Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTERS TO WILLIAM PEARCE, 1795. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798)
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LETTERS TO WILLIAM PEARCE, 1795. 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIII (1794-1798).
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LETTERS TO WILLIAM PEARCE, 1795.1
* * * After getting out as many of your best qualified Oats for seed as the ground by the rotations, and such other as you shall allot for them, may require,—take care that the residue is not used so near as to disfurnish my horses when I may come to Mount Vernon; which, probably, will be twice between the adjournment of Congress on the 3d of March, and their meeting again in autumn.—The first for a flying trip (as soon as the roads will permit me to travel after the adjournment) with not more than five horses;—the other, during the hot weather, for a longer term; and with more than double that number of horses; as Mrs. Washington and the family will accompany me.—
What chimney has fallen, by which negro children were hurt, and how are they now?—Under real or pretended sickness, I perceive Doll, at the Ferry, rarely does any work;—it would be well to place her in a situation where her ways can be attended to—if she is really unable to work, none will be required of her; if she is able, deceitful complaints, which she is very capable of making, ought not to avail her. * * * 4 January, 1795.
* * * As it is my wish to plant many Irish potatoes this year, be sure to reserve enough for seed, by making ample allowance for thefts, waste, and rotting.—I shall send you by the first vessel a bushel and half of clean honey locust seed; which I would have raised in a nursery for the purpose of hedging.—By an experiment I have made a (large) quart contains 4,000 seed; this, allowing ten seed to a foot, would sow, or plant, four rows of 500 feet each;—at this rate, 40 quarts (which I think you may count upon, at least) would require 160 rows; ground for which I would have you prepare whenever you shall find most convenient, that the seed may be put in as soon as it arrives:—two feet apart will be enough for the rows, as to weed the plants until they are fit to transplant is all that will be required—and this will be done in two years.
I am sorry to hear that French Will is resuming his old tricks again.—The lye he tells, respecting my promise of freedom to him, after seven years of service, carries its conviction along with it;—inasmuch as I had no certainty of holding him an hour after Mrs. French’s death; which might have happened within the year I hired him; how then could I promise freedom to a person I held under such tenure?—Harsh treatment will not do with him; you had better, therefore, let him piddle, and in this way (though I believe little trust is to be placed in him) get what you can out of him. * * * 11 January, 1795.
* * * I never saw Donaldson’s son, but from what you have said respecting him, I am very willing to allow him his victuals and coarse cloathing:—but ascertain the quantum, and sort of both, in writing, to prevent mistakes and grumbling hereafter.—I am always ready, and willing, to fulfil every engagement I enter into;—and hating disputes, I wish always that contracts may be clearly understood;—for this reason also, it is necessary he should know that the boy must work duly and truely.—And whilst I am on this subject, I would repeat my expectation that he will take pains to teach those who work with him (especially Isaac and the boy Jem) in the principles of the several kinds of work they are employed in;—particular[ly] in carts, wheels, Plows, harrows, wheel barrows, and such kinds of implements as are used about a farm, or dwelling house.—I would also have him cautioned against an error which I have felt no small inconvenience from;—and that is, that rather than persevere in doing things right themselves, and being at the trouble of making others do the like, they will fall into the slovenly mode of executing work which is practiced by those among whom they are.—I have experienced this not only from European tradesmen,—but from farmers also, who have come from England; and from none in a greater degree than from Mr. Whiting, and one Bloxham, who preceeded him;—and who, tho’ perfectly acquainted with every part of a farmer’s business;—and peculiarly so (the latter, I mean) in the management and use of Oxen for the Cart or plow, double or single, with yokes or with harness; yet, finding it a little troublesome to instruct the Negros, and to compel them to the practice of his modes, he slided into theirs; and at length (which I adduce as a proof) instead of using proper flails for threshing the grain, I have found my people at this work with hoop polls—and other things similar thereto. * * * 25 January, 1795.
* * * It is my earnest wish to have my land on four-mile run re-surveyed, and the bounds thereof ascertained; that the pretence of not knowing the lines may no longer be an excuse for the trespasses which are committed thereon, to the great diminution of its value;—the wood being the more important, as the land is of a mean quality.—For the purpose of surveying, it was that I left the papers with you; and more than once have called your attention to this business.—It might be well to agree upon some day with Mr. [Lund] Washington and others, (amongst whom a Mr. Terret joins) that are knowing to the lines and interested in the business; that it may be effectually done if everything is clear, and no difficulties should arise with respect to title, or bounds.—If these, or either of them, should happen, enter into no agreement that will be obligatory on me.—I attempted, as will appear by some notes amongst the papers I left with you, to survey this land myself; but having no person with me who was acquainted with the lines, I was unable to find more than two or three of the corners.—A Moses Ball, if living, must have some knowledge of the lines:—Mr. Terret also, but as he is interested in this business, and is accused of being a pretty considerable trespasser on the part which joins him, it would not be strange if corner and line trees both are cut down; nor very strange, if it has not happened from entire ignorance, if he should not endeavor to perplex and mislead thereabouts.—As the survey is not in consequence of a law suit, and made by order of the court, there is no necessity of employing the County Surveyor, unless he possesses more skill than any other who can readily be got; and will do it upon as moderate terms, as any other.—Do not let my papers go out of your hands—or any copies be taken from them.—The Surveyor, if he is a man of science, will know what the variation of the compass is, and what allowance to make for it, if any difficulty should arise from the want of the corner and line trees. * * * 15 February, 1795.
I was afraid the open weather we have had, with frost, would have injured the Wheat.—A short crop of this article two years running, would fall heavy on me; as it seems to be the only thing, to any sort of amount, from which the means is derived, by which the various, and heavy expences of my estate, is borne.—If the Wheat is thrown much out of the ground, and the roots exposed, try the roller thereon—repeatedly—as soon as the earth is a little settled, and the roller will pass over it without its sticking thereto;—over the parts I mean (of the fields) that are injured. I tried this method one year with very good success; and it is a practice strongly recommended by all the Books on farming.—I have, myself, seen bunches of wheat the roots of which have been entirely out of the ground, take again by the Roller’s compressing them to the earth: and the chance of doing it is well worth the expence and time which is required by the Roller, drawn with Oxen. * * *
I am sorry my letter was so long getting to the hands of my nephew Colo. Washington;—for if I have not formed a very erroneous, and unjust opinion of the conduct of my negro carpenters—there is not to be found so idle a set of Rascals.—In short, it appears to me, that to make even a chicken coop, would employ all of them a week;—buildings that are run up here in two or three days (with not more hands) employ them a month or more. * * * 22 February, 1795.
* * * If the absconding of French’s Paul did not proceed from a quarrel with, or threats from, his overseer, it will be found, I expect, that he has been guilty of some piece of roguery; of the discovery of which he was afraid:—pains therefore ought to be taken to apprehend and bring him to punishment.
What sort of lameness is Dick’s (at D. Run); that he should have been confined with it for so many weeks?—and what kind of sickness is Betty Davis’s, that it should have had a similar effect upon her?—If pretended ailments, without apparent causes, or visible effects, will screen her from work, I shall get no service at all from her; for a more lazy, deceitful and impudent huzzy, is not to be found in the United States than she is. * * * 8 March, 1795.
* * * All grasses ought to be sown on clean and well prepared ground, especially those near a dwelling house, which attract the eyes of all visitors.—This observation applies to grain as well as grass;—for which reason, however desirable it might have been, to have got the oats in the ground soon, I had rather hear it was delayed than that it should be sown before every thing was in perfect order for it; for it is a fixed principle with me, that whatever is done should be well done. Unless this maxim is attended to, our labor is but in vain, and our expectation of a return, is always deceptious; whilst we are ascribing our disappointments to anything rather than the true cause, namely—not laying (by proper preparations) a good foundation on which to build our hopes.
I observe what you say of Betty Davis, &ct.—but I never found so much difficulty as you seem to apprehend, in distinguishing between real and feigned sickness;—or when a person is much afflicted with pain. Nobody can be very sick without having a fever, nor will a fever or any other disorder continue long upon any one without reducing them. Pain also, if it be such as to yield entirely to its force, week after week, will appear by its effects; but my people (many of them) will lay up a month, at the end of which no visible change in their countenance, nor the loss of an oz. of flesh, is discoverable; and their allowance of provision is going on as if nothing ailed them.—There cannot, surely be any real sickness under such circumstances as I have described; nor ought such people to be improperly endulged.—It should be made one of the primary duties of every Overseer to attend closely, and particularly to those under his care who really are, or pretend to be, sick; to see that they first receive aid and comfort in time, and before it is too late to apply them; and that the others do not impose upon him. In the first case you ought to be immediately notified, as delay is often dangerous; and in the second, where the matter is at all doubtful, you ought to be the judge, for I am as unwilling to have any person, in my service, forced to work when they are unable, as I am to have them skulk from it, when they are fit for it.—* * * 22 March, 1795.
* * * Considering the quality of my flour this year, and the smallness of the quantity, I am very well satisfied that you have got it off your hands at the prices it sold; altho’ flour at this market is at 12 dollars a barrel and rising.—In short, the scarcity of this article in Europe, and demand for it; added, to the failure of the last wheat crop in this Country will enable the holders to get any price they please.—Let me know the quantity of the midlings and ship-stuff you disposed of.—And tell Davenport to make out, and to have sent to me, the mill account for last year, that I may see what wheat has gone into, and what flour has come out of, the mill.—I have no reason to suspect that Davenport is otherwise than an honest man; but regular and fair accounts should be stated, and rendered by all men.—In doing this with him, the Overseers’ accounts of the wheat sent to, and his of what is received in the mill, should agree; so likewise ought his charges of the flour, Bran, &c., sent to Mansion House, the Overseers, &c., to agree with what is reported and credited.—This being done, and added to the different kinds of flour that are sold, and the shorts and Bran used, will (accounting also for the Toll Wheat) show the state of the manufacturing business—which is not only satisfactory, but absolutely necessary;—for I strongly suspect, notwithstanding it would appear by the experiments which have been made of an hundred bushels that the balance is in favor of flour,—that the case is otherwise on the aggregate quantity which is ground.—That it is so this year, can admit of no doubt;—it would be inconceivable otherwise that the [NA] of my last year’s crop of wheat, and [NA] that of the year before, should yield only [NA] barrels of flour, besides what was consumed in the family.
If the boy at the Mill is to go into the Garden, at Mansion house, the sooner it happens the better;—and I really (considering the little work my Mill does) see no reason why he should not.—I am sorry to find by your last reports that there has been two deaths in the family since I left Mount Vernon;—and one of them a young fellow.—I hope every necessary care and attention was afforded him.—I expect little of this from McKoy,—or indeed from most of his class; for they seem to consider a Negro much in the same light as they do the brute beasts, on the farms; and often times treat them as inhumanly. * * * 10 May, 1795.
* * * Davy’s lost lambs carry with them a very suspicious appearance;—and it will be to be regretted, if he betakes himself to Rogueries of that sort;—for in that case, nothing will escape, if he can avoid detection; and grain will be less liable to it than animals.—If the lambs had been poisoned, or had died a natural death, or their deaths had been occasioned by any accident, their bones would have been forth coming, and his not being able to produce them, is an argument, both of his guilt, and of his not expecting to be called upon for that evidence of the truth of his assertion, and fair dealing.—This circumstance will make it necessary to watch him a little closer.—He has some very sly, cunning and roguish negroes under him; among whom none has a greater disposition to be so, or who he can make a more useful agent of, than Nathan; his mother and father.— * * *
What is the matter with Ruth and Ben, (not the Ben that cut himself) at River farm, that week after week they are returned sick?—The first of them, Ruth, has been aiming, for some time, to get herself excused from work.—More than they are able to do in reason, I do not expect;—but I have no idea of their being totally exempted, whilst work proportioned, and adapted to their strength and situation, can be found for them.—The example is bad, and will be too readily (as is the case at present with several more of them) attempted; if, under the plea of pains, &c., &c., they find they can carry their point.— * * * 5 July, 1795.
* * * At the proper season let all the English thorn, in the vineyard, be transplanted (I do not care where, so it be) to places where the strongest inner fences are required.—Let the long string of fence from the gate at Union Farm (going into No. I) quite through to the branch be planted with the honey locust, if they are of a size proper for it.—Continue the Cedar hedge from the barn at that place, to the Mill road; or as far as you have plants for that purpose:—and then (on both sides of that lane) in ground properly spaded, or well hoed up, and formed into a bed, sow the Cedar berries in a single straight row; after rubbing off the skin, or glutinous substance which surrounds the seed, in the manner which has been mentioned to you; and which, it is said, is necessary to their vegitation.—But with respect to these, and other berries, the vegitation of which is said to be promoted by their passing through the body of an animal, I have often thought, that if they were put into a pot with water sufficient to moisten the whole mass of them, and kept warm (but not hot), from morning until night, and then to have the skin rubbed off as before mentioned, it would answer as well as the heat of the animal body.—The only danger would be from carelessness, in letting them get so hot as to destroy vegitation altogether. * * *
No hedge, alone, will, I am persuaded, do for an outer inclosure, where two, or four footed hogs find it convenient to open a passage; but I am equally satisfied, that any hedge will do for partition fences, where no hogs are suffered to run; consequently those that can be quickest raised, will answer my purposes best; if I am even obliged to have a double hedge, in the manner before mentioned, to be ready for the decline of the first. * * * 22 November, 1795.
I wish you to make the most you can of the materials you have within yourself, for hedging; for I do not believe you will get any berries of the white thorn from Newcastle; for the reason given in one of my letters after I arrived at this place from Mount Vernon last.—I hope the Cedar berries will prove better than you expect, that you may, as soon as possible, get the lane from the New barn (at Union farm) to the Mill road compleated with that kind of hedge on both sides.—Make good the hedges as you proceed, in this business; otherwise you will have incomplete ones, that will render no service.—Anxious as you perceive I am, to substitute hedges instead of dead fences, I have full confidence in your exertion to raise them;—and as I have observed in a former letter, those for inner and cross fences, where no hogs are suffered to run, may, in the first instance, be made of anything that suits the soil, and will grow quick,—altho’ they should be doubled hereafter.—When I speak of tilling too much land, and add that a less quantity would be more productive than the greater quantity, which is now tended in order to produce an adequate quantity of Corn; I would not be understood to mean that half of one of your fields in the condition they now are, would produce you as much corn (or other things) as the whole of it would do;—that would be absurd;—but for example, suppose ten hands are necessary to cultivate a field of 100 acres (more or less) and that this quantity, in common seasons, can be cultivated as well as usually is done, but will allow no spare time, or labor for any extra work—my idea then is, that by turning half that field out, or rather let it be enclosed, and nothing suffered to run upon it, (that all the grass and weeds it produces may fall, rot, and ameliorate the soil)—Cultivate the other half better than you could do the whole;—and bestow all the spare labor of the ten hands in raking—scraping,—collecting and carrying out all the manure that can be obtained from swamps, ponds, trash about the house, and in the lanes,—and even leaves and rotten trees from the woods; that more would be produced in a year or two from the 50 acres, than is now got from the hundred:—and by this means gullies might be filled up—and many other improvements made on the farms that are not, nor cannot be done with a full crop.—Is it not better to get 20 bushels of Wheat (and other things in proportion) from one acre of ground, than from two acres?—That worn land, undressed and unimproved will not produce the latter, that is 20 bushels, and when well cultivated and manured, will produce the former, is known to every man who has attended to these things;—and yet, such is the force of habit, that people will not quit the path their fathers have trod in.—Besides, I am so well persuaded of the injury land sustains from the growth of Indian Corn, I never desire to raise more than enough for my Negros (who cannot do without it;) substituting other species of food for Horses, Hogs, &c.—or even buying from the sales of other crops, if I cannot do this. * * * 6 December, 1795.
[1 ]In continuation of page 24.