach this place before Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday’s post from that place reaches this on Thursdays, Thursday’s comes in on Saturdays, and Saturday’s not till Tuesdays, on account of Sundays intervening. You will see by this the necessity of sending up your reports in time always on Wednesdays. It is more convenient for me to receive them on Saturdays than any other day, because between that and the departure of the post on Monday, which gets into Alexandria on Wednesday, I can write with less interruption than at any other time. 2 December, 1792.
* * * Put long litter against the cellar windows; Frank knows how, and should be made to do it, as well as the other things; otherwise he will be ruined by idleness. And can Lucy find sufficient employment in the kitchen? It was expected her leizure hours, of which, I conceive, she must have very many from cooking, would be employed in knitting, of which both Peter and Sarah do too little. I expected Sinah was one of those who would have been sent to one of the plantations; whether she remains at the Mansion House or not, it is my desire that when Kitty is unable to attend the dairy alone, that Anna may be the assistant. The other, besides idling away half the day under that pretence, never failed, I am well convinced, to take a pretty ample toll of both milk and butter.
I hope the overseer you have got from Boggess’s will answer your expectations; but I have no opinion of any recommendation from that person;—and besides, a stayed, elderly man, for such an important plantation as Dogue Run would have been to be preferred to a young one, although the latter should be a married man. But I am sensible any one would be better than Jones, and that the season was too for advanced to look for many to chuse from. * * *
I do not know what quantity of wheat is yet to go to the mill, but wish it may not fall short of your expectation of 5,000 bushels in the whole, for market. It appears to me that the miller must have been very inattentive to his duty to have manufactured only 102 barrels of flour, besides 15 barrels of middlings and 19 of ship stuff, out of 2,387½ bushels of wheat, which has been delivered into the mill. I wish he may not have forgot what is usual for all millers to do, and what I am sure he must have done himself, and that is to grind of nights, as well as days, when the water and seasons will admit. A little time more and the frosts will stop the mill, and in a little time after the frosts are over, the droughts will stop it, and my grain will remain unground. He has, it must be acknowledged, a fine time of it. Whether he works at night or not, I hope particular charge will be given him respecting fire. The loss of the mill, and its contents, would be too heavy for me to support; and I find the accident of fires is already begun—the loss sustained by which and how it happened at the house kennels, ought to have been more particularly detailed than by the simple mention of it in the report, as if it was a thing of course. * * *
You ask directions from me respecting your conduct in the building of my poor nephew, Major Geo. A. Washington’s house. From every account we receive, his disorder is at a crisis, and must soon (if that is not the case already) change for the better, or terminate in his speedy dissolution: and as the latter is most likely to happen, I think you had better not (until further orders) procure any more scantling, especially such as must be cut to waste. It may be proper for Gunner to continue throwing up brick earth, and for the Major’s two men to be preparing plank for the floors, because these (especially the latter) cannot be lost. A very few weeks (before the end of the ensuing holidays) will enable him or his friends to decide more accurately on the measures necessary to be pursued. 9 December, 1792.
If (or whenever) you can obtain a good price for the middlings or ship-stuff in Alexandria, I would have you sell them to raise cash for such purposes as indispensably call for it; but I earnestly exhort you to buy nothing you can either make within yourselves, or can do well without. The practice of running to stores, &c., for everything that is wanting, or thought to be wanting, is the most ruinous custom that can be adopted, and has proved the destruction of many a man before he was aware of the pernicious consequences. There is no proverb in the whole catalogue of them more true than that a penny saved is a penny got. I well know that many things must be bought, such for instance as you have enumerated in your letter; but I know also that expedients may be hit upon, and things (though perhaps not quite so handsome) done within ourselves, that would ease the expences of any estate very considerably. * * *
I observed to you in my last, that I thought the miller was very negligent and inattentive to his duty in not having more wheat manufactured than what appeared by the report of the preceding week;—and I now desire you will let him know that I am by no means well pleased at the delay. I fear he makes so large a portion of flour superfine, as to endanger, or at least to impoverish the fine. This will not be good policy for either kind. And I perceive he makes the wheat weigh only 58 lbs. per bushel. I wish you would, now and then, see a load tried. 58 is less than I have heard of any wheats weighing this year. Tell Davenport1 it is my desire that he would immediately try with 100 bushels of wheat (carefully measured, and as it is received at the mill), what quantity of superfine, fine, middlings, shipstuff, and bran, will come from it. This 100 bushels of wheat (after it is measured and weighed) is to pass as usual through the mill screen and fan. My object you will readily perceive is to compare the prices of the wheat before and after it is manufactured, together, that I may be enabled to form a precise judgment of the value of each. He must therefore be very careful that no mistake is made, and the experiment such as he can be responsible for. It is for this reason I have directed the wheat to be measured and weighed before it goes through the mill operations for cleaning. A similar experiment to this was made last year, but I want another, and to have it done without delay and with great exactness.
If Isaac had his deserts he would receive a severe punishment for the house, tools, and seasoned stuff, which has been burned by his carelessness. He must have left the fire in a very unjustifiable situation or have been a fine time absent from it, for such an accident to have happened before it was too late to have extinguished it. I wish you to inform him, that I sustain injury enough by their idleness; they need not add to it by their carelessness. * * *
I am not less concerned to find that I am forever sustaining loss in my stock, of sheep (particularly). I not only approve of your killing those dogs which have been the occasion of the late loss, and of thinning the plantations of others, but give it as a positive order, that after saying what dog, or dogs, shall remain, if any negro presumes under any pretence whatsoever, to preserve, or bring one into the family, that he shall be severely punished, and the dog hanged. I was obliged to adopt this practice whilst I resided at home, and from the same motives, that is, for the preservation of my sheep and hogs; but I observed when I was at home last, that a new set of dogs was rearing up, and I intended to have spoke about them; but one thing or another always prevented it. It is not for any good purpose negros raise, or keep dogs, but to aid them in their night robberies; for it is astonishing to see the command under which their dogs are. I would no more allow the overseers than I would the negros to keep dogs. One, or at most two on a plantation is enough. The pretences for keeping more will be various and urgent, but I will not allow more than the above notwithstanding.
I hope your new overseer will turn out well. His age (although he now has, or soon may have, a wife) is much against him, for a large concern, in my estimation; but the season made it almost Hobson’s choice—him or none. I have engaged an elderly man1 who may probably be with you on Sunday next, to look after the home house gang. He is an Irishman, and not long from that country. According to his own, and the account given of him by others, he is well practiced in both farming and grazing. He is old enough to be steady, and to have had much experience in both these branches; though old, and clumsy withall, he promises that activity shall not be wanting, nor obedience to any directions you may give him. I have agreed to allow him seventy dollars for the ensuing year, and have told him that further encouragement, either in an augmentation of wages, or removal to a better place, will depend altogether upon his own conduct and good behavior. If he is such a man as is represented he may be useful to me, having it is said a perfect knowledge in horses and stock of all kinds. * * * I have informed Mr. Butler (that is his name) that sobriety, industry and honesty are such indispensable qualifications in my eyes, that he will remain but a short time with me, if he is found deficient of either, and I request you, not only in his case, but with all the other overseers likewise, to pass over no faults without noticing and admonishing them against the commission of the like or similar ones; for in this as in everything else, it is easier to prevent evils than to apply remedies after they have happened. One fault overlooked begets another, that a third, and so on; whereas a check in the first instance might prevent a repetition, or at any rate cause circumspection. * * * 16 December, 1792.
By Mr. James Butler, who left this city on Friday last, I wrote you a few lines, enclosing the agreement I had entered into with him. I request that the Smith’s book may be put into his hands, and a regular account taken every night of what they have done in the day; and that he will see they do as much as they ought. Let an account be raised in that book, or some other, for each plantation, and everything done for it as regularly charged to it as if it had been done for one of the neighbors, who was to pay therefore. A practice of this sort answers two purposes: first, to see that the smiths do their duty; and secondly, as a check upon the plantations who ought to account for what is received from thence, as well as for everything else that is furnished them in the course of the year, as soon as it shall have expired.
It is my desire also that Mr. Butler will pay some attention to the conduct of the gardener and the hands who are at work with him; so far as to see that they are not idle. For though I will not charge them with idleness, I cannot forbear saying, and I wish you to tell the gardener so (provided you shall think there is cause for it) that the matters entrusted to him appear to me to progress amazingly slow. * * * If it is found that the hands with the gardener are not usefully (I mean industriously) employed, I shall withdraw them; as I did not give them to him for parade, to be idle, or to keep him in idleness. * * *
It is observed, by the weekly reports, that the sewers make only six shirts a week, and the last week Carolina (without being sick) made only five. Mrs. Washington says their usual task was to make nine with shoulder straps and good sewing. Tell them therefore from me, that what has been done, shall be done by fair or foul means; and they had better make choice of the first, for their own reputation, and for the sake of peace and quietness. Otherwise they will be sent to the several plantations, and be placed as common laborers under the overseers thereat. Their work ought to be well examined or it will be most shamefully executed, whether little or much of it be done, and it is said, the same attention ought to be given to Peter (and I suppose to Sarah likewise,) or the stockings will be knit too small for those for whom they are intended; such being the idleness and deceit of those people. 23 December, 1792.
* * * Amongst which, none I think call louder for it [particular attention] than the smiths, who, from a variety of instances which fell within my own observation whilst I was at home, I take to be two very idle fellows. A daily account (which ought regularly to be) taken of their work, would alone go a great way toward checking their idleness; but, besides this, being always about the house (except at haymaking and harvest) and not far from them he might have a pretty constant eye both to them, and to the people who are at work with the gardener, some of whom I know to be as lazy and deceitful as any in the world (Sam particularly). My horses too, (in the management of which he [Butler] professes to have some skill) might derive much benefit from a careful attention to them; not only to those which work, but to the young ones, and to the breeding mares:—for I have long suspected that Peter under pretence of riding about the plantations to look after the mares, mules, &c., is in pursuit of other objects; either of traffic or amusement, more advancive of his own pleasures than my benefit. It is not otherwise to be conceived that with the number of mares I have, five and twenty of which were bought for the express purpose of breeding, though now considerably reduced from that purpose alone, should produce not more than six or eights colts a year. This I say will hardly be believed by any person who has ever been in a similar practice. The evil stands much in need of a remedy. * * *
All such work as you have enumerated, I think is the duty of every overseer to render; and if he [Butler] is a man of an industrious turn, he will do it, whether he is compelled by articles or not. On the other hand, if he is of an indolent cast (such as Jones was,) all the articles in the world would not enforce the measure longer than he himself was under the observation of an overlooker: and probably to avoid working himself, (the negros knowing it to be his duty to do so, by agreement) he would suffer them to be idle, to bribe them against a discovery of his own idleness. For these reasons I have always had doubts (where there is a large gang of hands to overlook) of the propriety of attempting to compell by articles an overseer to do more work than his own inclination would naturally prompt him to do voluntarily. Indeed, where there are a number of hands, his time probably would be better employed in seeing them well engaged than in working himself, especially if all are not within his full view at the time. * * *
You speak of the quantity of lime which it has taken to repair the overseer’s house in the Neck. It is occasioned in a great measure by the profuse use of it by Davis,1 and the unnecessary strength which he gives to the mortar, in which he ought to be corrected. Of stone lime, and the lime made from oyster shells, the quantity differs, but the proportion of each are well ascertained for different kinds of work. For here again, mortar is made stronger or weaker according to the nature of it. Rules for all these might easily be obtained, and observed. Another bad practice which he is in, ought to be corrected; and that is, laying his mortar too thick in the joints. This hurts the look of a building, rather diminishes than adds to the strength of it, and consumes much lime.
If, as you suppose is the case, the miller spends more time than he ought to do in his dwelling house, it is justice due to me, to inform him of it; and to add, that if the practice is continued your duty will require that I should be informed of it. The slow progress made by him in manufacturing my wheat in such an open and mild fall and winter as we have had is, if there was water, the strongest evidence that can be given of his indolence, and the bad use he has made of so favorable a season. * * * 30 December, 1792.
[1 ]On 22 December, 1791, Washington sent to the Senate the nominations for diplomatic positions: Morris to be minister plenipotentiary at Paris; Thomas Pinckney, at London; and William Short, minister resident at The Hague. Opposition was at once shown to a confirmation, and after three days of debate the following motion was made: “That in the opinion of the Senate, it would not be for the interest of the United States to appoint Ministers Plenipotentiary to reside permanently at foreign courts.” This was amended so as to assert that “The Senate do not possess evidence sufficient to convince them that it will be for the interest,” &c. The message making the nominations was referred (30 December) to a committee composed of Strong, Burr, Lee, Ellsworth, and Gunn, who reported (6 January, 1792) in favor of appointments to London and The Hague, but made no mention of Morris. Taking up the report in detail, the Senate decided that a minister should be sent to London, but on Pinckney being named, postponed the matter. When a motion was made that a “special occasion” existed for a minister at Paris, another motion to adjourn was made, but defeated; and on taking up the original motion it was adopted, 19 to 7: Bradley, Burr, Few, Robinson, Sherman, Strong, and Wingate being the nays. On the 12th of January Morris was put in nomination for the office, and confirmed.
[1 ]Jefferson wrote to Short, 28 January, 1792, that the nomination of Morris “was extremely unpopular, and so little relished by several of the Senate, that every effort was used to negative it. Those whose personal objections to Mr. Morris overruled their deference to the President, finding themselves a minority, joined with another small party who are against all foreign appointments, and endeavored with them to put down the whole system, rather than let this article pass. The plan was defeated, and Mr. Morris passed by a vote of 16 against 11. . . . When the biennial bill furnishing money for the support of the foreign establishment shall come up at the next session, to be continued, the same contest will arise again, and I think it very possible that if the opponents of Mr. Morris cannot remove him otherwise, they will join again with those who are against the whole establishment, and try to discontinue the whole.” The supposed monarchical tendencies of Morris made his appointment very unpalatable to the leading republicans of Virginia, and was interpreted by them as a deliberate insult offered to France.
[1 ]The following remarks respecting St. Clair’s defeat, contained in General Armstrong’s letter, will have value as coming from the hero of Kittaning, who had distinguished himself in a warfare with Indians.
[1 ]The project mentioned in the following letter was framed to cover this question:
[2 ]Eldest son of the Marquis of Lansdowne.
[1 ]From Governor Pinckney’s Letter: “Our legislature among other questions agitated the one respecting the future importation of slaves, as the prohibition expires in March, 1793. Great pains were used to effect a total prohibition; but, upon the question being taken in the Senate, it was lost by so decided a majority, that I think we may consider it as certain this State will, after March, 1793, import as largely as they ever did. It is a decision, upon the policy of which I confess I have my doubts.
[1 ]“Your knowledge of the country northwest of the Ohio, and of the resources for an army in its vicinity, added to a full confidence in your military character founded on mature experience, induced my nomination of you to the command of the troops on the frontiers.
[2 ]Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. He resided at Baltimore.
[2 ]“The first wish of the U. States, with respect to the Indians, is, to be at peace with them all, and to cultivate a good understanding, to our mutual benefit. As we have not been able to obtain this without the effusion of blood, the next wish is, to pursue such measures as may terminate the hostilities in the speediest manner, and most for the honor and interest of the United States. Observations, therefore, which are founded in experience, tending to effect this, cannot but merit the thanks of those, who have the management of public affairs.”—Washington to William Moultrie, 5 May, 1792.
[1 ]This portrait had been solicited by the Earl of Buchan. The artist, Archibald Robertson, came to America in October, 1791, and drew a miniature of Washington, 13 December, 1791, from which was painted a large picture in oil for the Earl.
[2 ]“Your letter of the 20th ultimo was presented to me yesterday by Mr. Williams, who as a professional man may or may not be, for aught I know, a luminary of the first magnitude. But to be frank, and I hope you will not be displeased with me for being so, I am so heartily tired of the attendance, which, from one cause or another has been given to these people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them, and have adhered to it, except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the painters), and could not without offence be refused.
[1 ]The box here alluded to was made of the oak that sheltered William Wallace after the battle of Falkirk. The following account of it is given in a letter from the Earl of Buchan, written subsequently to the one which was brought by Mr. Robertson.
[1 ]From Mr. Paine’s Letter: “I received your favor of last August by Colonel Humphreys, since which I have not written to or heard from you. I mention this, that you may know no letters have miscarried. I took the liberty of addressing my late work, ‘The Rights of Man,’ to you; but though I left it, at that time, to find its way to you, I now request your acceptance of fifty copies as a token of remembrance to yourself and my friends. The work has had a run beyond any thing that has been published in this country on the subject of government, and the demand continues. In Ireland it has had a much greater. A letter I received from Dublin, 10th of May, mentioned that the fourth edition was then on sale. I know not what number of copies were printed at each edition, except the second, which was ten thousand. The same fate follows me here as I at first experienced in America, strong friends and violent enemies; but, as I have got the ear of the country, I shall go on, and at least show them, what is a novelty here, that there can be a person beyond the reach of corruption. . . .
[1 ]The first definite expression of a wish to retire at the end of his first term is to be found in a conversation between the President and Jefferson on the 29th of February, 1792. Washington is reported to have said that “many motives obliged him to it. He had, through the whole course of the war, and most particularly at the close of it, uniformly declared his resolution to retire from public affairs, and never to act in any public office; that he had retired under that firm resolution; that the government, however, which had been formed, being found evidently too inefficacious, and it being supposed that his aid was of some consequence towards bringing the people to consent to one of sufficient efficacy for their own good, he consented to come into the convention, and on the same motive, after much pressing, to take a part in the new government, and get it under way. That were he to continue longer, it might give room to say, that having tasted the sweets of office, he could not do without them: that he really felt himself growing old, his bodily health less firm, his memory, always bad, becoming worse, and perhaps the other faculties of his mind showing a decay to others of which he was insensible himself; that this apprehension particularly oppressed him: that he found, moreover, his activity lessened; business therefore more irksome, and tranquillity and retirement become an irresistible passion. That however he felt himself obliged, for these reasons to retire from the government, yet he should consider it as unfortunate, if that should bring on the retirement of the great officers of the government, and that this might produce a shock on the public mind of dangerous consequence.”—Jefferson’s Anas.
[1 ]Relating to a message from the King and Queen of France, as communicated by Mr. Morris. He had been speaking of the political doings of the leaders in the French Revolution. “The King and Queen,” said he, “are wounded to the soul by these rash measures. They have, I believe, given all needful assurances to the Emperor and King of Spain. A confidential person has desired me to assure you on their behalf, that they are very far from wishing to change the system of French politics and abandon their old allies; and therefore, if any advantage is taken of the present advances to Britain, that you will consider them as originating merely in the madness of the moment; and not as proceeding from them, or as meeting with their approbation, but the contrary. I shall send this letter in such a way as promises the greatest safety, and I must entreat you, my dear Sir, to destroy it for fear of accidents; you will feel how important it is to them, that this communication be not disclosed. It is merely personal from them to you, and expressive of sentiments, which can have no action until they have some authority.”—Sparks’ Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. ii., p. 163.
[1 ]From Mr. Morris’ Letter: “I was told yesterday, that Mr. Dundas has said, that the United States have asked for the mediation of this country to treat about a peace with the Indians. He told the same person, that the treaty made long since by Sir William Johnson seemed to be the proper ground on which to fix a boundary line between the United States and the Indian tribes. I learn these facts in such a way, that I am confident of their truth, and therefore submit them without any comment to your consideration.”—London, April 6th.
[1 ]Suspicion that the death of the King of Sweden had been effected through the instrumentality of the Jacobins in France.
[1 ]A periodical magazine published weekly at Edinburgh, under the direction of Dr. Anderson. It was devoted to agriculture, politics, and miscellaneous topics. In the year 1776 Dr. Anderson published Free Thoughts on the American Contest, and in 1782 another tract, entitled The Interest of Great Britain with Regard to her American Colonies Considered. He was likewise the author of numerous other works and essays on politics, rural economy, antiquities, philosophy, and literature.—Sparks.
[1 ]As soon as the defeat of St. Clair was known, Henry Lee, then Governor of Virginia, sought to obtain the appointment to the command. In April the general officers were named, and Lee was not among them. He wrote to Washington, June 15th:
[1 ]General Knox.
[2 ]John Darke.
[1 ]General Wayne, who had been appointed to the command of the western expedition as successor to General St. Clair, who had resigned.
[1 ]George Mason.
[1 ]This summary is copied almost verbatim from a letter which the writer had recently received from Mr. Jefferson. Hamilton’s reply is printed in his Works (Lodge), ii., 236, but is wrongly described as a “cabinet paper.”
[1 ]Alluding to the case of Major Trueman; and also to that of Colonel Hardin, who had been sent as a messenger to the Indians, and was murdered by them.—Marshall’s History of Kentucky, vol. ii., p. 41. Butler’s History of Kentucky, p. 219.
[2 ]“I wish Governor Blount may have been able to terminate the conferences, which he was to have had at Nashville about the 25th of last month with the Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, to the mutual advantage and satisfaction of all the parties concerned; but the difficulty of deciding between lawless settlers and greedy land speculators on one side, and the jealousy of the Indian nations and their banditti on the other, becomes more and more obvious every day; and these, from the interference of the Spaniards, if the reports we have be true, and other causes, which are too evident to require specification, add not a little to our embarrassments.”—Washington to Knox, 5 August, 1792.
[1 ]General Rufus Putnam.
[1 ]James Seagrove.
[1 ]William Panton was a privileged trader at Pensacola, who supplied the Indians with goods under their agreement with the Spanish government.
[2 ]William Augustus Bowles, a native of Maryland, had served in the British army in the Revolution, deserted and lived with the Indians for some years, married an Indian woman, and after the war became an actor. Meeting with the favor of Lord Dunmore, the governor of the Bahamas, he was sent as an agent to the southern Indians, where his capacity for intrigue was developed to the cost of Georgia, Spain, and the English factor, Panton. In this business he sought to undermine the influence of McGillivray, who seized him, and delivered him to the Spanish authorities (March 12th). They sent him to Madrid, where every effort was made to seduce him from his English sympathies; but these failing, he was transported to Manila, where he remained until 1797, when he returned to America, and again became troublesome to Spanish and Americans. Gayarre, Louisiana under Spanish Domination, 315-320. Washington’s suspicion of an agreement between Bowles and the Spanish authorities was not well founded. The British minister, acting on instructions from the ministry, was strong in disavowing him, calling him an “unauthorized impostor.”
[1 ]Washington had sent Seagrove’s communications to Knox on the 15th, with a request that he lay them before Jefferson and Hamilton, and take their opinion on them.
[1 ]Deputy quartermaster-general in the army.
[1 ]“Your letter to Messrs. Carmichael & Short (now returned) is full and proper. I have added a word or two with a pencil which may be inserted, or not, as you shall think best. The intention of them is to do away the charge of assumed sovereignty over more of the Creeks than are within our own territory.”—Washington to Jefferson, 3 November, 1792.
[1 ]The same request was made to the attorney-general, who said in reply, that he could discover nothing worthy of notice in his department, except the reform of the judiciary system, which embraced particulars too minute to be communicated by the executive. “And besides,” said he, “Congress cannot forget the admonitions, which they have already received on this head. I am so deeply impressed with the dangers to which the government is exposed from this quarter, that it would be a happy circumstance, if they could be stimulated to the discussion. Were I to indulge myself in a general review of our political situation, I should probably repeat, without use, topics, which have presented themselves to your own mind, or which have been suggested more accurately by others, to whose departments they belong. I confess, indeed, that I feel at the present crisis these strong solicitudes; that the public be assured of stability in the existing fiscal arrangements; that the redemption of the public debt be commenced at no distant day; that the land office, if the hostility of the Indians will permit, be employed as one of the instruments of redemption; that the State governments be prohibited from intermeddling with the Indian tribes, to the utmost limit of the constitution; that some temporary mode be provided for the relief of many crippled soldiers, who must beg or starve, until the schism between the legislature and judiciary be established; and that the violence of the sanguine States, which may be disappointed on the final settlement of their accounts with the United States, may in some manner or other be softened.”—October 28th.
[2 ]Urging him to accept a re-election.
[1 ]He had already been informed of similar conduct in North Carolina.
[1 ]The last phrases are not expressed in the terms used in Hamilton’s letter.
[1 ]Writing again on the 9th, Hamilton suggested the issue of a proclamation by the President “adverting in general terms to the irregular proceedings, and manifesting an intention to put the laws in force against offenders.” In this he was supported by Knox and Randolph, and, in conjunction with the latter, prepared the draft of a proposed proclamation. In sending it to Washington he thought that it was unnecessary to have it countersigned by the Secretary of State, as that officer was at Monticello and delay was dangerous. As will be seen, the President was of another mind.
[1 ]“Your letter of the 8th with its enclosures came duly to hand, and requires but little in reply to it, as your answer to General Wayne’s communications contains every direction, which is necessary for his government at this time. Whatever may be the attorney-general’s opinion with respect to the legality of calling out the militia by the governor of Pennsylvania for supplying the place of the rangers, it is not an easy matter, under the circumstances which now do and have existed during the summer, to discover any necessity for the measure, especially if the order was subsequent to your solution of his queries.
[1 ]“This letter goes by express to obtain the signature of the Secretary of State to the enclosed proclamation. . . .
[1 ]“Agreeably to your request, I shew’d Mr. Campbell’s letter to you, to the President of the U. S. who appeared to be exceedingly surprised at the Contents, and at the liberty wch. had been taken in making declarations for him which he had never made for himself. He added, that to the best of his recollection, he never exchanged a word with Bushrod Washington on the subject of Colo. Mercer’s election, much less to have given a decided opinion of his fitness or unfitness to represent the District for which he is a Candidate. That such a measure would have been inconsistent with the rule he has prescribed to himself, and which he has invariably observed, of not interfering directly nor indirectly with the suffrages of the people in the choice of their Representatives; and said he wished that Bushrod Washington, might be called upon to certify what, or whether any conversation of the kind ever passed between them on this subject, as it was desire[d] that every thing might stand upon its proper foundation.
[1 ]This letter was in answer to a brief one from Mr. Jefferson, accompanying extracts from letters written by him to different persons, and giving his views of the Constitution as expressed soon after that instrument was adopted by the general convention. For the letters containing these extracts, see Jefferson’s Writings, vol. ii., p. 290. North American Review, vol. xxv., p. 268.
[1 ]Many details on the importation of indented servants, or redemptioners, into the United States, are to be found in Ford, Washington as an Employer and Importer of Labor.
[1 ]I find in a note-book of Washington’s a very full and careful summary of Bry Higgins on Calcareous Cements, dated 1784.
[1 ]In his summary of Duhamel he noted on Chapter VIII. of that work, on the culture of sainfoin: “Altho’ sainfoin seems to be a very desirable plant to cultivate, yet the difficulty of getting it to grow in this country renders it unnecessary to say anything upon this head here.”
[1 ]John Fairfax, one of his overseers.
[1 ]Formerly manager for General Cadwalader. In 1790 he agreed to serve as overseer to two of Washington’s farms, known as the Ferry and French’s, for an annual salary of forty guineas, with certain allowances of produce and the use of a boy or girl to cook for him.
[1 ]Henry Jones, overseer of the Dogue Run plantation. He agreed not to absent himself from said plantation without permission; to obey all orders and directions; to be particularly attentive to the stock of every kind, and “in a particular manner will attend to the plow horses and working oxen, to see that their allowance is given them in due season and without embezzlement or waste. . . . That he will discourage company from resorting to the plantation, unless it may be his relatives now and then, and will prevent all gunning and fowling within his inclosures. . . . That he will provide in due season meal for the negros, and see it regularly delivered to them, and also that they have (if butter is made) the butter milk after the milk is churned; and when occasion requires it for sick persons or negro children, that they moreover have sweet milk given them. That he will be very careful of the negros in sickness . . . and to sum up the whole, that he will act the part of a sober and industrious man.” He received for this thirty pounds Virginia currency a year, and certain farm produce.
[1 ]Joseph Davenport, the miller.
[1 ]James Butler.
[1 ]Thomas Davis.