Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ARTHUR YOUNG. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794)
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TO ARTHUR YOUNG. - 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 ARTHUR YOUNG.
Philadelphia, 12 December, 1793.
I wrote to you three months ago, or more, by my late secretary and friend, Mr. Lear; but as his departure from this country for Great Britain, was delayed longer than he or I expected, it is at least probable that that letter will not have reached your hands at a much earlier period than the one I am now writing.
At the time it was written, the thoughts which I am now about to disclose to you, were not even in embryo; and whether, in the opinion of others, there be impropriety, or not, in communicating the object which has given birth to them, is not for me to decide. My own mind reproaches me with none; but if yours should view the subject differently, burn this letter, and the draught which accompanies it, and the whole matter will be consigned to oblivion.
All my landed property, east of the Apalachian mountains, is under rent, except the estate called Mount Vernon. This, hitherto, I have kept in my own hands; but, from my present situation, from my advanced time of life, from a wish to live free from care, and as much at my ease as possible, during the remainder of it, and from other causes, which are not necessary to detail, I have, latterly, entertained serious thoughts of letting this estate also, reserving the mansion house farm for my own residence, occupation and amusement in agriculture; provided I can obtain what is, in my own judgment, and in the opinions of others whom I have consulted, the low rent which I shall mention hereafter; and provided also I can settle it with good farmers.
The quantity of ploughable land (including meadow), the relative situation of the farms to one another, and the division of those farms into separate inclosures, with the quantity and situation of the woodlands appertaining to the tract will be better delineated by the sketch herewith sent (which is made from actual surveys, subject, nevertheless, to revision and correction), than by a volume of words.
No estate in United America, is more pleasantly situated than this. It lies in a high, dry and healthy country, 300 miles by water from the sea, and, as you will see by the plan, on one of the finest rivers in the world. Its margin is washed by more than ten miles of tide water; from the bed of which, and the innumerable coves, inlets, and small marshes, with which it abounds, an inexhaustible fund of rich mud may be drawn, as a manure, either to be used separately, or in a compost, according to the judgment of the farmer. It is situated in a latitude between the extremes of heat and cold, and is the same distance by land and water, with good roads, and the best navigation (to and) from the Federal City, Alexandria, and Georgetown; distant from the first, twelve, from the second, nine, and from the last sixteen miles. The Federal City, in the year 1800, will become the seat of the general government of the United States. It is increasing fast in buildings, and rising into consequence; and will, I have no doubt, from the advantages given to it by nature, and its proximity to a rich interior country, and the western territory, become the emporium of the United States. The soil of the tract of which I am speaking, is a good loam, more inclined however, to clay than sand. From use, and I might add, abuse, it is become more and more consolidated, and of course heavier to work. The greater part is a greyish clay; some part is a dark mould; a very little is inclined to sand; and scarcely any to stone.1 A husbandman’s wish would not lay the farms more level than they are; and yet some of the fields (but in no great degree) are washed into gullies, from which all of them have not yet been recovered.
This river, which encompasses the land the distance above-mentioned, is well supplied with various kinds of fish, at all seasons of the year; and, in the spring, with the greatest profusion of shad, herrings, bass, carp, perch, sturgeon, &c. Several valuable fisheries appertain to the estate; the whole shore, in short, is one entire fishery.
There are, as you will perceive by the plan, four farms besides that at the mansion house: these four contain 3260 acres of cultivable land, to which some hundreds more, adjoining, as may be seen, might be added, if a greater quantity should be required; but as they were never designed for, so neither can it be said they are calculated to suit, tenants of either the first, or of the lower class; because, those who have the strength and resources proportioned to farms of from 500 to 1200 acres (which these contain), would hardly be contented to live in such houses as are thereon; and if they were to be divided and subdivided, so as to accommodate tenants of small means, say from 50 to one or 200 acres, there would be none, except on the lots which might happen to include the present dwelling-houses of my overlookers (called bailiffs with you), barns, and negro cabins; nor would I choose to have the wood-land (already too much pillaged of its timber) ransacked, for the purpose of building many more. The soil, however, is excellent for bricks, or for mud walls; and to the building of such houses, there would be no limitation, nor to that of thatch for the cover of them.
The towns already mentioned (to those who might incline to encounter the expense) are able to furnish scantling, plank and shingles, to any amount, and on reasonable terms; and they afford a ready market also for the produce of the land.
On what is called the Union Farm (containing 928 acres of arable and meadow), there is a newly erected brick barn, equal, perhaps, to any in America, and for conveniences of all sorts, particularly for sheltering and feeding horses, cattle, &c., scarcely to be exceeded any where. A new house is now building in a central position, not far from the barn, for the overlookers; which will have two rooms, 16 by 18 feet, below, and one or two above, nearly of the same size. Convenient thereto is sufficient accommodation for fifty odd negroes, old and young; but these buildings might not be thought good enough for the workmen, or day-laborers, of your country.
Besides these, a little without the limits of the farm (as marked in the plan), are one or two other houses, very pleasantly situated, and which, in case this farm should be divided into two (as it formerly was), would answer well for the eastern division. The buildings thus enumerated, are all that stand on the premises.
The Dogue Run Farm (650 acres) has a small, but new, building, for the overlooker; one room only below, and the same above, 16 by 20 each; decent and comfortable for its size. It has also covering for forty odd negroes, similar to what is mentioned on Union Farm. It has a new circular barn, now finishing, on a new construction; well calculated, it is conceived, for getting grain out of the straw more expeditiously than in the usual mode of threshing. There are good sheds also erecting, sufficient to cover 30 work-horses and oxen.
Muddy-hole Farm (476 acres) has a house for the overlooker, in size and appearance nearly like that of Dogue Run, but older; the same kind of covering for about 30 negroes, and a tolerable good barn, with stables for the work-horses.
River Farm, which is the largest of the four, and separated from the others by Little Hunting Creek, contains 1207 acres of ploughable land, has an overlooker’s house, of one large and two small rooms below, and one or two above; sufficient covering for 50 or 60 negroes, like those before-mentioned; a large barn, and stables, gone much to decay, but will be replaced next year with new ones.
I have deemed it necessary to give this detail of the buildings, that a precise idea might be had of the conveniences and inconveniences of them; and I believe the recital is just in all its parts. The inclosures are precisely and accurately delineated in the plan; and the fences now are, or soon will be in respectable order.
I would lett these four farms to four substantial farmers of wealth and strength sufficient to cultivate them, and who would ensure to me the regular payment of the rents; and I would give them leases for seven or ten years, at the rate of a Spanish milled dollar, or other money current at the time in this country, equivalent thereto, for every acre of ploughable and mowable ground, within the inclosures of the respective farms, as marked in the plan; and would allow the tenants, during that period, to take fuel; and use timber from the woodland to repair the buildings and to keep the fences in order, until live fences could be substituted in place of dead ones; but, in this case, no sub-tenants would be allowed.
Or, if these farms are adjudged too large, and the rents, of course, too heavy for such farmers as might incline to emigrate, I should have no insuperable objection against dividing each into as many small ones, as a society of them, formed for the purpose, could agree upon, among themselves; even if it should be by the fields as they are now arranged (which the plan would enable them to do), provided such buildings as they would be content with, should be erected at their own expence, in the manner already mentioned. In which case, as in the former, fuel, and timber for repairs, would be allowed; but, as an inducement to parcel out my grounds into such small tenements, and to compensate me, at the same time, for the greater consumption of fuel and timber, and for the trouble and expence of collecting small rents, I should expect a quarter of a dollar per acre, in addition to what I have already mentioned. But in order to make these small farms more valuable to the occupants, and by way of reimbursing them for the expence of their establishment thereon, I would grant them leases for 15 or 18 years; although I have weighty objections to the measure, founded on my own experience, of the disadvantage it is to the lessor, in a country where lands are rising every year in value. As an instance in proof, about 20 years ago, I gave leases for three lives, in land I held above the Blue Mountains, near the Shenandoah river, seventy miles from Alexandria, or any shipping port, at a rent of one shilling per acre (no part being then cleared); and now land of similar quality, in the vicinity, with very trifling improvements thereon, is renting, currently, at five and more shillings per acre, and even as high as eight.
My motives for letting this estate having been avowed, I will add that the whole (except the mansion-house farm), or none, will be parted with, and that upon unequivocal terms; because my object is to fix my income (be it what it may) upon a solid basis, in the hands of good farmers; because I am not inclined to make a medley of it; and, above all, because I could not relinquish my present course, without a moral certainty of the substitute which is contemplated; for to break up these farms, remove my negroes, and to dispose of the property on them, upon terms short of this, would be ruinous.
Having said thus much, I am disposed to add further, that it would be in my power, and certainly it would be my inclination (upon the principle above), to accommodate the wealthy, or the weak-handed farmer (and upon reasonable terms) with draught-horses, and working mules and oxen; with cattle, sheep, and hogs; and with such implements of husbandry, if they should not incline to bring them themselves, as are in use on the farms. On the four farms there are 54 draught-horses, 12 working mules, and a sufficiency of oxen, broke to the yoke; the precise number I am unable this moment to ascertain, as they are comprehended in the aggregate of the black cattle; of the latter there are 317; of sheep, 634; of hogs, many; but as these run pretty much at large in the woodland (which is all under fence), the number is uncertain. Many of the negroes, male and female, might be hired by the year, as laborers, if this should be preferred to the importation of that class of people; but it deserves consideration, how far the mixing of whites and blacks together is advisable, especially where the former are entirely unacquainted with the latter.
If there be those who are disposed to take these farms in their undivided state, on the terms which have been mentioned, it is an object of sufficient magnitude for them, or one of them, in behalf of the rest, to come over and investigate the premises thoroughly, that there may be nothing to reproach themselves or me with, if (though unintentionally) there should be defects in any part of the information herein given; or, if a society of farmers are disposed to adventure, it is still more incumbent on them to send over an agent, for the purposes above-mentioned; for with me the measure must be so fixed, as to preclude any cavil or discussion thereafter. And it may not be mal apropos to observe in this place, that our overlookers are generally engaged, and all the arrangements for the ensuing crops are made before the first of September in every year; it will be readily perceived, then, that if this period is suffered to pass away, it is not to be regained until the next year. Possession might be given to the new-comers at the season just mentioned, to enable them to put in their grain for the next crop; but the final relinquishment could not take place until the crops are gathered, which of Indian corn (maize) seldom happens till towards Christmas, as it must endure hard frosts before it can be safely housed.
I have endeavored, as far as my recollection of facts would enable me, or the documents in my possession allow, to give such information of the actual state of the farms, as to enable persons at a distance to form as distinct ideas as the nature of the thing is susceptible, short of one’s own view: and having communicated the motives which have inclined me to a change in my system, I will announce to you the origin of them.
First. Few ships, of late, have arrived from any part of Great Britain, or Ireland, without a number of emigrants, and some of them by report very respectable and full-handed farmers. A number of others, they say, are desirous of following, but are unable to obtain passages; but their coming in that manner, even if I was apprized of their arrival in time, would not answer my views, for the reason already assigned; and which, as it is the ultimatum at present, I will take the liberty of repeating, namely, that I must carry my plan into complete execution, or not attempt it; and under such auspices, too, as to leave no doubt of the exact fulfillment; and,
2dly, Because, from the number of letters which I have received myself (and, as it would seem, from respectable people), inquiring into matters of this sort, with intimations of their wishes, and even intentions of migrating to this country, I can have no doubt of succeeding. But I have made no reply to these inquiries; or, if any, in very general terms, because I did not want to engage in correspondences of this sort with persons of whom I had no knowledge, nor indeed leisure for them, if I had been so disposed.
I shall now conclude as I began, with a desire, that if you see any impropriety in making these sentiments known to that class of people who might wish to avail themselves of the occasion, that it may not be mentioned. By a law, or by some regulation of your government, artisans, I am well aware, are laid under restraints; and, for this reason, I have studiously avoided any overtures to mechanics, although my occasions call for them. But never having heard that difficulties were thrown in the way of husbandmen by the government, is one reason for my bringing this matter to your view. A second is, that having yourself expressed sentiments which shewed that you had cast an eye towards this country, and was not inattentive to the welfare of it, I was led to make my intentions known to you, that if you or your friends, were disposed to avail yourselves of the knowledge, you might take prompt measures for the execution.—And 3dly, I was sure, if you had lost sight of the object yourself, I could, nevertheless, rely upon such information as you might see fit to give me, and upon such characters, too, as you might be disposed to recommend.
Lengthy as this epistle is, I will crave your patience while I add, that it is written in too much haste, and under too great a pressure of public business, at the commencement of an important session of Congress, to be correct, or properly digested. But the season of the year, and the apprehension of ice, are hurrying away the last vessel bound from this port to London. I am driven therefore to the alternative of making the matter known in this hasty manner, and giving a rude sketch of the farms, which is the subject of it; or to encounter delay. The first I preferred. It can hardly be necessary to add, that I have no desire that any formal prolongation of these sentiments should be made.
To accomplish my wishes, in the manner expressed, would be agreeable to me; and in a way that cannot be exceptionable, would be more so. With much esteem and regard, &c.1
[1 ]“I have been favored with your letter of the 9th and sample of free stone from my Quarry, sent by Mr. Hoben, for which I thank you both;—and should be obliged to him for information of the spot from whence it was taken.—I always knew, that the River banks from my spring house, to the Ferry formerly kept by Captn. Posey, were almost an entire bed of freestone; but I had conceived before the late sample came to hand, that it was of a very soft nature.
[1 ]“Enclosed I give you the trouble of receiving the copy of a letter which I wrote to Mr. Arthur Young, by Mr. Willm. Morris, on the 12th of December last. At the time that letter was written, I had no knowledge of Mr. Young’s late appointment, as Secretary of the National Board of Agriculture, nor of the change of his political sentiments. It is not improbable but that he has already, or will make you acquainted with the purport of the above letter. Be this, however, as it may, my inducement to send you a copy of it is, that if the case should be otherwise, if there appears to be any dereliction on his part to comply with my wishes, and a fair occasion should occur of mentioning the matter in the course of your peregrinations through England, Scotland, or elsewhere, and you see no impropriety from circumstances, or your view of the subject at the moment, I should be glad if you were to do it. My wish further is, to dispose of the lands I have had restored to me by Mr. de Barth, and in short my settled lands in the Western parts of this State, in the counties of Fayette and Washington—I have raised the price of my lands on the Ohio and Great Kanhawa to twenty shillings, Virginia Currency per acre; the tract in Fayette (about 1700 acres) to forty, and that in Washington to thirty shillings per acre Pennsylvania currency.