Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTERS TO ANTHONY WHITING, 1793. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794)
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LETTERS TO ANTHONY WHITING, 1793. 1 - 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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LETTERS TO ANTHONY WHITING, 1793.1
I never had it in contemplation to withdraw the hands from the river, or any other Plantation to aid at the mansion house, if their work should be required at home: therefore I find no difficulty in releasing the river force from this service, if there is really work enough to employ them at home; which is indeed very probable, as they have spent all the fall and half the winter in getting in their corn:—a thing hardly ever heard of before in the worst of weather, much less in such as we have had, and which perhaps never was seen before. If there was any way of making such a rascal as Garner2 pay for such conduct, no punishment would be too great for him. I suppose he never turned out of morning’s until the sun had warmed the earth;—and if he did not, the negros would not:—and if you do not watch the motions of such people (now and then) in the mornings, it will, more than probably be the case with the rest who are on standing wages; and who feel no interest in the crop, whether it be great or small. For in this case principle, and a regard for reputation, are the only motives to stimulate industry, and unfortunately, too few of that class of (common) overseers, are overburthened with either of those.
I am perfectly sensible of the scarcity of timber at the River Plantation, and the distance it is to draw at some others; and this principally (but aided by many others) is the reason why for many years back, I have been laboring, but in vain, to substitute live, instead of dead fences; and which I will no longer, under any pretences whatsoever, delay doing. My frequent and long absences from home prevented my attending to the business personally; and no recommendation, nor indeed orders, could draw the attention of those to whom I entrusted my affairs in the manner it ought—for the seasons were either suffered to pass away before the measure was thought of by them, or the work executed in such a manner as to produce no good effect. Now, as I mean to make hedging a business and a primary one, and when I add that I cannot be more disappointed, or disobliged by anything, than in neglecting the season, and the means to accomplish the measure, I shall hope to be relieved in a few years from the great consumption of timber which such a quantity of fencing as I have, will occasion; and the consequent transportation of the rails to such a variety of cross-fences as there are, but which in the first instances at least, might be made of any sort or kind of hedge that would turn horses, cattle and sheep—hogs not being admitted. * * *
Mr. Butler’s ideas may require correction, and to be assimilated a little more to the nature of our climate and soil; but I by no means disapprove of the idea of trying the efficacy of the mud which may be extracted from Hell hole, if he can contrive to get it up. I do not mean on a large scale; this would be expensive; but if the attempt was made on a few square rods of the poorest ground in the adjacent lot, with different quantities of each, the experiment might and unquestionably would, ascertain a fact which may be of great importance to know; and as experiments of this sort can be made at a small expence, it is wonderful and inexcusable they are not oftener attempted. And though it may be imprudent to risk a whole field of turnips for the purpose of folding upon (until the land can be brought into better order), yet it would certainly be right to practice this upon a small scale at first: and advance by degrees and according to the utility and advantages which are found to flow from it. Mr. Young (of Suffolk in England) who unquestionably understands the principles of farming as well as any man in England, and who has had as much practical knowledge, has given it as his decided opinion that the stock of every farm ought to be supported by the fallows. By fallows (for he reprobates the idea of naked fallows) he means turnips, cabbage, beans, clover, and such like, as are adapted to the soil, and which are part of his rotation crops. His great desiderata is, that large crops cannot be raised without large stocks of cattle and sheep. Nor large stocks of these without the fallows above mentioned; which are the best, if not the only, proper preparation for crops of grain. To get fully into a practice of this sort, in this country, must be more than the work of a year, two or three; but if it is never begun, it can never be executed. Turnips (where the land is fit for it) folded on, and clover, seems to be his plan. * * *
Let Mr. Crow know that I view with a very evil eye the frequent reports made by him of sheep dying. When they are destroyed by dogs, it is more to be regretted than avoided perhaps—but frequent natural deaths is a very strong evidence to my mind of the want of care, or something worse, as the sheep are culled every year, and the old ones drawn out. * * * 13 January, 1793.
It is a little extraordinary that Davenport should delay making the experiment I directed so long as he did1 ; and then to do it in so unsatisfactory a manner; when he knew or might have known, that my object in making it was to ascertain whether my interest would be most promoted by manufacturing the wheat, or selling it in the grain. I fear he is too lazy to give the necessary attention to the business which is entrusted to him; for it was my full expectation that he would have mixed the common and white wheat by some uniform proportion together, through the whole manufactury of them; as they do at Brandywine and other mills in this State; where, it is the opinion of the millers that superfine flour, of the first quality, cannot be made without some white wheat. To do this would have given him a little trouble; and trouble, I presume, is what he is not overfond of. The price, as well as quantity of shorts and bran, ought to be inserted in the account to give it accuracy and fairness:—and this price ought to be regulated by their proportionate value to corn and oats, in feeding the work horses. After the danger of having the navigation of the creek interrupted by ice is over, it might not be amiss to save me the expence of storage of this article flour in Alexandria:—as it can, when sold, be sent from the mill in the first instance.
I am concerned to find that the crop of wheat is likely, ultimately, to fall so much below expectation;—and it is singular that all the stacks, latterly, though equal in size and appearance, should be so unequal in their yield, when compared with those which were first got out, in August and September. Disappointment in the wheaten crop I did not—I must own—expect. My apprehension that the Indian corn crop would fall short of the calculation was always great, even before the frost, and more so afterwards. You will, I am persuaded, have every care possible taken of it; and the bran, which will be a valuable aid to it.
I do not disapprove your sowing the new ground at Dogue Run with oats (in such quantity to the acre as you may judge best) along with the clover. It will, unquestionably, add to the profit which is to be derived from the ground; and I think the clover is always better sown with grain that will protect it (in its infant state) from the sun, and preserve it against weeds, than when it is sown quite alone. When you speak of clover for this ground, I presume you mean to mix timothy with it—this, in my opinion ought uniformly to be the case; except where it is sown for the purpose of seed. I do not care by what means, or in what way, the grass seeds are sown, so as that it is done with regularity; and the quantity allotted, bestowed to the acre. To mix it well with sand, or dry earth (sand is best), and the quantity of seed designed to the acre given to a bushel, say rather a bushel when mixed; and this sown by stakes where there be no regular furrows, is the best way I have ever tried;—for where the seedsman walks by stakes, and has been accustomed to sow wheat at the rate of a bushel to the acre, there can be no mistake in this mode. But he must possess more skill than falls to the lot of our common overseers, who can sow the naked seed regularly, and in due proportions: and without furrows or stakes, no man living can do it well, unless it be by chance.
It will be highly pleasing to me if the swamps at the Ferry and French’s could be so well prepared, as to be laid down this spring in oats and grasses. * * * Let this plantation henceforward be called “Union Farm or Plantation,” instead of “Ferry and French’s.” * * * 27 January, 1793.
Under cover with this letter you will receive some beans which Mrs. Washington desires may be given to the gardener;—also Panicum or Guinea corn, from the Island of Jamaica, which may be planted merely to show the uses it can be applied to; and the white bent grass, with the description of it by Mr. Hawkins (one of the Senators, who had it from Mr. Bassett, of Delaware State, another of the Senate). If the account of it be just it must be a valuable grass:—I therefore desire it may be sowed in drills, and to the best advantage for the purpose of seed. These things which are intended for experiments, or to raise as much seed from, as can be, should never be put in fields or meadows; for there (if not forgot) they are neglected; or swallowed up in the fate of all things within the inclosures that contain them. This has been the case of the choricum (from Mr. Young), and a grass which sold for two guineas a quart in England, and presented to me. And the same, or some other fate equally as bad has attended a great many curious seeds which have been given to and sent home by me at different times—but of which I have heard nothing more; either from the inattention which was given to them in the first instance, neglect in the cultivation, or not watching the period of their seeding, and gathering them without waste. The intention of the little garden by the salt house, &c., was to receive such things as required but a small space for their cultivation;—and what is called the vineyard inclosure was designed for other articles of experiment, or for seed which required still greater space before they were adopted upon a large scale; yet the plants which are deposited there are, generally, so over-run with grass and weeds as to be destroyed before a judgment can be formed of their utility. This, I know has absolutely been the case with many things which have been given to me as curiosities, or for their value. From the fancy grass (of which I have [being told that both horse and cattle are fond of it] a high opinion), I have been urging for years (it being more than five since I sowed it myself) the saving of seed; yet, it is almost in statu quo, because the necessary measures have not been taken to propagate and save the seed, and because it will not, I believe, be overcome by anything else—whilst other things not so hardy have been eradicated by the grass and weeds. I now desire that all these things may be attended to by the gardener and those who are with him, aided, if necessary, by the house-gang. * * *
I hope the delivery to and the application of nails by the carpenters, will undergo a pretty strict comparative scrutiny, without expressing any suspicion, unless cause shall be given for it. I cannot conceive how it is possible that 6000 twelve penny nails could be used in the corn house at River Plantation; but of one thing I have no great doubt, and that is, if they can be applied to other uses, or converted into cash, rum, or other things, there will be no scruple in doing it.
I can conceive no latch (sufficient to answer the purpose, and not always out of sorts) more simple or cheaper than those to the White gates, unornimented, which is unnecessary. A thin plate of iron, kept in place by an old iron hoop (of which I presume hundred could be got in Alexandria for a mere song) and staple for it to catch in, is, in my opinion, as cheap as anything that (will not always be a plague) can be devised. The advantage of this latch is, that let the gate swag as it may, it always catches. The top of the flat iron ought to shew, that strangers may know how to open it on either side, but there is not the least occasion for the round like that at the Gumspring, nor of the curl, like those at the White gates; nor is there any occasion to make the flat part longer or stiffer than is necessary for the spring. Most other kinds of latches, after the gates settle, are not only insecure but exceedingly troublesome;—instance that at the ferry, which was vexing to every one who went in. I was obliged always to dismount either to open or shut it. However, if you know of any other kind more simple than the above, equally secure, and which will not be troublesome to open, I have no objection to the adoption. * * *
Sarah Flatfoot (you call her Lightfoot) has been accustomed to receive a pair of shoes, stockings, a country cloth petticoat, and an oznabrig shift, all ready made, annually, and it is not meant to discontinue them. You will therefore furnish them to her. * * * 3 February, 1793.
The Major was permitted to cut cord wood from the tops of the trees which had been felled for rails; either for burning bricks or other purposes; but it is not unlikely that his overseer (Taylor) may cord it for sale, if he is not watched; for it is established as a maxim in my mind, that a man who will do wrong to another in one instance knowingly, will have no scruple in doing it in every instance where it can be done without being liable to discovery. And with respect to his keeping a horse, no matter whether (as I suppose he will say, at his own expense) it is on his own provender, or that of his employer, it is my express request that you will, immediately upon the receipt of this letter, inform him (unless he can shew a written permission for the purpose, which I am sure he is not able to do) that if the horse, or mare, or any other animal, he is not allowed to keep, is not instantly sent away, that I will, as soon as I reach Mount Vernon, not only turn him off the Plantation, but cause him to be sued for a breach of covenant;—and for his knavery;—for it is not less so, than would be the opening of the Major’s desk, and taking his money;—nay, in my estimation, the crime is greater; because a man who will defraud another who confides in him, is surely a greater villain than one who robs boldly, at the risque of his life. You may assure Mr. Taylor in the strongest language you can devise,—you may even read this part of my letter to him,—that no pretence of verbal permission to keep a horse will avail him; for I know from various conversations with the Major on this subject, that it is next to impossible he ever should have given such leave;—and I again add, that the pretext (if it should be offered) of feeding him at his own expense, will not way one moment. * * * 10 February, 1793.
Unless you have received, or may receive any directions from Mrs. Fanny Washington respecting the building my deceased nephew was carrying on, it is my opinion that an entire suspension of it had better take place. And with respect to the conduct of the overseer there, it is my wish and desire that you would attend to him as much as to any of my own. And, in addition to what was mentioned in one of my last letters to you concerning him, if he should be detected in any knavish pranks I will make the country too warm for him to remain in.
Your accounts of Davenport’s sloth, impress me more strongly with the idea of his laziness. I therefore request you to tell him from me, that I expect the season will not be suffered to slip away, and my wheat left unground; but on the contrary, that he will work of nights, as well as in the day, as all merchant mills do; and which he himself must have done before he fell into the idle habits he has acquired since he has basked in the sunshine of my mill. * * *
The correction you gave Ben, for his assault on Sambo, was just and proper. It is my earnest desire that quarrels may be stopped, or punishment of both parties follow, unless it shall appear clearly, that one only is to blame, and the other forced into [a quarrel] from self-defence. * * * 24 February, 1793.
I am as apprehensive as you can be, that Green never will overcome his propensity to drink; that it is this which occasions his frequent sickness, absences from work, and poverty. And I am convinced, moreover, that it answers no purpose to admonish him. But if the work in hand cannot be carried on without a head to execute it, and no other presents, in whom confidence can be placed, there is no alternative but to keep him, unless he should get too bad to be longer borne with;—and even then, a house so framed as the Dogue Run barn is intended to be, ought not to be entrusted to my negro carpenters, or any other bungler. * * *
I am very sorry to hear that so likely a young fellow as Matilda’s Ben should addict himself to such courses as he is pursuing. If he should be guilty of any atrocious crime, that would affect his life, he might be given up to the civil authority for trial; but for such offences as most of his color are guilty of, you had better try further correction, accompanied with admonition and advice. The two latter sometimes succeed where the first has failed. He, his father and mother (who I dare say are his receivers) may be told in explicit language, that if a stop is not put to his rogueries and other villainies, by fair means and shortly, that I will ship him off (as I did Wagoner Jack) for the West Indies, where he will have no opportunity of playing such pranks as he is at present engaged in. * * * 3 March, 1793.1
I did not suppose that this was the season for demanding payment of taxes of any kind. I may be mistaken, however; but as I do sincerely believe the under sheriffs in Virginia to be among the greatest rascals in the world; it is my desire that you will get their demands from them in writing, and lay these before some gentleman well acquainted with these matters, and know from him, first, when they have a right to distrain for the levies;—for until that time you may withhold payment, so as to give yourself time to provide the tobacco, or money. 2dly. Whether the quantity of tobacco demanded by them is just. 3dly, whether they have a right to fix 3d. or any other cash price by way of commutation. And 4thly, to know if you cannot discharge their just claims, to get the tobacco for less than 3d. per lb. * * *
The middlings and ship stuff may be sold to answer the money calls which you will have upon you; but I entreat that these may be as few as you can possibly make them. For I acknowledge, although I have no doubt of the justness of the account you handed to Mr. Dandridge, that the amount was beyond what I expected to see in so short a time; but as I had not the particular articles to refer to, it was not in my power to form an accurate judgment of the necessity for them. But there is one rule, and a golden rule it is, that nothing should be bought that can be made, or done without. People are often ruined before they are aware of the danger, by buying everything they think they want, without adverting to a Scotch adage—than which nothing in nature is more true—“that many mickles make a muckle.” I am more pointed in giving this sentiment, because I perceive many things were yet to be got at the instance of Green, from the stores in Alexandria. He will not care what cost I am run to for carpenter’s tools. * * *
I wish to know precisely, what ground you have sown, or mean to sow with clover, or clover and timothy this Spring. And as I do not believe it was done before I left home, I desire you will have the ox-eye window in the green house so secured as to guard against another robbery of that loft. The same with respect to the corn loft, for that I know (intending several times to speak about it, but forgot to do so) is in the same situation as when the corn was stolen from it. I wish also to know the quantity of clover seed that has been given to each field, or lot, which has been sown there with the past winter or present spring. And here I cannot help expressing, that I felt both mortification and vexation, to find an ignorant Negro sowing these seeds, contrary to my reiterated direction to have them mixed with sand or dry earth. The consequence of not doing it will be, I expect, that the fields will either be loaded with, or so barren of, seed, as to be wasteful in the one case, or unproductive and useless in the other:—whereas, if the quantity of seed intended for half an acre had been put into half a bushel, and that half bushel filled with sand or earth as above, and well mixed; the same cast that would have sewed wheat (which he was used to) would exactly have answered for the grass seed:—and if this admixture of them had been made by the overseer, there could have been no embezzlement of the seed when so mixed. Without it, is there any reason to hope that the seeds were more secure in the hands of a negro seedsman, suspected of being a rogue, than it was under a good lock? I am thus explicit on this occasion, because I would have it clearly understood that when I do give positive directions, in any case whatsoever, they are not to be dispensed with. * * * 21 April, 1793.
In looking over the last weekly report that has been forwarded to me, I perceive the allowance of meal to Muddy Hole is increased one peck, Union Farm and River farm two pecks each, and Dogue Run Farm, three pecks. Whether this addition with what goes to their absent hands, is sufficient, I will not undertake to decide;—but in most explicit language I desire they may have plenty; for I will not have my feelings again hurt with complaints of this sort, nor lye under the imputation of starving my negros, and thereby driving them to the necessity of thieving to supply the deficiency. To prevent waste or embezzlement is the only inducement to allowancing of them at all—for if, instead of a peck they could eat a bushel of meal a week fairly, and required it, I would not withhold or begrudge it them. 28 April, 1893.
I did not entertain the most distant suspicion of your having charged any thing in the acct. exhibited to Mr. Dandridge but what you had actually paid, for my use.—For if I could suppose you capable of such a violation of the principles of honesty, and so lost to the trust reposed in you, my confidence in you would depart, and I should think my concerns very unsafe in your hands.—I only meant to guard you against an error which is but too common, and the ill effects of which, oftentimes not foreseen, before they are severely felt; I mean that of not avoiding the purchase of things, that can be done without, or made within oneself. “A penny saved, is a penny got”—from experience I know, that no under overseer I have ever yet had, nor any of my black people who have not the paying for the articles they call for, can be impressed (as it respects me) with these ideas. On the contrary, things are seldom taken care of by them, when they are lost, broke, or injured with impunity;—and are replaced, or renewed, by asking for more.—For these reasons as far as it is consistent with just propriety, make the overseers, Green and others, who have the sub management of parts of my business, responsible for whatever is committed to their care; and whenever they apply for a new thing, that you will be satisfied of the necessity there is for granting it;—if to supply a worn thing, to see the condition of, and to take in the old one.—Unless this care and attention is used, you will be greatly imposed upon yourself, and I shall feel the evil of it.—I am perfectly satisfied that as much is made by saving (or nearly so) as there is by the Crops; that is, by attention to the crops when made, stocks of all sorts; working cattle; Plantation utensils; Tools; fences; and though last, not least, to the Negros:—first by seeing that they have every thing that is proper for them, and next, that they be prevented, as far as vigilance can accomplish it, all irregularities and improper conduct.—And this oftentimes is easier to effect by watchfulness and admonition, than by severity;—and certainly must be more agreeable to every feeling mind in the practice of them.—Speaking of accts., and finding some articles of my deceased nephews mixed with mine; I request that, although they are, or may be, paid with my money, yet that they may be kept entirely distinct from my accounts.
I cannot say that the Rams were not seperated (as they ought to have been) from the ewes at shearing time last year, but from my own view I can (I think at Union Farm) say I saw Rams with my sheep in the month of August last.—Whether my own, or belonging to others, I know not. The last would be worse than the first, as I believe my sheep are above mediocrity, when most others are below it.—As I am constantly loosing sheep I wish this year, you would cull them closer.—The flock would be benefitted thereby, whilst I might get something for the refuse; instead of the frequent reports of their deaths.—And I wish you would reprehend the overseers severely for suffering the sheep under their respective care, to get so foul as I saw some when I was at home, particularly at Dogue run Farm.—It is impossible for a sheep to be in a thriving condition when he is carrying six or eight pounds at his tale.—And how a man who has them entrusted to his care, and must have a sight of this sort every day before his eyes can avoid being struck with the propriety and necessity of easing them of this load, is what I have often wondered at.
Having sheep at five different places it has often occurred to my mind whether for a certain part of the year—say from shearing time or before until the first of December (or until the end of the period for folding them), they were, except the Rams, brought into one flock—distinguishing before hand those of the seperate farms by conspicuous marks made by tar, or red lead in different parts, and placed under the care of a trusty negro, if there be such an one, whose sole business it should be to look after and fold them every night in hurdles made light and removed with the sheep from farm to farm; as the food at each would be eaten by them, and become scant.—I think I should get my fields dunged sooner and better by this means (with other common assistance) than by any other.—Shifting their walks frequently would certainly be serviceable to the sheep, if so great a number together would not be injurious;—especially as thefts, and other depredations might be committed without the knowledge of their keeper; for I know not the negro among all mine, whose capacity, integrity, and attention could be relied on for such a trust as this.—I do no more than suggest the idea for consideration; when you have given it consideration let me know the result of your thoughts on the occasion.
I was afraid the heavy rains and long easterly winds would prove injurious to the fruit, and probably to the grain, if they should continue; but I did not expect to find that I was to loose calves by it;—four of wch. I find by the River Farm Report are dead.—This, and looking over the other Reports, and finding thereby the small number of Calves I have, leads me to apprehend that there is some defect in the management of this part of my Stock; for it is inconceivable that out of 300 head of cattle I should have but about 30 calves, as appears by the last week’s report.—This must proceed from the want of, or from old and debilitated Bulls.—Let me know whether the fruit (of different kinds) is injured by the easterly winds which have blown so constantly;—and whether the wheat, &ca., appear to have received any hurt.—The Oats, Buck wheat and grass will, I hope, be benefitted by the Rains, and it would give me pleasure to hear that your White thorn, Willow, Poplar, and other Cuttings were coming on well?—Does the last and present years planting of Honey locust seed come up well—and is there any appearance of the Cedar berries, Furze seed, Lucern, &c., &c., coming up and answering expectation?—and is your corn coming up—or likely to rot in the ground with the wet weather we have had? 5 May, 1793.
I am satisfied from what you have said, that it would not be proper to bring all my sheep into one flock, and so to be penned;—and if you think drawing off two score of the latter, and most indifferent lambs is proper, it may be done, but not till they are weaned, or actually seperated with their mothers from the rest of the flock;—for unless one of these is done, I am sure, that so far from havg. 40 of the worst disposed of, I shall have that number of the choicest taken, if from the flock at large,—so well am I acquainted with the practices and contrivances of the Butchers;—and the inattention and carelessness of the Overseers, to whom they may go, if taken away as they are wanted.—I had rather not part with one, unless this apprehension of mine is fully, and compleatly guarded against.—All the declining sheep of every sort might be disposed of, after they can, by good pasture and attention, be got in order for it. In a word, I wish every possible care may be used to improve the breed of my sheep; and to keep them in a thriving and healthy state.—The same with regard to my Cattle; and there is no measure so likely to effect this as by a judicious choice of the subjects that are bred from.—It is owing to this that Bakewell and others, are indebted for the remarkable quality and sales of their cattle and sheep;—the like attention would produce the like effect in this, as well as in other Countries.—I am fully persuaded, if some of my best cows were selected, and put to (what is called) the Callico Bull, and all the calves which took their shape and appearance from him set apart for Breeders (for I am told his make is exactly that which Bakewell prefers and aims at getting,) that I should, in a few years have a very valuable breed of Cattle.—Such conduct will apply equally to sheep.—The quantity of either species of stock—that is Cattle and sheep—ought, in my opinion, to depend wholly upon the support which can be provided—and that, the more you have of both with an eye to this consideration, the more you may have, as they do, in themselves, afford the means, by the manure they make.
If for the sake of making a little butter (for which I shall get scarcely anything) my calves are starved, and die; it may be compared to stopping the spigot, and opening the faucit,—that is to say, I shall get two or three shillings by butter,—and loose 20 or 30/ by the death, or injury done to my calves. Milk sufficient should be left for them,—or a substitute provided; otherwise, I need not look forward either to the increase or improvement of my Stock.
Not a moment should be lost, after the Wool is taken from the Sheeps’ backs, in having it spun and wove, that it may be made up in time for the negros clothing:—and Grey1 should be told that if he does not weave it as fast as it is carried to him, that he shall not only loose my custom, but, must look out for some other tenement;—because this, and not the Rent, was the inducement for placing him there.—However, speaking of the Rent, let me enquire whether he pays it regularly or not.
I have no intention of Renting any of my fishing landings for a term of years,—consequently, have no objection to your providing a new, and repairing the old sein, against another season—and approve of your laying in a number of Fish Barrels agreeably to your suggestion; especially if you can buy them at what you suppose, which will be much better than making of them by my coopers.
If Mr. Butler is the kind of man you describe him to be, he certainly can be of no use to me;—and sure I am, there is no obligation upon me to retain him from charitable motives; when he ought rather to be punished as an impostor: for he well knew the services he had to perform, and which he promised to fulfil with zeal, activity, and intelligence.—A stirring, lively and spirited man, who will act steadily and firmly, being necessary; I authorise you to get one if you should part with Butler2 ; for it is indispensably necessary that a stop should be put to that spirit of thieving and house breaking which has got to such a height among my People, or their associates.—As one step towards the accomplishment of which, I desire you will absolutely forbid the slaves of others resorting to the Mansion house;—such only excepted as have wives or husbands there, or such as you may particularly license from a knowledge of their being honest and well disposed. All others, after sufficient forewarning, punish whensoever you shall find them transgressing these orders.— * * *
My mind is impressed with many things, which you have been required to give answers to, which have never been received;—and this will forever be the case if you depend upon the mere reading a letter over when you set down to answer it; without first noting on a slate or a piece of waste paper, every point as you come to it, that requires to be touched upon;—crossing it when complied with;—or to stand uncrossed if you are unable to give an answer at that moment until you can do it at another time. Among these things is one of a very interesting nature to me—namely—an exact experiment and worth of an hundred bushels of wheat when manufactured, compared with the price of it in grain—that I might decide therefrom whether it would have been best to sell my wheat or manufacture it into flour, before it was too late to decide.—After frequently writing and pressing this matter, I at length got an imperfect statement made from light wheat; but was promised a more perfect one, but which has never been recd.; although it is months since it was promised.—I mention this as one instance, because, if 100 bushels had, in time, have given me the same evidence of the fact, which I fear the whole quantity of my crops has done or will do, I should have sold my wheat in grain; which would I presume have commanded a dollar pr. Bushl. at any time; and this on 4009½ bushls. wch. I perceive has been delivered at the mill, would have amounted to in Virg. Curry. £1202. 8. 0; whereas the quantity of flour made from it, viz 283 barls. of superfine, and 317 of fine, the first at 33/ and the other at 31/, which I believe, is the highest that has been given, comes to no more than £988. 6—difference £214. 2—Now, if the midlings, ship stuff, shorts and bran does not amount to this difference, all short of it is loss; besides lying out of my money—the hazard of selling the flour, and risk of its souring if I cannot dispose of it to advantage before the warm weather sets in.—I have selected this as an important instance of suffering things to escape. I could enumerate many more of no other or greater moment than as they would have gratified me; not being able to see things myself. But the reason why I mention this, (as I am fully satisfied you have every disposition in the world to comply with my wishes) is merely to let you see that it is by trusting too much to your memory, that these things happen. I am persuaded no instance has happened of your asking me a question by letter—or applying for directions without receiving an answer.—The reason is, that whenever I set down to write you, I read your letter, or letters carefully over, and as soon as I come to a part that requires to be noticed, I take a short note on the cover of a letter, or piece of waste paper;—then read on to the next, noting that in like manner;—and so on until I have got through the whole letter and reports.—Then in writing my letter to you, as soon as I have finished what I have to say on one of these notes, I draw my pen through it and proceed to another, and another, until the whole is done—crossing each as I go on, by which means if I am called off twenty times whilst I am writing, I can never with these notes before me finished, or unfinished, omit anything I wanted to say; and they serve me also, as I keep no copies of letters I write to you, as Memorandums of what has been written if I should have occasion at any time to refer to them. * * * 19 May, 1793.
Although I am very anxious to hasten the New Barn at Dogue run, yet as Hay time and Harvest will not wait, and is of the highest importance to me, every thing else must yield to them:—and if I thought it was necessary, I should, in strong terms, urge you to begin the latter as soon as you shall think it safe, by lying a day or two in the swarth.—The advantage of cutting the grain early last year was evident;—and will always be found safest and best in all cases, especially where there is a large harvest:—the latter part of which besides shattering much, is often, very often indeed, laid down and lost from the Rains which frequently happen at that season, whilst the straw is rendered of no use; having no substance left in it.—I hope, and do expect, that the overseers will be pointedly charged this year to see that the ground is raked clean.—In Garner’s fields last year I was really shocked to see the waste that appeared there.—It is not to close harvest soon, but to accomplish it well, that ought to be the aim, and the pride of these people, notwithstanding they receive standing wages instead of shares. I told Garner last year that if the latter had been the case, I was very certain such waste would not have appeared.
Although others are getting out of the practice of using spirits at Harvest, yet, as my people have always been accustomed to it, a hogshead of Rum must be purchased; but I request at the same time, that it may be used sparingly.—Spirits are now too dear to be used otherwise.
It is not my wish, or desire, that my negros should have an oz. of meal more, nor less, than is sufficient to feed them plentifully. This is what I have repeated to you over and over again; and if I am not mistaken, requested you to consult the Overseers on this head, that enough, and no more than enough, might be allowed.—Sure I am I desired this with respect to Davy.—To ask me whether this, or that, quantity is enough, who do not know the number of mouths that are to be fed, is asking a question that it is not possible for me to resolve.—Formerly, every working negro used to receive a heaping and squeezed peck at top of unsifted meal; and all others (except sucking children) had half a peck, like measure, given to them;—with which I presume they were satisfied, inasmuch as I never heard any complaint of their wanting more.—Since the meal has been given to them sifted, and a struck peck only, of it, there has been eternal complaints; which I have suspected arose as much from the want of the husks to feed their fowls, as from any other cause, ’till Davy assured me that what his people received was not sufficient, and that to his certain knowledge several of them would often be without a mouthful for a day, and (if they did not eke it out) sometimes two days before they were served again; whilst they (the negros) on the other hand assured me, most positively, that what I suspected, namely feeding their fowls with it, or sharing it with strange negros, was not founded.—Like complaints were made by the People at Dogue run and at Union Farm; which altogether hurt my feelings too much to suffer this matter to go on without a remedy.—Or at least a thorough investigation into the cause and justice of their complaints;—for to delay justice is to deny it.—It became necessary therefore to examine into the foundation of the complaints, at once, and not to wait until a pretext should offer to increase the allowance.—Justice wanted no pretext, nor would admit of delay.—If the application for more was unjust no alteration at all, ought to have been made; for, as I at first observed, I am no more disposed to squander, than to stint; but surely the case is not so difficult but that the true and just quantity may be ascertained; which is all they have a right to ask, or I will allow them.—Neither the people at River Plantation, nor any about M. Hole did, to the best of my recollection make any complaints, but only knowing the quantity of meal which was served to them, and not the number of mouths to be fed with it, I supposed, especially in the latter case (the first having little opportunity of making known their wants, as I was not more than once or twice on the Farm) that enough was allowed them.—I have been thus particular, because I would wish to be clearly and fully understood on this head, that you may act accordingly.1
I am surprized to find by your letter that the Gardener has thoughts of leaving me; For when I was last at home, he put the question himself to know if I would retain him;—and being answered that I had no desire to part with him, he said he was very glad of it.—I did not, it is true, nor did he say on what terms; but I took it for granted it would be at the wages of his last year, with a just and proper allowance for the services rendered by his wife, which I always intended, and am still willing to make.—It becomes necessary, however, to know immediately and decidedly too, what his intentions are; and when his term expires; that, if he is not disposed to remain upon such, and lay as I like, I may take measures in time to supply his place.—I wish you therefore (after communicating the unexpectedness of his intention to go) to apply in my name, and know what I have to depend upon.—He, like many others, I presume has golden dreams, which nothing but experience can demonstrate to be the vision only of an uninformed, or indigested imagination.—Time, and the expences arising from Rent, provisions to be purchased, liquor, of which probably he will take too much, Fuell, and a hundred other items of which probably he has never estimated, will convince him, too late perhaps, that he has left a safe and easy berth to embark on a troubled ocean,—where soon he may find no rest.
What color and sex is the coach mare’s colt with you?—Nancy (the other coach mare) foaled on Whitmonday in like manner. Take great care of the one with you. What is become of those mules set apart for my use, and how do they look? Let them be kept well. I am your friend. 26 May, 1793.
It is the duty of the Miller, the moment he has closed his annual manufacture, to render me an exact acct. thereof;—and this, let him know I expect he will do without delay, and with exactitude, with his signature annexed to it.—charging the mill with every bushel of wheat that has been received into it, and from whence; and at the Alexandria price for large crops:—and crediting it with all the superfine and fine flour that has been made; the first at 34/ and the other at 32/ pr. barl.—with all the middlings, ship stuff, shorts and Bran, at what they have actually sold—or would sell for.—Such an acct. as this is the only true criterion by which to decide whether I have gained or lost by manufacturing my crop.—The trial of 100 bushels was only for an experiment, to enable me to judge before hand, whether it would have been best to have sold, or manufactured my wheat.—Nor is cleaning of it in the manner you speak of, a way to make the experiment a fair one.—A hundd. bushels of such wheat as would have been indisputably merchantable in Alexandria, without extra: cleaning to bring it to 60 lbs. pr. bushl. or any other given weight, ought to have been the exact quality for the experiment; because every oz of this, whether shrivelled or light, dust or what not, would have gone into the measure, and so much pr. Bushl. or pr. lb. would have been allowed for it at that place; whereas if you extract all this and make up the quantity afterwards 100 bushls., the profit by manufacturing will unquestionably appear greater than it is in reallity: because what is blown away by the different operations for cleaning in the mill is a deduction from the wheat if sold in grain, and no addition to it when manufactured.—I mention this to guard you against deception in the experiment you were about to make with 500 bushls. (cleaned in the manner you speak of) and which you had prepar’d for grinding.—repeating again, that to ascertain this point now, or at any time hereafter, the wheat with which the experiment is made, should receive no other cleaning than such as to give it a good character with the merchant, if sold in grain; because all that is blown out of it at the mill is lost; unless the miller’s Poultry or my Hogs derive a benefit from it.
I never was more surprized than to find only 1457 lbs. of wool from the shearing of 568 sheep (2½ pound pr. Fleece only).—From the beginning of the year 1784 when I returned from the army, until shearing time of 1788, I improved the breed of my sheep so much by buying and selecting the best formed and most promising Rams, and putting them to my best ewes, by keeping them always well culled and clean, and by other attentions, that they averaged me as will appear by Mr. Lear’s acct. (my present secretary, and) who then lived with me, rather over than under five pounds of washed wool each.—And in the year 1789, being requested by Mr. Arthur Young to send him a fleece of my Wool, I requested my nephew to see that Mr. Bloxham took one from a sheep of average appearance at shearing time, and send it to New York where I then was, to be forwarded to that Gentleman.—This was accordingly done, and weighed 5¼.—How astonished must I be then at the miserable change that has taken place since; and but for the caution I gave you to guard against the roguery of my negros, who formerly have been detected in similar practices, I should have concluded at once that between the time of taking the wool from the sheep and the delivery of it into your hands, a very large toll indeed had been taken from each fleece; for I do not suppose (for fear of detection) that whole fleeces would be taken; the number from each Farm being known. I hope, and expect they will be got up again to their former standard, as I know it to be practicable with care and attention to do it; particularly with respect to the Rams.—It is painful to receive no report unaccompanied with the death of some of these animals;—and I believe no man is more unlucky in the deaths or in the accidents to Horses than I am; for I am continually losing them by one means or another. 2 June, 1793.
In due course of Post I have received your letter of the 31st of May and 5th instant; and was equally surprized and concerned to find by the last, that your health was in the declining and precarious state you describe it to be, because you had not given the least intimation thereof in any other letter, since my departure from Mount Vernon.—I can only repeat now, what I have often done before, that it is by no means my desire that you should expose yourself in the discharge of my business;—or use greater exertions than your strength will bear;—or more exercise than is good for your health;—or, in a word, to attempt anything that the Doctr. shall not think proper for you:—for having a full view of the state of my Plantations in your mind, and knowing the design for each, you can, from the weekly reports (which may be made to you oftener by the overseers, if necessary) give such directions us would naturally result from them,—which is the best expedient both for yourself and me, that occurs to me at this moment—being unable since the receipt of your letter to think of a single person whose qualifications would fit him for the superintendence of my business.—If any such has occurred to you, I would thank you for naming him, hoping, nevertheless, that occasion will not require one; but having a proper character in view may not be amiss, whether wanting or not.—From my own experience (and the measure was recommended to me by eminent Physicians) wearing flannel next the skin is the best cure for, and preventative of the Rheumatism I ever tried,—and for your other complaint, which you suppose to be in your lungs, a vegitable and milk diet I should suppose would be proper; avoiding as much as possible animal food,—of this however the Doctors must be a better judge;—and if you chuse to have any in these parts consulted and will state, or get your case stated, I will lay it before the person highest in reputation here as a Physician, and send you the result.—I shall endeavor to be at Mount Vernon by the first of next month;—but the nature of public business is, and likely to remain such, that I dare not promise at that, or any other time, to be there;—and happen when it will, my stay must be short, as I cannot be long absent from the seat of the Government whilst matters are so delicately situated as they are at present.—If you have, or could procure a few oats against I arrive, they would be acceptable to my Horses.—I shall bring only 4 or at most five with me;—nor shall I be able to stay more than 10 days at farthest.—
You may tell the Gardener1 that as I am not fond of changing—and as I am sure he would very soon find his error in leaving me—I will allow him £30 pr. ann, that is to say 100 dollars, provided he will engage to stay two years at that rate;—will allow him the same perquisite of the Garden, when I am from home, he now enjoys; and a horse six times a year to ride to Alexandria, provided he is not kept out of nights.—With respect to his wife, after increasing his own wages so considerably, I must be well informed what services she is to render before I shall agree to make any further allowance to him, in addition for her; for I should think that he himself, or the woman, or any other who is actuated by a just and honest way of thinking, will readily acknowledge that giving her Provisions is an adequate compensation for the trouble of weighing out, and receiving in, the work of the spinners once a week, if all the intermediate time is devoted to her own business.—If she does more than this for me the case differs from my conception of it;—and from what I had in view at the time she was first spoken to, for then it was my full expectation that after the 4th of March I should return to a permanent residence at Mount Vernon, and in that case to have made her the Housekeeper; which from the nature of the Office would have occupied her whole time, and of course would have entitled her to a proportionate reward.—But if she has not done, nor is likely to do more than weigh out and receive in work, and receives her provision for this, there is no cause that I am able to discover, for enhancing their wages on that acct. * * * 9 June, 1793.1
[1 ]See page 239, ante.
[2 ]William Garner, overseer of the River Plantation.
[1 ]Page 251, ante.
[1 ]From April 1st to April 13th, Washington was at Mount Vernon.
[1 ]William Grey, a weaver.
[2 ]Butler remained on the plantation till October, 1794. “If you are satisfied with Mr. Butler’s conduct and exertions, I shall be so.—He has always appeared to me as a well disposed man,—obliging and sober, one who has seen better days,—and must have had a good deal of practical knowledge in husbandry.—If you can make him active, and will support his authority, I do not see why he may not be more useful to you than a young man, who might have a greater propensity to be running about.”—Washington to Pearce, 9 February, 1794.
[1 ]“From some complaints made by my negros, that they had not a sufficient allowance of meal, and from a willingness that they should have enough, the quantity was increased by Mr. Whiting so as to amount (by what I have learnt from Mr. Stuart) to profusion.—This is an error again on the other side. My wish and desire is that they should have as much as they can eat without waste and no more.”—Washington to Pearce, December, 1793.
[1 ]John Christian Ehler, who had been secured for Washington in 1790 at Bremen, by Henry Willmans, Danish consul at that place.
[1 ]This is the last of the letters written to Mr. Whiting, who died soon after.