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1797. - 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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TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Philadelphia, 4 January, 1797.
As it is very desirable, that the papers respecting the discontents of France should be got into Congress, and sent also to Mr. Pinckney, as soon as possible, if you mean to give the other gentlemen a perusal of the statement for the latter, it would save time, if this were done as you are proceeding towards the close of that statement. It is questionable, whether the present and pressing avocations of the other two secretaries will allow them to go carefully over it; but this, I conceive, does not apply to the Attorney-General.
I have no doubt, that you have taken care and will continue to be assured of your facts; for, as this business will certainly come before the public, not only the facts, but the candor also, the expression and force of every word, will be examined with the most scrutinizing eye, and compared with every thing, that will admit of a different construction, and, if there is the least ground for it, we shall be charged with unfairness and an intention to impose on and to mislead the public judgment.
Hence, and from a desire that the statement may be full, fair, calm, and argumentative, without asperity or any thing more irritating in the comments, than the narration of facts, which expose unfounded charges and assertions, do themselves produce, I have wished that the letter to Mr. Pinckney may be revised over and over again. Much depends upon it, as it relates to ourselves and in the eyes of the world, whatever may be the effect, as it respects the governing powers of France. I am, &c.
TO DAVID STUART.
Philadelphia, 8 January, 1797.
Your letter of the 18th ultimo, with its enclosures, came to hand in the usual course of the post; but the pressure of public business has prevented my giving it an acknowledgment until now.
The first thing I shall do, after I am settled at Mount Vernon, will be to adjust all my accounts of a private nature; the doing of which, as they ought, has been prevented by public avocations.
What effect M. Adet’s conduct has had or will have on the public mind, you can form a better opinion than me. One of the objects, which he had in view, (in timing the publication,)1 is too apparent to require explanation. Some of his own zealots do not scruple to confess, that he has been too precipitate, and thereby injured the cause he meant to espouse; which is to establish such an influence in this country, as to sway the government and control its measures. Evidences of this design are abundant, and new proofs are exhibiting themselves every day to illustrate the fact; and yet, lamentable thought! a large party, under real or pretended fears of British influence, are moving Heaven and earth to aid him in these designs. It is a fact well known, for history proves it, that, from the restless temper of the French and the policy of that nation, they attempt openly or covertly, by threats or soothing professions, to influence the conduct of most governments. That they have attempted it with us, a little time will show. But, finding a neutral conduct had been adopted, and would not be relinquished by those who administered the governments, the next step was to try the people; and, to work upon them, several presses and many scribblers have been employed, to emblazon the improper acts of the British government and its officers, and to place them in all the most exaggerated and odious points of view they were susceptible; to complain, that there was not only a deficiency of friendship, but a want of justice also, in the executive towards France, the cause of which, say they, is to be found in a predilection for Great Britain. This not working as well as was expected, from a supposition that there was too much confidence, and perhaps personal regard for, the present chief magistrate and his politics, the batteries latterly have been levelled at him particularly and personally. Although he is soon to become a private citizen, his opinions are to be knocked down, and his character reduced as low as they are capable of sinking it, even by resorting to absolute falsehoods. As an evidence whereof, and of the plan they are pursuing, I send you a letter from Mr. Paine to me, printed in this city, and disseminated with great industry.1 Others of a similar nature are also in circulation.
To what lengths the French Directory will ultimately go, is difficult to say; but, that they have been led to the present point by our own people, I have no doubt. Whether some, who have done this, would choose to accompany them any farther or not, I shall not undertake to decide. But I shall be mistaken, if the candid part of my countrymen, (although they may be under a French influence,) do not see and acknowledge, that they have imbibed erroneous impressions of the conduct of this government towards France, when the communication, which I promised at the opening of the session, and which will be ready in a few days, comes before the public. It will be seen, if I mistake not, also, that that country has not such a claim upon our gratitude, as has been generally supposed, and that this country has violated no engagement with it, been guilty of no act of injustice towards it, nor been wanting in friendship, where it could be rendered without departing from that neutral station we had taken and resolved to maintain.
Enclosed also you will receive a production of Peter Porcupine, alias William Cobbett. Making allowances for the asperity of an Englishman, for some of his strong and coarse expressions, and a want of official information of many facts, it is not a bad thing.
I rejoice to hear of Mrs. Stuart’s restoration to health, and congratulate you and her on it, and on the birth of a daughter. My best wishes attend her and the family. I am, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Monday, 9 January, 1797.
Not having seen the conclusion of your statement for General Pinckney, (if completed,) and not knowing in what manner you propose to sum it up, it has occurred to me, that closing with some such sentiments as the following might not be improper.
That the conduct of the United States towards France has been, as will appear by the aforegoing statement, regulated by the strictest principles of neutrality.
That there has been no attempt in the government to violate our treaty with that country, to weaken our engagements therewith, or to withhold any friendship we could render, consistent with the neutrality we had adopted.
That peace has been our primary object; but, so far has it been from inducing us to acquiesce in silence to the capturing of our vessels, impressing our seamen, or to the misconduct of the naval or other officers of the British government, no instance can be produced of authenticated facts having passed unnoticed, and, where occasion required it, without strong remonstrances.
That this government, seeing no propriety in the measure, nor conceiving itself to be under any obligation to communicate to the ministers of the French Republic all the unpleasant details of what had passed between it and the British minister here, or with the minister of foreign affairs at the court of London, on these accounts, conscious of its fair dealing towards all the belligerent powers, and wrapped up in its own integrity, it little expected, (under the circumstances which have been enumerated,) the upbraidings it has met with; notwithstanding, it now is, as it always has been the earnest wish of the government (and you cannot too strongly enforce it) to be on the best and most friendly footing with the Republic of France; and we have no doubt, after giving this candid exposition of facts, that the Directory will revoke the orders, under which our trade is suffering, and will pay the damages it has sustained thereby. I am, Sir, yours sincerely.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS.
Philadelphia, 11 January, 1797.
I hasten to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated the 7th instant, but which did not get to my hands until yesterday, and to express to you the sincere pleasure I feel in finding that I had interpreted some parts of your letter erroneously. As you have the best and most unequivocal evidence the case is susceptible of, that I have no other object in view by extending my cares and advice to you than what will redound to your own respectability, honor, and future happiness in life, so be assured, that while you give me reasons to expect a ready submission to my counsels, and while I hear that you are diligent in pursuing the means which are to acquire these advantages, it will afford me infinite gratification. Your last letter is replete with assurances of this nature—I place entire confidence in them. They have removed all the doubts which were expressed in my last letter to you, and let me repeat it again, have conveyed very pleasing sensations to my mind.
It was not my wish to check your correspondences—very far from it; for with proper characters (and none can be more desirable than with your papa and Mr. Lear) and on proper subjects, it will give you a habit of expressing your ideas upon all occasions with facility and correctness. I meant no more, by telling you we should be content with hearing from you once a week, than that these correspondences were not to be considered as an injunction or an imposition, thereby interfering with your studies or concerns of a more important nature. So far am I from discountenancing writing of any kind (except upon the principle above mentioned) that I should be pleased to hear, and you yourself might derive advantages from a short diary (recorded in a book) of the occurances which happen to you within your sphere. Trifling as this may appear at first view, it may become an introduction to more interesting matters. At any rate, by carefully preserving these, it would afford you more satisfaction in a retrospective view, that what you may conceive at present.
Another thing I would recommend to you—not because I want to know how you spend your money—and that is, to keep an account book, and enter therein every farthing of your receipts and expenditures. The doing of which would initiate you into a habit, from which considerable advantages would result. Where no account of this sort is kept, there can be no investigation; no corrections of errors; no discovery from a recurrence thereto, wherein too much, or too little, had been appropriated to particular uses. From an early attention to these matters, important and lasting benefits may follow.
We are well, and all unite in best wishes for you; and with sincere affection, I am always yours.
TO BENJAMIN WALKER.
Philadelphia, 12 January, 1797.
Permit me once more to give you the trouble of forwarding the enclosed letters to their respective addresses. If you read the Aurora of this city, or those gazettes, which are under the same influence, you cannot but have perceived with what malignant industry and persevering falsehoods I am assailed, in order to weaken if not destroy the confidence of the public.
Amongst other attempts to effect this purpose, spurious letters, known at the time of their first publication (I believe in the year 1777) to be forgeries, to answer a similar purpose in the revolution, are, or extracts from them, brought forward with the highest emblazoning of which they are susceptible, with a view to attach principles to me, which every action of my life have given the lie to. But that is no stumbling-block with the editors of these papers and their supporters. And now, perceiving a disinclination on my part, perhaps knowing that I had determined not to take notice of such attacks, they are pressing this matter upon the public mind with more avidity than usual, urging that my silence is a proof of their genuineness.
Although I never wrote, or ever saw one of these letters until they issued from New York in print, yet the author of them must have been tolerably well acquainted in, or with some person of, my family, to have given the names and some circumstances, which are grouped in the mass of erroneous details. But, of all the mistakes which have been committed in this business, none is more palpable, or susceptible of detection, than the manner in which it is said they were obtained, by the capture of my mulatto Billy, with a portmanteau. All the army under my immediate command could contradict this, and I believe most of them know, that no attendant of mine, or a particle of my baggage, ever fell into the hands of the enemy during the whole course of the war.
It would be a singular satisfaction to me to learn, who was the author of these letters, and from what source they originated. No person in this country can, I conceive, give this information but Mr. Rivington. If, therefore, you are upon terms of familiarity with that gentleman, and see no impropriety in hinting this desire to him, you would oblige me. He may comply to what extent his own judgment shall dictate; and I pledge my honor, that nothing to his disadvantage, or the disadvantage of any of the actors of that time, shall result from it.1
I offer the compliments of the season and you will do me the justice to believe, they are warmer than the weather, to Mrs. Walker and yourself, of whose health and happiness we shall always be glad to hear. I am your affectionate, &c.
MESSAGE TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS; ON THE INJURY SUSTAINED BY AMERICAN COMMERCE FROM FRENCH CRUISERS.
January 19th, 1797.
At the opening of the present session of Congress, I mentioned that some circumstances of an unwelcome nature had lately occurred in relation to France; that our trade had suffered and was suffering extensive injuries in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of the French Republic; and that communications had been received from its minister here, which indicated danger of a further disturbance of our commerce by its authority, and that were in other respects far from agreeable; but that I reserved for a special message a more particular communication on this interesting subject. This communication I now make.
The complaints of the French minister embraced most of the transactions of our government in relation to France from an early period of the present war; which, therefore, it was necessary carefully to review. A collection has been formed, of letters and papers relating to those transactions, which I now lay before you, with a letter to Mr. Pinckney, our minister at Paris, containing an examination of the notes of the French minister, and such information as I thought might be useful to Mr. Pinckney in any further representations he might find necessary to be made to the French government. The immediate object of his mission was to make to that government such explanations of the principles and conduct of our own, as, by manifesting our good faith, might remove all jealousy and discontent, and maintain that harmony and good understanding with the French Republic, which it has been my constant solicitude to preserve. A government, which required only a knowledge of the truth to justify its measures, could not but be anxious to have this fully and frankly displayed.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 22 January, 1797.
My dear Sir,
Your letter of the 19th inst., was received yesterday. From the general impression made on my mind, relative to the claim of M. de Neufville1 on the justice of this country, a delay or a refusal to administer it would be hard; but I must add, that I am too little acquainted with the particulars to form a correct opinion, and, were it otherwise, I do not see how I could with propriety appear directly or indirectly in the business, as I do not recollect having had any agency therein. The numberless applications of this sort, which are made to me, (often in the dernier resort,) without the means of relief, are very distressing to my feelings.
The conduct of France towards this country is, according to my ideas of it, outrageous beyond conception; not to be warranted by her treaty with us, by the Law of Nations, by any principle of justice, or even by a regard to decent appearances. From such considerations something might have been expected; but, on her professions of friendship and loving-kindness toward us I built no hope; but rather supposed they would last as long and no longer, than it accorded with their interest to bestow them, or found it would not divert us from the observance of that strict neutrality, which we had adopted and was persevering in.
In a few days there will be published a statement of facts, in a letter with references, to General Pinckney, containing full answers to all the charges exhibited in M. Adet’s Notes against the conduct of this government. After reading them with attention, I would thank you for your sentiments thereon fully and frankly communicated; and what you think ought further to be attempted to preserve this country in Peace, consistently with the respect which is due to ourselves.1
In some of the gazettes, and in conversation also, it is suggested, that an envoy extraordinary ought to be sent to France; but is not General Pinckney gone there already for the express purpose of explaining matters and removing inquietudes? With what more could another be charged? What would that Gentleman think of having a person treading on his heels, by the time he had arrived in Paris, when the arguments used to induce him to go there are all that could be urged to influence that other? And where is the character to be had, admitting the necessity, in all respects, acceptable and qualified for such a trust? The sooner you can give me your sentiments on these queries the more pleasing will they be to, dear Sir, your sincere friend, &c.
TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, 15th February, 1797.
Several of your letters have been received within this few days; and notwithstanding the accumulation of business—consequent of the near epoch for my quitting the chair of government, the receipt of them should not have remained so long unacknowledged had I not placed such as related to the power of Attorney and to some disputed points, into the hands of the Law officer of the United States for his official opinion; without having received his report—owing, I believe to his having been hurried, almost as much as myself.
Thus circumstanced, I shall confine the subject of this letter wholly to the expression of my sentiments relatively to the public buildings; conceiving it necessary that you should be informed of them without delay.—
When in the course of the Autumn you suggested the propriety of designating the sites for the Executive offices, and for providing materials for their erection, I yielded a ready assent; and still think that if we had the means at command, and no doubt was entertained of the adequacy of them, that these buildings ought to commence.
But, when the difficulty in obtaining Loans—and the disadvantageous terms on which the money is borrowed, has since become so apparent;—when I see those whose interest it is to appreciate the credit of the city, and to aid the Commissioners in all their laudable exertions, brooding over their jealousies, and spreading the seeds of distrust;—and when I perceive (as I clearly do) that the public mind is in a state of doubt, if not in despair of having the principal building in readiness for Congress, by the time contemplated;—for these reasons I say, and for others which might be enumerated, I am now decidedly of opinion that the edifices for the Executive offices ought to be suspended;—that the work on the house for the President should advance no faster (at the expense or retardment of the Capitol) than is necessary to keep pace therewith;—and to preserve it from injury;—and, that all the means (not essential for other purposes) and all the force, ought to be employed on the Capitol.
It may be relied on, that it is the progress of that building, that is to inspire, or depress public confidence. Under any circumstances this more or less would be the case; but when it is reported by many, and believed by some (without foundation I am persuaded) that there is a bias elsewhere; it is essential on the score of policy, and for the gratification of the public wishes, that this work should be vigorously prosecuted in the manner I have suggested—and I require it accordingly.—Considered in a simple point of view, the matter stands thus.—Are the funds sufficient to accomplish all the objects which are contemplated?—If doubts arise, then, which of those objects are to be preferr’d?—on this ground there would be but one opinion;—every body would cry out, the Capitol. Again, admit that the resources will ultimately be adequate, but cannot be drawn forth in the ratio of your general wants, will not the same answer as it respects time apply with equal force to the building just mentioned?—This then, seems to be safe ground to proceed on. It would gratify the public wishes and expectation;—might, possibly appease clamor;—and, if all the buildings cannot be completed in time no material evil would result from the postponement of the subordinate offices, until the Capitol is in such a state of forwardness as to remove all doubts of its being ready for the reception of Congress by the time appointed.—Another good (mentioned in a former letter) would flow therefrom; which is, that in proportion as that building advanced, and doubts subsided, private buildings would be erected where they would be most wanted for the accommodation of the members—The public offices might shift (as they have done) a while longer: I write in much haste (for this morning’s Post) that the letter may get to you in the course of the week. If I have expressed myself in such a manner as to be clearly understood, it is enough; you must excuse the scrawl, and believe me to be, with esteem, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX.
Philadelphia, 2 March, 1797.
My dear Sir,
Amongst the last acts of my political life, and before I go hence into retirement, profound will be the acknowledgment of your kind and affectionate letter from Boston, dated the 15th of January.
From the friendship I have always borne you, and from the interest I have ever taken in whatever relates to your prosperity and happiness, I participated in the sorrows, which I know you must have felt for your late heavy losses. But it is not for man to scan the wisdom of Providence. The best we can do, is to submit to its decrees. Reason, religion, and philosophy teach us to do this; but tis time alone, that can ameliorate the pangs of humanity and soften its woes.
To the wearied traveller, who sees a resting-place, and is bending his body to lean thereon, I now compare myself; but to be suffered to do this in peace, is too much to be endured by some. To misrepresent my motives, to reprobate my politics, and to weaken the confidence which has been reposed in my administration, are objects, which cannot be relinquished by those who will be satisfied with nothing short of a change in our political system. The consolation, however, which results from conscious rectitude, and the approving voice of my country, unequivocally expressed by its representatives, deprives their sting of its poison, and places in the same point of view both the weakness and malignity of their efforts.
Although the prospect of retirement is most grateful to my soul, and I have not a wish to mix again in the great world, or to partake in its politics, yet I am not without my regrets at parting with (perhaps never more to meet) the few intimates, whom I love, and among these, be assured, you are one.
The account, given by Mr. Bingham and others, of your agreeable situation and prospects at St. George’s, gave me infinite pleasure; and no one wishes more sincerely than I do, that they may increase with your years. The remainder of my life, (which in the course of nature cannot be long,) will be occupied in rural amusements; and, though I shall seclude myself as much as possible from the noisy and bustling crowd, none more than myself would be regaled by the company of those I esteem, at Mount Vernon; more than twenty miles from which, after I arrive there, it is not likely I ever shall be.
As early in next week as I can make arrangements for it, I shall commence my journey for Mount Vernon. To-morrow at dinner I shall, as a servant of the public, take my leave of the President elect, of the foreign characters, heads of departments, &c., and the day following, with pleasure, I shall witness the inauguration of my successor to the chair of government.
On the subject of politics I shall say nothing. You will have an opportunity of seeing and conversing with many of the legislators, from whom, so far as it relates to the proceedings of their own body, they can give you the details. The gazettes will furnish the rest.
Mrs. Washington unites with me in every good wish for you, Mrs. Knox, and family; and, with unfeigned truth, I am yours always and affectionately.
TO JONATHAN TRUMBULL.
Philadelphia, 3 March, 1797.
My dear Sir,
Before the curtain drops on my political life, which it will do this evening I expect for ever, I shall acknowledge, although it be in a few hasty lines only, the receipt of your kind and affectionate letter of the 23d of January last.
When I add, that according to custom all the acts of the session, excepting two or three very unimportant bills, have been presented to me within the last four days, you will not be surprised at the pressure under which I write at present. But it must astonish others, who know that the Constitution allows the President ten days to deliberate on each bill, which is brought before him, that he should be allowed by the legislature less than half of that time to consider all the business of the session; and, in some instances, scarcely an hour to revolve the most important. But as the scene is closing with me, it is of little avail now to let it be with murmurs.
I should be very unhappy, if I thought, that my relinquishing the reins of government would produce any of the consequences, which your fears forebode. In all free governments, contentions in elections will take place, and, whilst it is confined to our own citizens, it is not to be regretted; but severely indeed ought it to be reprobated, when occasioned by foreign machinations. I trust, however, that the good sense of our countrymen will guard the public weal against this and every other innovation, and that, although we may be a little wrong now and then, we shall return to the right path with more avidity. I can never believe, that Providence, which has guided us so long and through such a labyrinth, will withdraw its protection at this crisis.
Although I shall resign the chair of government without a single regret, or any desire to intermeddle in politics again, yet there are many of my compatriots, among whom be asssured I place you, from whom I shall part sorrowing; because, unless I meet with them at Mount Vernon, it is not likely that I shall ever see them more, as I do not expect that I shall ever be twenty miles from it, after I am tranquilly settled there. To tell you how glad I should be to see you at that place is unnecessary. To this I will add, that it would not only give me pleasure, but pleasure also to Mrs. Washington, and others of the family with whom you are acquainted, and who all unite, in every good wish for you and yours, with, dear Sir, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Philadelphia, 3 March, 1797.
At the conclusion of my public employments, I have thought it expedient to notice the publication of certain forged letters, which first appeared in the year 1777, and were obtruded upon the public as mine. They are said by the editor to have been found in a small portmanteau, that I had left in the care of my mulatto servant, named Billy, who, it is pretended, was taken prisoner at Fort Lee, in 1776. The period, when these letters were first printed, will be recollected, and what were the impressions they were intended to produce on the public mind. It was then supposed to be of some consequence to strike at the integrity of the motives of the American commander-in-chief, and to paint his inclinations as at variance with his professions and his duty. Another crisis in the affairs of America having occurred, the same weapon has been resorted to, to wound my character and deceive the people.
The letters in question have the dates, addresses, and signatures here following:—
“New York, June 12th, 1776. To Mr. Lund Washington, at Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia.
“To John Parke Custis, Esq., at the Hon. Benedict Calvert’s Esq., Mount Airy, Maryland, June 18th, 1776.
“New York, July 8th, 1776. To Mr. Lund Washington, at Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia.
“New York, July 15th, 1776. To Mr. Lund Washington.
“New York, July 16th, 1776. To Mr. Lund Washington.
“New York, July 22d, 1776. To Mr. Lund Washington.
“June 24th, 1776. To Mrs. Washington.
At the time, when these letters first appeared, it was notorious to the army immediately under my command, and particularly to the gentlemen attached to my person, that my mulatto man Billy had never been one moment in the power of the enemy. It is also a fact, that no part of my baggage, nor any of my attendants, were captured during the whole course of the war. These well-known facts made it unnecessary, during the war, to call the public attention to the forgery, by any express declaration of mine; and a firm reliance on my fellow-citizens, and the abundant proofs, which they gave of their confidence in me, rendered it alike unnecessary to take any formal notice of the revival of the imposition during my civil administration. But, as I cannot know how soon a more serious event may succeed to that, which will this day take place, I have thought it a duty, that I owed to myself, to my country, and to truth, now to detail the circumstances above recited; and to add my solemn declaration, that the letters herein described are a base forgery, and that I never saw or heard of them until they appeared in print.
The present letter I commit to your care, and desire that it may be deposited in the office of the department of State, as a testimony of the truth to the present generation and to posterity. Accept, I pray you, the sincere esteem and affectionate regard of, dear Sir, &c.1
TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 3 April, 1797.
Your letter of the 24th ult. has been duly received, and I thank you for the information given in it. Let me pray you to have the goodness to communicate to me occasionally, such matters as are interesting, and not contrary to the rules of your official duty to disclose. We get so many details in the Gazettes, and of such different complexions, that it is impossible to know what credence to give to any of them.
The conduct of the French government is so much beyond calculation, and so unaccountable upon any principle of justice, or even of that sort of policy, which is familiar to plain understandings, that I shall not now puzzle my brains in attempting to develop the motives of it.1
We got home without accident, and found the Roads drier, and better than I ever travelled them at that season of the year. The attentions we met with on our journey were very flattering, and to some, whose minds are differently formed from mine would have been highly relished; but I avoided in every instance, where I had any previous knowledge of the intention, and could by earnest entreaties prevail, all parade or escorts. Mrs. Washington took a violent cold in Philadelphia, which hangs upon her still; but it is not as bad as it has been.1
I find myself in the situation nearly of a young beginner; for, although I have not houses to build (except one, which I must erect for the accommodation and security of my Military, Civil, and private Papers, which are voluminous and may be interesting), yet I have not one, or scarcely anything else about me that does not require considerable repairs. In a word, I am already surrounded by Joiners, Masons, Painters, &c., &c.; and such is my anxiety to get out of their hands, that I have scarcely a room to put a friend into, or to sit in myself, without the music of hammers, or the odoriferous smell of paint. * * *
Mrs. Washington and Miss Custis are thankful for your kind rememberance of them, and join me in best regards for Mrs. McHenry and yourself, with, Dear Sir, Your sincere friend,
TO OLIVER WOLCOTT, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 15 May, 1797.
I thank you for the information contained in your letter of the 19th ultimo, and infer from it with pleasure, that you must be better if not quite recovered of the indisposition of which you complained, by your being enabled to write. To know this, however, would give me satisfaction, as I entertain an affectionate regard for you.
Various conjectures have been formed relative to the causes, which have induced the President to convene the Congress at this season of the year; among others, the laying an embargo is supposed by some to be in contemplation, whether with or without foundation, you, who are acting on the great theatre, have the best means of judging. For myself, having turned aside from the broad walks of political, into the narrow paths of private life, I shall leave it with those, whose duty it is to consider subjects of this sort, and, (as every good citizen ought to do,) conform to whatsoever the ruling powers shall decide. To make and sell a little flour annually, to repair houses (going fast to ruin), to build one for the security of my papers of a public nature, and to amuse myself in agricultural and rural pursuits, will constitute employment for the few years I have to remain on this terrestrial globe. If, to these, I could now and then meet the friends I esteem, it would fill the measure and add zest to my enjoyments; but, if ever this happens, it must be under my own vine and fig-tree, as I do not think it probable that I shall go beyond twenty miles from them.
To detail matters of private concern would be as improper as it would be uninteresting; and therefore, upon the principle I have adopted, it will never be in my power to make adequate returns for your kind communications, which I wish may be continued, when you are at leisure and at liberty; for there is so little dependence on newspaper publications, which take whatever complexion the editors please to give them, that persons at a distance, who have no other means of information, are oftentimes at a loss to form an opinion on the most important occurrences. Mrs. Washington and Nelly Custis unite with me in cordial remembrance of Mrs Wolcott and yourself, and with much sincerity I remain affectionately yours.
TO WILLIAM HEATH.
Mount Vernon, 20 May, 1797.
Your kind and friendly letter of the 17th ultimo has been duly received, and I beg you to accept my sincere thanks for the affectionate sentiments you have been pleased to express for me in it.
I can assure you, Sir, I never ascribed a motive to the letter you wrote to me on my election to the chair of government, so unworthy of you as to suppose it was written with a view of “pressing yourself into notice, or seeking for a place.” On the contrary I was led to believe, that domestic enjoyments in rural pursuits had more charms for you, and were more congenial to your inclination, than any appointment that would draw you from home.
I hope, as you do, that, notwithstanding our political horizon is much overcast, the wisdom, temper, and firmness of the government, supported by the great mass of the people, will dispel the threatening clouds, and that all will end without any shedding of blood. To me this is so demonstrable, that not a particle of doubt would dwell on my mind relative thereto, if our citizens would advocate their own cause, instead of that of any other nation under the sun; that is, if, instead of being Frenchmen or Englishmen in politics, they would be Americans, indignant at every attempt of either, or any other power, to establish an influence in our councils, or presume to sow the seeds of discord or disunion among us. No policy, in my opinion, can be more clearly demonstrated, than that we should do justice to all, and have no political connexion with any of the European powers beyond those, which result from and serve to regulate our commerce with them. Our own experience, if it has not already had this effect, will soon convince us, that the idea of disinterested favors or friendship from any nation whatever is too novel to be calculated on, and there will always be found a wide difference between the words and actions of any of them.
It gives me great pleasure to hear from yourself, that you are writing Memoirs of those transactions, which passed under your notice during the revolutionary war.1 Having always understood, that you were exact and copious in noting occurrences at the time they happened, a work of this kind will, from the candor and ability with which I am persuaded your notes were taken, be uncommonly correct and interesting. Whether you mean to publish them at your own expense, or by subscription, is not intimated in your letter. If the latter, I pray you to consider me as a subscriber, and in any event as a purchaser of your production. That you may enjoy health to complete the work to your entire satisfaction, I devoutly pray, and that you may live afterwards to hear it applauded, as I doubt not it will be, I as sincerely wish. If I should live to see it published, I shall read it with great avidity. Retired from noise myself, and the responsibility attached to public employment, my hours will glide smoothly on. My best wishes, however, for the prosperity of our country will always have the first place in my thoughts; while to repair buildings, and to cultivate my farms, which require close attention, will occupy the few years, perhaps days, I may be a sojourner here, as I am now in the sixty-sixth year of my peregrination through life. With assurances of great esteem, I remain, dear Sir, &c.
TO REV. SAMUEL STANHOPE SMITH.
Mount Vernon, 24 May, 1797.
Reverend and Dear Sir,
Your favor of the 18th instant was received by the last post, the contents of which, relative to Mr. Custis, filled my mind (as you naturally supposed it would) with extreme disquietude. From his infancy I have discovered an almost unconquerable disposition to indolence in everything that did not tend to his amusements; and have exhorted him in the most parental and friendly manner often, to devote his time to more useful pursuits. His pride has been stimulated, and his family expectations and wishes have been urged as inducements thereto. In short, I could say nothing to him now by way of admonition, encouragement, or advice, that has not been repeated over and over again.
It is my earnest desire to keep him to his studies as long as I am able, as well on account of the benefits he will derive from them, as for the purpose of excluding him from the company of idle and dissipated young men until his judgment is more matured.
I am to thank you, sir, for your exertions to remove the error of his present thoughts, and I shall hope for your further endeavor to effect it. If you find, however, that the attempt will be in vain, I shall rely on your judgment to employ his time in such studies as you conceive will be most advantageous to him during his continuance with you, and I know of none more likely to prove so than those you have suggested, if his term at college will close with the next vacation. With very great esteem and regard, I am, reverend Sir, &c.
TO THOMAS PINCKNEY.
Mount Vernon, 28 May, 1797.
My Dear Sir,
* * * Let me congratulate you on your safe return to your native country and friends, after the important services you have rendered to the former, and thank you, as I most cordially do, for the favorable sentiments which you have been pleased to express for me, and of my public conduct. The approbation you have given of the latter, be assured, is highly pleasing to me. To receive testimonies of this kind from the good and virtuous, more especially from those who are competent to judge, and have had the means of judging from the best sources of information, stamps a value which renders them peculiarly grateful to one’s sensibility.
It remains to be seen whether our country will stand upon independent ground, or be directed in its political concerns by any other nation. A little time will show who are its true friends, or, what is synonymous, who are true Americans; those who are stimulating a foreign nation to unfriendly acts, repugnant to our rights and dignity, and advocating all its measures, or those whose only aim has been to maintain a strict neutrality, to keep the United States out of the vortex of European politics, and to preserve them in peace.
The President’s speech will, I conceive, draw forth mediately or immediately an expression of the public mind; and, as it is the right of the people, that this should be carried into effect, their sentiments ought to be unequivocally known, that the principles on which the government has acted, and which, from the President’s speech, are likely to be continued, may either be changed, or the opposition, that is endeavoring to embarrass every measure of the executive, may meet effectual discountenance. Things cannot, ought not to remain any longer in their present disagreeable state. Nor should the idea, that the government and the people have different views, be suffered any longer to prevail home or abroad; for it is not only injurious to us, but disgraceful also, that a government constituted as ours is should be administered contrary to their interest, if the fact be so.1
But, as I did not begin this letter with an intention of running into any political disquisition, I will stop where I am, and only add, that with sincere and affectionate regard I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 29 May, 1797.
I am indebted to you for several unacknowledged letters; but never mind that; go on as if you had them. You are at the source of information, and can find many things to relate; while I have nothing to say, that could either inform or amuse a Secretary at War in Philadelphia.
I might tell him, that I begin my diurnal course with the sun; that, if my hirelings are not in their places at that time I send them messages expressive of my sorrow for their indisposition; that, having put these wheels in motion, I examine the state of things further; and the more they are probed, the deeper I find the wounds are which my buildings have sustained by an absence and neglect of eight years; by the time I have accomplished these matters, breakfast (a little after seven o’clock, about the time I presume you are taking leave of Mrs. McHenry), is ready; that, this being over, I mount my horse and ride round my farms, which employs me until it is time to dress for dinner, at which I rarely miss seeing strange faces, come as they say out of respect for me. Pray, would not the word curiosity answer as well? And how different this from having a few social friends at a cheerful board! The usual time of sitting at table, a walk, and tea, brings me within the dawn of candlelight; previous to which, if not prevented by company, I resolve, that, as soon as the glimmering taper supplies the place of the great luminary, I will retire to my writing-table and acknowledge the letters I have received; but when the lights are brought, I feel tired and disinclined to engage in this work, conceiving that the next night will do as well. The next comes, and with it the same causes for postponement, and effect, and so on.
This will account for your letter remaining so long unacknowledged; and, having given you the history of a day, it will serve for a year, and I am persuaded you will not require a second edition of it. But it may strike you, that in this detail no mention is made of any portion of time allotted for reading. The remark would be just, for I have not looked into a book since I came home; nor shall I be able to do it until I have discharged my workmen, probably not before the nights grow longer, when possibly I may be looking in Doomsday-Book. On the score of the plated ware in your possession I will say something in a future letter. At present I shall only add, that I am always and affectionately yours.
TO OLIVER WOLCOTT, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 29 May, 1797.
I have received your letter of the 18th instant with its enclosures, and I thank you for both. The President has in my opinion placed matters upon their true ground in his speech to Congress. The crisis calls for an unequivocal expression of the public mind, and the speech will mediately or immediately bring this about. Things ought not, indeed cannot, remain long in their present state; and it is time the people should be thoroughly acquainted with the political situation of this country, and the causes which have produced it, that they may either give active and effectual support to those, to whom they have intrusted the administration of the government, if they approve the principles on which they have acted, or sanction the conduct of their opponents, who have endeavored to bring about a change by embarrassing all its measures, (not even short of foreign means).
We are waiting with no small degree of solicitude, for the answer of the house of Representatives, that an opinion may be formed from its complexion of the temper of that body since its renovation.1
Thus much for our own affairs, which, maugre the desolating scenes of Europe, might continue in the most happy, flourishing, and prosperous train, if the harmony of the Union were not endangered by the internal disturbers of its peace. With respect to the nations of Europe, their situation appears so awful, that nothing short of Omnipotence can predict the issue; although every human mind must feel for the miseries it endures. Our course is plain; they who run may read it. Their’s is so bewildered and dark, so entangled and embarrassed, and so obviously under the influence of intrigue, that one would suppose, if any thing could open the eyes of our misled citizens, the deplorable situation of those people could not fail to accomplish it. * * * With sincere and affectionate regard, I am always yours.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS.
Mount Vernon, 4 June, 1797.
Your letter of the 29th ultimo, came to hand by the post of Friday, and eased my mind of many unpleasant sensations and reflections on your account. It has, indeed, done more, it has filled it with pleasure more easy to be conceived than expressed; and if your sorrow and repentance for the disquietude occasioned by the preceding letter, your resolution to abandon the ideas which were therein express, are sincere, I shall not only heartily forgive, but will forget also, and bury in oblivion all that has passed.
As a testimony of my disposition to do this—of the hope I had conceived that reflection would overcome an indolent habit or bad advice—not a hint respecting this matter has been given to any of your friends in this quarter, although Doctor Stuart and your mother (with their children) left this on Thursday last, after a stay of a week, and both Mr. Law and Mr. Peter have been here since the receipt of it. In a word, your grandmamma, sister, and myself, are all who were acquainted therewith.
You must not suffer this resolution you have recently entered into, to operate as the mere result of a momentary impulse, occasioned by the letters you have received from hence. This resolution should be founded on sober reflection, and a thorough conviction of your error, otherwise it will be as wavering as the wind, and become the sport of conflicting passions, which will occasion such a lassitude in your exertions as to render your studies of little avail. To insure permanency, think seriously of the advantages which are to be derived, on the one hand, from the steady pursuit of a course of study to be marked out by your preceptor, whose judgment, experience, and acknowledged abilities, enables him to direct them; and, on the other hand, revolve as seriously on the consequences which would inevitably result from an indisposition to this measure, or from an idle habit of hankering after unprofitable amusements at your time of life, before you have acquired that knowledge which would be found beneficial in every situation; I say before, because it is not my wish that, having gone through the essentials, you should be deprived of any rational amusement afterward; or, lastly, from dissipation in such company as you would most likely meet under such circumstances, who but too often, mistake ribaldry for wit, and rioting, swearing, intoxication, and gambling for manliness.
These things are not without momentary charms to young minds susceptible of any impression, before the judgment in some measure is formed, and reason begins to preponderate. It is on this ground, as well as on account of the intrinsic advantages that you yourself would experience hereafter from it, that I am desirous of keeping you to your studies. And if such characters as I have described should be found instrumental, either by their advice or example, in giving your mind a wrong bias, shun them as you would a pestilence; for, be assured, it is not with such qualities as these you ought to be allied, or with those who possess them to have any friendship.
These sentiments are dictated by the purest regard for your welfare, and from an earnest desire to promote your true happiness, in which all your friends feel an interest, and would be much gratified to see accomplished, while it would contribute in an eminent degree to your respectability in the eyes of others.
Your endeavors to fulfill these reasonable wishes of ours can not fail of restoring all the attentions, protection, and affection of one who has ever been, and will continue to be, your sincere friend.
TO DAVID HUMPHREYS.
Mount Vernon, 26 June, 1797.
My Dear Humphreys:
Since I did myself the pleasure of writing to you by Capt. O’Brian, I have been favored with your letters of the 1st of January and 18th of February.—The last in date was the first received; but neither came to hand until long after I had left the chair of Government, and was seated in the shade of my own Vine and Fig tree.
The testimony of your politeness and friendship to Mrs. Washington and myself, which accompanied the latter, are accepted with the same cordiality and chearfulness with which I am sure they were presented. Presents however, to me, are of all things the most painful; but when I am so well satisfied of the motives which dictated yours my scruples are removed; and I receive the buckles (which are indeed very elegant) as a token of your regard and attachment; and will keep and wear them occasionally for your sake.
As the Gazettes of this country are transmitted from the department of State, to all our diplomatic characters abroad, you will of course have perceived that the measure advised by you relative to the disavowal of the forged letter (attempted to be imposed on the public, as written by me in 1776) had been previously adopted; without any of the accompaniments contained in your draught which was received long after the publication of it.
I am clearly in sentiment with you that every man who is in the vigor of life, ought to serve his country, in what ever line it requires and he is fit for; It was not my intention therefore to persuade you to withdraw your services whilst inclination and the calls of your Country demanded your service. but the desire of a companion in my latter days, in whom I could confide, might have induced me to express myself too strongly on the occasion. The change however which I presume has ere this taken place in your domestic concerns would of itself have annihilated every hope of having you as an inmate if the circumstance had been known at the time.
On this event, which I persuade myself will be fortunate and happy for you, I offer my congratulations, with all the sincerity and warmth you can desire;—and if ever you should bring Mrs. Humphreys1 to the U. States no roof will afford her and you a more welcome reception than this, while we are the inhabitants of it.
To the Department of State and the Gazettes which will be transmitted from thence, I shall refer you for the political state of our affairs; but in one word I might have added, that nothing short of a general peace in Europe, will produce tranquility in this Country; for reasons which are obvious to every well informed observant man among us. I have confidence however in that providence, which has shielded the U. States from the evils which have threatened them hitherto.—And, as I believe the major part of the people of this country, are well affected to the Constitution and Government of it, I rest satisfied that if ever a crisis should arise to call forth the sense of the Community it will be strong in support of the Honor and dignity of the nation. Therefore however much I regret the opposition, which has for its object the embarrassment of the administration, I shall view things in the “calm light of mild philosophy” and endeavor to finish my course in retirement and ease.
An absence from home of eight years (except short occasional visits to it which allowed no time to investigate or look into the real state of my private concerns) has very much deranged them, and occasioned such depredations upon buildings and all things around them, as to make the expence of repairs almost as great and the employment of attending to work men almost as much, as if I had commenced an entire new establishment.
The public buildings in the Federal City go on well:—one wing of the Capitol (with which Congress might make a very good shift), and the President’s House will be covered in this Autumn, or to speak more correctly perhaps the latter is now receiving its cover, and the former will be ready for it by that epoch. An elegant bridge is thrown over the Potomack at the little falls, and the navigation of the river above will be completed nearly, this season, through which an immensity of Produce, must flow to the shipping Ports thereon.
Alexandria you would scarcely know; so much has it encreased, since you was there. Two entire streets where Shallops, then laded and unladed, are extended into the River, and some of the best buildings in the Town erected on them.—What were the Commons, are now all enclosed, and many good houses placed on them.
As my circle is now small my information will be of course contracted, as Alexandria and the Federal City will probably be the extent of my perambulations. If you have entered the Matrimonial list—I pray you to present me in respectful terms to your lady and at all times and under all circumstances that you would believe me to be, as I really am, my dear Sir, &c.
TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 7th July, 1797.
By the last Post I was favored with your letter of the 3d instant and thank you for its enclosure, although, on the same day, I had, myself, transmitted a copy thereof to the Secretary of State.
I had doubted awhile, whether to forward it to your office or that of State, but finally resolved to send it to the latter, as it seemed more properly I thought, to belong to that Department.
If the letter (intercepted by Mr. Byers) is a genuine one, and the Gentleman’s handwriting is not easily mistaken, or counterfeited, what excuse can a late Governor and present Senator of the U S, or his friends for him, offer for such Nefarious conduct? The defence must be curious, and will, I have no doubt, be conducted with as much effrontery as art. I hope, notwithstanding if the fact is proved, that the author will receive all the Punishment which the Constitution and Laws of this Country can inflict; and thereafter be held in detestation by all good men. To seek private emolument at the expence of Public Peace—perhaps at the expence of many innocent lives: and to aim a stroke at the reputation of a virtuous character, hazarding his health—probably life, to promote tranquility between the Indians and our frontier Inhabitants; and by destroying his influence and well-earned good name among the former, to render him incapable of serving his Country, and this forsooth because he may be a stumbling block in the way of a plan which he has in contemplation, is a crime of so deep a dye as no Epithet can convey an adequate idea of to my mind. A poor wretch stealing the worth of a shilling, possibly to buy bread, would be hung, or confined to hard labor, and here, a plan (at which I can only guess) is on foot to defraud the public of its rights; deprive Citizens perhaps (in its consequences) of their lives; to stigmatise character; and ultimately to produce war, with all its concomitants, wch. will, more than probable, meet with advocates.
But as you inform me that the matter would be laid before Congress, on Monday last, I shall wait (with some degree of impatience I confess) to learn the result.1
Always, I remain &c.
TO SAMUEL WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 12 July, 1797.
I perceive by your letter of the 7th Instant that you are under the same mistake that many others are,—in supposing that I have money always at command.
The case is so much the reverse of it, that I found it expedient, before I retired from public life, to sell all my Lands (near 5000 acres) in Pennsylvania in the Counties of Washington and Fayette, and my lands in the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, in order to enable me to defray the expences of my station, and to raise money for other purposes.
That these lands might not go at too low a rate (for they sold much below their value) I was induced after receiving prompt payment for part, to allow credit for the remainder of the purchase money, in obtaining payment of which from two of the purchasers, I find much difficulty; but a third having within these few days paid me an installment of three thousand Dollars, I will, rather than you should be compelled to sell your land, lend you a third of them, altho’ it will be inconvenient for me to do so; and may be the means of retarding my purchase of wheat for my mill;—which for want of it, has been very unproductive to me for several years;—I might indeed say an expence to me.—
It is because you have assured me that misfortunes have brought on your present difficulties (tho’ by the by let me observe if you had inspected as you ought, the staking of your wheat more closely, the spoiling thereof might have been avoided) and because I have heard that you are industrious and sober that I put myself to the inconvenience of parting with the above sum; for I would not lend it for the purpose to enable you to indulge in any thing that is not strictly œconomical and proper; and I shall add further, that it will be my expectation that the money be immediately applied to the uses for which you have required it—for you may be assured that there is no practice more dangerous than that of borrowing money (instance as proof the case of your father and uncles). For when money can be had in this way, repayment is seldom thought of in time;—the Interest becomes a moth;—exertions to raise it by dint of Industry ceases—it comes easy and is spent freely; and many things indulged in that would never be thought of, if to be purchased by the sweat of the brow.—in the mean time the debt is accumulating like a snow ball in rolling.
I mention these things to you, because your inexperience may not have presented them to your mind—but you may rely on it that they are indubitable facts, and have proved the ruin of thousands before suspected.—Great speculations and sometimes trade may be benefitted of obtaining money on Interest, but no landed Estate will bear it.—
I do not make these observations on account of the money I have purposed to lend you, because all that I shall require is, that you will return the nett sum when in your power, without Interest.—It may & at any rate as it was * * *1
TO WILLIAM STRICKLAND.
Mount Vernon, 15 July, 1797.
I have been honored with yours of the 30th of May and 5th of Sept.—of last year.
As the first was in part an answer to a letter I took the liberty of writing to you, and the latter arrived in the middle of an important Session of Congress, which became more interesting as it drew more nearer to its close, in as much as it was limitted by the Constitution to the 3d of March, and on that day was to give political dissolution to the house of representatives, a third part of the Senate, and the Chief Magistrate of the United States, I postponed from the pressure of business occasioned thereby the acknowledgment of all private letters, which did not require immediate answers until I should be seated under my own vine and fig Tree where I supposed I should have abundant leisure to discharge all my Epistolary obligations.—In this however I have hitherto found myself mistaken, for at no period have I been more closely employed in repairing the ravages of an eight years absence (except short occasional visits which allowed no time for that investigation, which, since my establishment here, I have found my Buildings, Gardens, and every thing appertaining to them, so much required). Engaging Workmen of different sorts, providing for and looking after them, together with the necessary attention to my farms, have occupied all my time since I have been at home.
Unimportant as these details must be to you, an apology in my estimation seemed necessary for suffering so interesting a letter as yours of the 5th of September to remain so long unacknowledged.—and I could offer none better than the facts which occasioned it. I was far from entertaining sanguine hopes of success in my attempt to procure tenants from Great Britain,—but being desirous of rendering the evening of my life as tranquil and free from care as the nature of things would admit I was willing to make the experiment.
Your observation with respect to occupiers and proprietors of land has great weight, and being congenial with my own Ideas on the subject was one reason, though I did not believe it would be so considered, why I offered my Farms to be let:—Instances have occured and do occur daily to prove that capitalists from Europe have injured themselves by precipitate purchases, of free hold Estates immediately upon their arrival in this Country, while others have lessened their means in exploring states and places in search of locations; whereas if, on advantageous terms, they could have been first seated as tenants; they wou’d have had time and opportunities for the propensity to become holders of Land themselves, for making advantageous purchases. But it is so natural for man to wish to be the absolute Lord and Master of what he holds in occupancy, that his true interest is often made to yield to a false ambition. Among these the Emigrant from the New England States may be classed and will account in part for their migration to the Westward. Conviction of these things having left little hope of obtaining such Tenants as would answer my purposes, I have had it in contemplation ever since I returned home to turn my farms to grazing principally, as fast as I can cover the fields sufficiently with grass. Labor and of course expence will be considerably diminished by this change, the nett profit as great and my attention less divided, whilst the fields will be improving.
Your strictures on the Agriculture of this country are but too just—it is indeed wretched—but a leading, if not the primary, cause of its being so is that, instead of improving a little ground well, we attempt much and do it ill.—A half a third or even a fourth of what we mangle, well wrought and properly dressed, wou’d produce more than the whole under our system (if it deserves that epithet) of management. Yet, such is the force of habit, that we cannot depart from it. The consequence of which is that we ruin the lands that are already cleared and either cut down more wood if we have it, or emigrate into the Western Country.—I have endeavored both in a public and private character to encourage the establishment of Boards of Agriculture in this Country, but hitherto in vain; and what is still more extraordinary and scarcely to be believed I have endeavored ineffectually to discard the pernicious practice just mentioned from my own estate; but in my absence, pretexts of one kind or another have always been paramount to orders. Since the first Establishment of the National Board of Agriculture in Great Britain, I have considered it as one of the most valuable Institutions of modern times, and conducted with so much ability and zeal as it appears to be under the auspices of Sir John Sinclair, must be productive of great advantages to the Nation and to Mankind in General.—
My system of Agriculture is what you have described, and I am persuaded, was I to farm it on a large scale, would be improved by the alteration you have proposed;—at the same time I must observe that I have not found Oats so great an exhauster as they are represented to be—but in my system they follow wheat too closely to be proper, and the rotation will undergo a change in this, and perhaps in some other respects.
The Vetch of Europe has not succeeded with me; our frosts in Winter and droughts in Summer, are too severe for them.—how far the Mountain or Wild Pea would answer as a substitute by cultivation, is difficult to decide, because I believe no trial has been made of them and because their spontaneous growth is in Rich lands only:—that they are nutricious in a great Degree in their wild state admits of no doubt.—
Spring Barley such as we grow in this Country has thriven no better with me than Vetches.—The result of an Experiment made with a little of the True Sort might be interesting.—Of the field Peas of England (different kinds) I have more than once tried, but not with encouragement to proceed; for among other discouragements they are perforated by a bug which eats out the kernal. From the cultivation of the common black eye peas, I have more hope and am trying them this year both as a Crop and for plowing in as a manure but the severe drought under which we labor at present may render the Experiment inconclusive.—It has in a manner destroyed my oats; and bids fair to do so by my Indian Corn.
The practice of plowing in Buck wheat twice in the season, as a fertilizer is not new to me. It is what I have practiced—or, I ought to have said rather,—attempted to practice, the last two or three years, but like most things else in my absence, it has been so badly executed—that is the turning in of the plants has been so illy timed, as to give no result. I am not discouraged however by these failures, for if pulverizing the soil, by fallowing and turning in vegetable substances for manure are proper preparatives for the Crop that is to follow; there can be no question, that a double portion of the latter, without an increase of the plowing must be highly beneficial.—I am in the act of making another experiment of this sort, and shall myself attend to the operation which however may again prove abortive from the cause I have mentioned—viz—the drought.
The lightness of our oats is attributed more than it ought to be to the unfitness of the climate of the Middle states. That this may be the case in part and nearer the sea board in a greater degree, I will not controvert; but it is a well known fact that no country produces better oats than those that grow on the Allegany Mountains immediately Westward of us—I have heard it affirmed that they weigh upwards of 50 lbs the Winchester bushel.—This may be occasioned by the fertility of the soil, and the attraction of moisture by the mountains—but another reason and a powerful one too, may be assigned for the inferiority of ours, namely that we are not choice in our seeds and do not change them as we ought.
The seeds you were so obliging as to give me, shared the same fate that Colo. Wadsworth’s did; and as I believe seeds from England generally will do, if they are put into the hold of the vessels. For this reason, I always made it a point, whilst I was in the habit of importing seeds, to request my merchants and the masters of vessels by which they were sent to keep them from the heat thereof.
You make a distinction, and no doubt a just one, between what in England is called Barley, and Big or Beer.—If there be none of the true Barley in this country it is not for us without Experience to pronounce upon the growth of it; and therefore, as noticed in a former part of this letter it might be interesting to ascertain whether our climate and soil would produce it to advantage. No doubt, as your observations while you were in the United States appear to have been extensive and accurate, it did not escape you, that both Winter and Spring Barley are cultivated among us; the latter is considered as an uncertain crop—South of New York, and I have found it so on my farms:—of the latter I have not made sufficient trial to hazard an opinion of success. About Philadelphia it succeeds well.—
The cassia charmœcrista, or Eastern shore Bean, as it is denominated here, has obtained a higher reputation than it deserves; and like most things unnaturally puffed sinks into disrepute. Ten or more years ago, led away by exaggerated accounts of its fertilizing quality, I was induced to give a very high price for some of the seed, and attending to the growth in all its stages, I found that my own fields which had been uncultivated for two or three years, abounded with the same plants; without perceiving any of those advantages which had been attributed to them.
I am not surprized that our mode of fencing should be disgusting to an European eye; happy wou’d it have been for us if it had appeared so in our own eyes; for no sort of fencing is more expensive or wasteful of timber. I have been endeavoring for years to substitute live fences in place of them, but my long absences from home has in this as in every thing else, frustrated all my plans that required time and particular attention to effect it. I shall now (although it is too late in the day for me to see the result) begin in good earnest to Ditch and hedge; the latter I am attempting with various things but believe none will be found better than cedar, although I have several kinds of white thorn growing spontaneously on my own grounds.—
Rollers I have been in the constant use of many years—in the way you mention, and find considerable benefit in passing them over my winter grain in the Spring as soon as the ground will admit a hoof on it. I use them also on Spring grain and grass seeds, after sowing and sometimes before, to reduce the clods when the ground is rough. My clover generally is sown with Spring grain, but where the ground is not too stiff and binding it succeeds very well on wheat, sown on a light snow in February, or beginning of March; it sinks with the snow and takes good root—and orchard grass of all others is in my opinion the best mixture with clover:—it blooms precisely at the same time, rises quick again after cutting—stands thick—yields well—and both horses and cattle are fond of it—green or in hay. Alone, unless it is sown very thick it is apt to form tussacks; if of this or any other seeds I can procure, you shou’d be in want, I shall have great pleasure in furnishing them. * * *
For the detailed account of your observations on the Husbandry of these United States, and your reflection thereon, I feel myself much obliged; and shall at all times be thankful for any suggestions on agricultural subjects, you may find leizure and inclination to favor me with, as the remainder of my life (which in the common course of things Now in my 66th year, cannot be of long continuance) will be devoted wholy to rural and agricultural pursuits.
Mrs. Washington feels the obligation of your polite remembrance of her—and Mr. and Mrs. Law, who went from hence yesterday, have added a daughter to their stock, and are all in good health. For the trouble you took in going to Hull, to see if any of the Emigrants who were on the point of sailing from thence to America, would answer my purposes as tenants and for your very kind and friendly offer of rendering me services, I pray you to accept my sincere thanks, and an assurance of the Esteem &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 4 August, 1797.
In a late letter from the Attorney General (Lee) he has requested a copy of the opinion he gave relative to the recall of Mr. Monroe.—
Among the packages most likely (as I conceived) to produce it, I have searched for the original in vain;—nor among these do I find the opinions of the Heads of Departments on various other subjects.—How to account for this I am unable, unless the bundle containing them, which I once put into your hands, for a particular purpose was never returned, or left by Mr. Lear and Mr. Dandridge (who were employed in separating and packing up my Papers) put them by mistake among the files which were intended for my successor in office.
I have not yet opened all my packages of papers, nor can I do it until I have provided some place, in which they can be depositted with safety—but I pray you to let me know whether the bundle I have alluded to, was returned or not by you.—Your answer may save a further search and some anxiety.—With &c.
TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 14 August, 1797.
It is a little out of time, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 9th ulto. but “better late than never”—and one object in doing it, is to pray you to thank Mr. Bordley in my name, for the work he had the goodness to send me, through the channel of your conveyance.
I presume the affair of Mr. Blount will lye dormant untill the Committee of Congress make Report at the ensuing Session. It will be to be regretted much, if this business is not probed to the bottom. That Government may not sleep or be forgotten in the meantime, I perceive Mr Monroe has opened a Battery against it; but if his subsequent fire does no more injury than the first, his Artillery will recoil upon himself.
It had escaped me until reminded by a reperusal of some of your first letters, that my Table ornaments and Coolers were in your possession. Not for the value of the thing, but as a token of my friendship and as a remembrancer of it, I ask you, Colonel Pickering, and Mr Wolcott to accept, each one of the two bottle Coolers.
The other articles I pray you to have carefully packed (the Porcelain in fine Saw dust) and sent to Colo. Biddle, who will be directed what to do with them and will pay the cost of packing.
What is the character of Porcupine’s Gazette? I had thought when I left Philadelphia, of ordering it to be sent to me; then again, I thought it best not to do it; and altho I should like to see both his and Bache’s, the latter may, under all circumstances, be the best decision, I mean not subscribing to either of them.
Mrs. Washington and Miss Custis thanks you for your kind remembrance of them; and unite with me in best regards for Mrs McHenry, yourself and family. With much truth I am your sincere friend and affectionate servant &c.
P.S. I shall rely on you to present the Coolers in my name to the Gentlemen above mentd. Since writing the letter which encloses this scrap I have determined to let the Table ornaments and large coolers go into the hands of Colo. Clement Biddle unpacked, to see if he can dispose of them;—and I pray you to cause them to be delivered in that manner accordingly.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 29 August, 1797.
Your favors of the 9th 10th and 19th inst. have been duly received;—for your care of my European letters and attention to the Copying press, Laws of the United States, and journals of Congress, I feel myself obliged.—If the vessel has not already left Philadelphia the Tryal, Capt. Hand, is up for Alexandria, and will afford a good conveyance for the above articles, as it has other small matters on Board for me:—
Colo. Monroe passed through Alexandria last week but did not Honor me by a call. If what he has promised the public does him no more credit, than what he has given to it in his last exhibition, his friends must be apprehensive of a recoil.
From a variety of accounts as well as from Extracts you had the kindness to send me, I have no doubt in the change in the sentiments of the people of France favorable to the Interest of this Country.—But I can scarsely believe that it will be so great or so sudden as some imagine.—Candor is not a more conspicuous trait in the character of Governments than it is of individuals. It is hardly to be expected then that the Directory of France will acknowledge its errors; and tread back its steps immediately. This would announce at once that there has been precipitancy and injustice in the measures they have pursued,—or that it was incapable of Judging and had been deceived by false misrepresentations.—Pride would be opposed to all these, and I can scarsely think the Directory will relinquish the hold it has upon those who, more than probable, have suggested and promoted the measures, they have been pursuing.—I rather suppose that it will lower its tone by degrees and (as is usual) place the change to the credit of French Magnanimity—The report, as coming from Capt. Towers, that General Pinckney had been invited to Paris by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, attached itself in its passage to Philadelphia, or passing through different hands. For Genl. Lee (who hearing various reports of what the Capt. had related of his conversation with the General) went on board the Saratoga and got the details without any mention of that fact, which wou’d have been of too much importance for omission.
That the statement of facts in the printed letter to General Pinckney will work conviction and produce a change of conduct in those who are desirous of information and not obstinately bent upon wrong measures; I have no doubt,—and I can say with truth that my mind has never been alarmed by any fears of a war with France.—I always knew that this Government, had no desire to go to war, with that or any other Country, and I as firmly believed that no power without a semblance of Justice would declare war against it.—That France has stept far beyond the line of rectitude cannot be denied; that it has been encouraged to do so by a party among ourselves, is to my mind equally certain; and when it is considered moreover, that enriching themselves and injuring Great Britain were the expected consequences of their spoilations, I could account (tho’ not on honorable principles in them) for their going to a certain point,—but I never did believe that they would declare an open war against us—or compel us, if they foresaw that would be the result, to declare it against them.—
Enclosed you will receive, if this letter gets safe, $35 in bank notes of the United States, and it would add to my convenience if Mr Taylor would be so obliging as to have the press fixed for copying: for as the use of one was not practiced by me, I may be at a loss in doing it.—I do not mean that it should be accompanied by a Table, but board only between the Rollers, as the screws which I have to a small press, will I presume answer for the other, I wou’d pray him also (if the press is still with him) to use it, and that if there be any imperfection, that it may be corrected before it comes hither, as I should be unable to do it afterwards. With very great esteem and regard I am &c.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS.
Mount Vernon, 29 August, 1797.
Your letter of the 21st instant, came to hand by the last post, and as usual, gave us pleasure to hear that you enjoyed good health, were progressing well in your studies, and that you were in the road to promotion.
The senior class having left, or being on the point of leaving college, some of them with great éclat, ought to provoke strong stimulus to those who remain, to acquire equal reputation, which is not otherwise to be done than by perseverance and close application; in neither of which I hope you will be found deficient.
Not knowing the precise time that the vacation commences, I have put under cover with this letter to Doctor Smith, forty dollars to defray the expenses of your journey; and both your grandmamma and myself desire that you will not think of doing it by water, as the passage may not only be very tedious, but subject to a variety of accidents, to which a journey by land is exempt; and as the yellow fever is announced from authority to be in Philadelphia we enjoin it on you strictly to pursue the route, and the direction which you may receive from the president of the college, to avoid the inconveniences and consequences which a different conduct might involve you and others in.
Although I persuade myself that there is no occasion for the admonition, yet I exhort you to come with a mind steadfastly resolved to return precisely at the time alloted, that it may be guarded against those ideas and allurements which unbend it from study, and cause reluctance to return to it again. Better remain where you are than suffer impressions of this sort to be imbibed from a visit, however desirous that visit may be to you, and pleasing to your friends, who will prefer infinitely your permanent good, to temporary gratifications; but I shall make all fears of this sort yield to a firm persuasion, that every day convinces you more and more of the propriety and necessity of devoting your youthful days in the requirement of that knowledge which will be advantageous, grateful, and pleasing to you in maturer years, and may be the foundation of your usefulness here, and happiness hereafter.
Your grandmamma (who is prevented writing to you by General Spotswood and family’s being here) has been a good indisposed by swelling on one side of her face, but it is now much better. The rest of the family within doors are all well, and all unite in best regards for you, with your sincere friend, and affectionate
TO GENERAL LAFAYETTE.
Mount Vernon, 8 October, 1797.
My Dear Sir,
This letter I hope and expect will be presented to you by your son, who is highly deserving of such parents as you and your amiable lady.
He can relate, much better than I can describe, my participation in your sufferings, my solicitude for your relief, the measures I adopted, (though ineffectual,) to facilitate your liberation from an unjust and cruel imprisonment, and the joy I experienced at the news of its accomplishment. I shall hasten, therefore, to congratulate you, and be assured that no one can do it with more cordiality, with more sincerity, or with greater affection, on the restoration of that liberty, which every act of your life entitles you to the enjoyment of; and I hope I may add, to the uninterrupted possession of your estates, and the confidence of your country. The repossession of these things, though they cannot compensate for the hardships you have endured, may nevertheless soften the painful remembrance of them.
From the delicate and responsible situation in which I stood as a public officer, but more especially from a misconception of the manner in which your son had left France, (till explained in a personal interview with himself,) he did not come immediately into my family on his arrival in America, though he was assured in the first moments of it of my protection and support. His conduct, since he first set his feet on American ground, has been exemplary in every point of view, such as has gained him the esteem, affection, and confidence of all who have had the pleasure of his acquaintance. His filial affection and duty, and his ardent desire to embrace his parents and sisters in the first moments of their releasement, would not allow him to wait the authentic account of this much desired event; but, at the same time that I suggested the propriety of this, I could not withhold my assent to the gratification of his wishes to fly to the arms of those whom he holds most dear, persuaded as he is from the information he has received, that he shall find you all in Paris.
M. Frestel has been a true Mentor to George. No parents could have been more attentive to a favorite son; and he richly merits all that can be said of his virtues, of his good sense, and of his prudence. Both your son and him carry with them the vows and regrets of his family, and of all who know them. And you may be assured, that you yourself never stood higher in the affections of the people of this country, than at the present moment.1
With what concerns myself personally, I shall not take up your time further than to add, that I have once more retreated to the shades of my own vine, and fig Tree where I shall remain with best vows for the prosperity of that country for whose happiness I have toiled many years, to establish its Independence, Constitution and Law,—and for the good of mankind in general, until the days of my sojournment, which cannot be many, are accomplished.
Having bid a final adieu to the walks of public life, and meaning to withdraw myself from the politics thereof, I shall refer you to M. Frestel and George, who, (at the same time that they have from prudential considerations avoided all interference in the politics of the country,) cannot have been inattentive observers of what was passing among us, to give you a general view of our situation, and of the party, which in my opinion has disturbed the peace and tranquillity of it. And with sentiments of the highest regard for you, your lady, and daughters, and with assurances, that, if inclination or event should induce you or any of them to visit America, no person in it would receive you with more cordiality and affection, than Mrs. Washington and myself would do, both of us being most sincerely and affectionately attached to you and admirers of them, yours, ever, &c.
TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 9 October, 1797.
Mr. Thomas Pearson, heir in tail to Simon Pearson, his brother, has brought suit in the Court of this County, for the lands which the latter sold to Wm. Triplett, George Johnson and myself, five and thirty years ago.—
I understand from Colo. Simms, who is Pearson’s Lawyer, that his complaint is founded upon some irregularity in the proceedings of the Jury, who met on the land to value the same, pursuant to a writ of ad quod damnum—and the examination of the evidence to prove these irregularities went (for I attended) to the establishment of two Points—1st. that there was no survey of the premises in presence of the Jury, at the time of their enquiry into the value of the land; and 2ly. that the said Jury did not explore it sufficiently to ascertain with exactness what the real value of the land was.
This is the amount of Grafton Kirk’s evidence, who was one of the Jurors, and who from your practice in Fairfax County, you may have learnt, is a rare hand at all obsolete claims that depend much on a good memory.
As I shall be ultimately affected in this business if Pearson’s claim obtains (having sold my part of the tract (178 acres) to Mr. Lund Washington), it behooves me to look into the matter timously—let me then ask your opinion on the following points?—
1st. Does the Law providing for the Docking of Entails, by a writ of ad quod damnum, make a survey in presence of the Jury an essential Part of the proceedings?—
The Writ itself (of which I retained a copy) directing the Sheriff to summon respectable men of his County for the purpose of ascertaining the value of the land &c., requires no such thing.
2d. Who is to Judge of the mode by which a Jury on oath is to report their opinion of the value of the land if they are not to do it themselves?—
Mr. Kirk swears he did not, on the day, traverse a foot of the land.—Why? because, says he, living adjoining thereto, I could not be made better acquainted with it than I was; neither did Jno. Askins (another of the Jurymen) stir from the house at which they met; on the Land.—Why again? because Jno. Askins knew it as well as he did.—The rest of the Jurors he acknowledged rode, but were not gone long enough to go over quarter part of the land.—These if not the words are the literal meaning of them, and the sum of Grafton Kirk’s evidence.—No tampering with the Jury to under value the land is even hinted at.—and the transfers devises and descent to Simon Pearson are admitted to be good in order to prove that the said Simon held the land in fee tail and dying (as they say) without legitimate children, that Thos. Pearson his brother is heir in tail.
3d. Whether as Simon was lawfully married and never legally divorced the children of that woman though begotten (no matter by whom) in the state of separation from him is not a bar to the claim of Thomas?
4th. What operation will the Act of Assembly of Virginia for Docking all Entails, (passed many years after the land in dispute was Docked by a writ of ad quod damnum, and sold in 1762) and many years too before the death of Simon Pearson which only happened last Spring have in this Case?—It being understood that the said Simon conveyed the 178 acres to me with a general Warrantee.
5th. I would ask how far my conveyance of the said land to Mr. L. Washington with a general Warrantee also, make me liable for the buildings as well as the land which has been placed thereon?—and
6th. Whether I had better interest my self in defending the suit already commenced in the County Court, or await the decision there and take it up in the dernier resort, if it shd be adverse. I wish also as the case in my judgment turns upon simple points which do not require much study or research, to be informed (confidentially) whether in your opinion Mr. Swan’s demand for defending the suit is not unreasonable?—viz.: $100 in hand and the like sum at the close of the business?—
You may think me an unprofitable applicant in asking opinions and requiring services of you without dousing my money, but pay day may come. If the cause should go to the higher Courts I shall expect you will appear for me, and Mr. Marshall also (if you should not have quit the practice). If the latter should not be returned in time, say who else had I best employ? I beg you will send me and as soon as you can certified copies from the Records of Richmond, of the papers mentioned in the enclosed.—With sincere friendship &c.
P. S. Whether Colo. Simms has any thing in petto I am unable to say, I am told however that he is sanguine and some add that he is to go snacks—
TO WILLIAM GORDON.
Mount Vernon, 15th October, 1797.
Your favor of the 20th Feby. has been received, and I am indebted to you for many other unacknowledged letters. The truth is, I soon found after entering upon the duties of my late public station that private correspondences did not accord with official duties; and being determined to perform the latter to the best of my abilities; I early relinquish’d the former, when business was not the subject of them.
It might be asked why suffer the letter of the 20th of Feby. (which is of the latter description) to remain unacknowledged, after I had months past bid adieu to my public walks?—the answer is easy.—An eight years absence from home (excepting short occasional visits) had so deranged my private affairs;—had so despoiled my buildings;—and in a word had thrown my domestic concerns into such disorder,—as at no period of my life have I been more engaged than in the last six months to recover and put them into some tolerable train again.
Workmen in most Countries I believe are necessary plagues;—in this where entreaties as well as money must be used to obtain their work and keep them to their duty they baffle all calculation in the accomplishment of any plan or repairs they are engaged in;—and require more attention to and looking after than can be well conceived. Numbers of these of all descriptions having been employed by me ever since I came home (to render my situation comfortable the ensuing Winter) has allowed me little leisure for other occupations.
Rural employments while I am spared (which in the natural course of things cannot be long) will now take place of toil,—responsibility—and the solicitudes attending the walks of public life; and with vows for the Peace, happiness and prosperity of a Country in whose service the prime of my life hath been spent,—and with best wishes for the tranquility of all nations, and all men, the scene will close,—grateful to that providence which has directed my steps and shielded me in the various changes and chances, through which I have passed from my youth to the present moment.—
I scarcely know what you alluded to in your letter of the 20th of Feby. when you say “I observed in the Philadelphia papers, mention made of a publication of a volume of your Epistles, domestic confidential and official.”—unless it be the spurious letters which issued from a certain press in New York during the war, with a view to destroy the confidence which the army and community might have had in my political principles;—and which have lately been republished with greater avidity and perseverance than ever, by Mr. Bache to answer the same nefarious purpose with the latter.—
I suffered every attack that was made upon my Executive Conduct (the one just mentioned among the rest) to pass unnoticed while I remained in public office, well knowing that if the general tenor of it wou’d not stand the test of investigation, a newspaper vindication would be of little avail.—but as immense pains has been taken by this said Mr. Bache who is no more than the agent or tool of those who are endeavoring to destroy the confidence of the people, in the officers of Government (chosen by themselves) to disseminate these counterfeit letters, I conceived it a justice due to my own character, and to posterity to disavow them in explicit Terms, and this I did in a letter directed to the Secretary of State, to be filed in his office the day on which I closed my Administration.—This letter has since been published in the Gazettes by the head of that Department.
With respect to your own request I can say nothing. So many things are continually given to the public of which I have no previous knowledge nor time indeed to inspect them if I had been therewith informed—that I may mistake the meaning of it.—the late Secretary of State (now Vice President) permitted a Mr. Carey1 my consent being first obtained to take copies under his inspection of the letters I had written to Congress, which letters have since been published and are I presume genuine and must be those which you refer to—But as they are the work of another who is now in England on this business, I cannot suppose that you had it in contemplation to derive a benefit from his labors—I shall only add therefore that discretion in matters of this sort must be your guide without a yea or nay from me.—
For Politics I shall refer you to the Gazettes of this Country with which I presume you are acquainted, and with respect to other matters I have nothing which would be entertaining or worth narrating.
Mrs. Washington unites with me in best wishes for the health and happiness of yourself and Mrs. Gordon—and I am with esteem and respect—Revd. Sir, &c.
TO JOHN LANGHORNE.
Mount Vernon, 15 October, 1797.
Your favor of the 25th ultimo has been received, but not so soon as might have been expected from the date of it. For the favorable sentiments you have been pleased to express, relative to my conduct in public life, I thank you. For the divisions which have taken place among us, with respect to our political concerns, for the attacks which have been made upon those, to whom the administration of the government has been intrusted by the people, and for the calumnies which are levelled at all those, who are disposed to support the measures thereof, I feel, on public account, as much as any man can do, because in my opinion much evil and no good can result to this country from such conduct.
So far as these attacks are aimed at me personally, it is, I can assure you, Sir, a misconception, if it be supposed I feel the venom of the darts. Within me I have a consolation, which proves an antidote against their utmost malignity, rendering my mind in the retirement I have long panted after perfectly tranquil. I am, &c.1
TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON.
Mount Vernon, 3 November, 1797.
My dear Sir:
Your letter of the 30th ult. was received by the last Post.
Your aunt’s distresses for want of a good housekeeper are such as to render the wages demanded by Mrs. Forbes (though unusually high) of no consideration; and we must, though very reluctantly, yield to the time she requires to prepare for her fixture here. We wish however that it might be shortened.
If you are in habits of free communication with Mr. Brooke or with others who had opportunities of judging completely of the qualifications and conduct of Mrs. Forbes as a housekeeper, I would thank you for ascertaining and giving it to me in as precise a manner as you can obtain it. Among other things it would be satisfactory to know—
What countrywoman she is?
Whether Widow or Wife? if the latter
Where her husband is?
What family she has?
What her age is?
Of what temper?
Whether active and spirited in the execution of her business?
Whether sober and honest?
Whether much knowledge in Cookery, and understands ordering and setting out a table?
What her appearance is?
With other matters which may occur to you to ask,—and necessary for me to know.
Mrs. Forbes will have a warm, decent and comfortable room to herself, to lodge in, and will eat of the victuals of our Table, but not set at it, at any time with us, be her appearance what it may; for if this was once admitted, no line satisfactory to either party, perhaps, could be drawn thereafter.—It might be well for me to know however whether this was admitted at Govr. Brooke’s or not.
Is it practicable do you think to get a good and well-disposed negro cook on hire, or purchase?1 Mention this want of ours to Mrs Forbes. She from the interest she would have therein might make enquiry.—Yours always and affectionate.
P. S. Since writing the foregoing Mrs. L. Washington informs me that Mr. Swan is anxious to learn from the Returns, or Records in the General Court,—or from the best information you can obtain, whether it has been the invariable practice to survey the Land docked by a writ of Ad quod damnum—whether it has frequently been dispensed with—and what has been the consequence.—Let me thank you for making this enquiry and furnishing me with the result of it.
TO JOHN MARSHALL.
Mount Vernon, 4 December, 1797.
Your very interesting and obliging favor of the 15th of September from the Hague came duly to hand, and I thank you sincerely for the important details, with which it is fraught, and pray for the continuation of them.
I congratulate you too on your safe arrival from shipboard, and, as the newspapers tell us, at Paris;1 and I wish in a little while hence I may have it in my power to do the same on the favorable conclusion of your embassy, and happy return to your family and friends in this country. To predict the contrary might be as unjust, as it would be impolitic, and therefore mum—on that topic. Be the issue, however, what it may, three things I shall be perfectly satisfied of; and these are, that nothing which justice, sound reasoning, and fair representation would require, will be wanting to render it just and honorable; and, if it is not so, that the eyes of all in this country, who are not wilfully blind and resolved to remain so (some from one motive and some from another), will be fully opened; and, lastly, that if the French Directory proceed on the supposition, that the parties in these United States are nearly equal, and that one of them would advocate their measures in the dernier resort, they will greatly deceive themselves. For the mass of our citizens require no more than to understand a question to decide it properly, and an adverse conclusion of the negotiation will effect this. Indeed, I believe it may be said with truth, that a very great change in the public mind has taken place already. The leaders, it is true, attempt to keep up the ball, which is evidently declining; but as both Houses of Congress have formed quorums, and received the President’s speech, the response of the representative branch will be some criterion by which this opinion of mine may be tried, though not a conclusive one.
The situation of things in Holland is a good lesson or us, if we are disposed to profit by it; but unfortunately the nature of man is such, that the experience of others is not attended to as it ought to be. We must feel, ourselves, before we can think or perceive the danger that threatens. But, as this letter, (after it quits the office of the Secretary of State, to whose care I shall send it,) may pass through many hands, I shall dwell very little on European politics. It is laughable enough, however, to behold those men amongst us, who were reprobating in the severest terms, and sounding the tocsin upon every occasion, that a wild imagination could torture into a stretch of power or unconstitutionality in the executive of the United States, all of a sudden become the warm advocates of those high-handed measures of the French Directory, which succeeded the arrestations on the 4th of September; and this, too, without denying that the barriers of the constitution, under which they acted, have been overleaped, but that they have done it on the ground of tender mercy and an unwillingness to shed blood. But so it always has been, and I presume ever will be with men, who are governed more by passion and party views, than by the dictates of justice, temperance, and sound policy.1 If there were good grounds to suspect, that the proscribed and banished characters were engaged in a conspiracy against the constitution of the people’s choice, to seize them even in an irregular manner might be justified upon the ground of expediency and of self-preservation; but, after they were secured and amenable to the laws, to condemn them without a hearing, and consign them to punishment more rigorous perhaps than death, is the summit of despotism.2
A very severe winter has commenced since the first of November, we have hardly experienced a moderate day; heavy rains following severe frosts have done more damage to the winter grain now growing than I recollect ever to have seen—at this moment and for several days past all the Creeks and small Waters are hard bound with ice—and if the navigation of the River is not entirely stoped is yet very much impeded by it. The crops of Indian Corn in the lower parts of the State, have been uncommonly great: midway of it tolerably good; but under the mountains and above them, extremely bad—with partial exceptions—The Wheat in Crop and in quantity turned out better than was expected; in quality remarkable fine: the white and early wheat weighing from 60 to 64lb. pr. bushel.
Young Lafayette, too fondly led by his eagerness to embrace his parents and sisters, in the first moments of their releasement from prison, and unintentionally deceived by premature accounts from his friends at Hamburg, that this event had actually taken place, embarked for this purpose on the 26th of October at New York for Havre de Grace. Since which, official accounts have been received of the terms on which his liberation was granted by the Emperor, the meeting in Europe is become problematical; a circumstance, should it happen, which will be sorely regretted on both sides. I said all I could to induce him to wait here until he should receive direct advice from his father; but his impatience, on the one hand, and his confidence in the information he had received, that his parents were on their way to Paris, on the other, his apprehensions from a winter’s passage, and belief that he should not be illy received in France, even if they were not there, turned the scale against my opinion and advice, that he should postpone his departure until he heard from him or one of the family.
With very great esteem and regard, I remain, dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]Probably the pamphlet, which has just been issued in Philadelphia, entitled “Notes addressées par le Citoyen Adet, Ministre Plénipotentiare de la République Française près les États-Unis d’Amérique, au Secrétaire d’État des États-Unis.” This pamphlet was printed in French, with a translation facing each page, the whole extending to ninety-five pages.
[1 ]This letter from Thomas Paine was one of the many unnecessary follies of which he was guilty. When in England he received the title of “citizen” from France, along with Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and a number of others. He accepted the title of citoyen effusively, and was elected a member of the National Convention. He was a member of that nondescript body through all its many changes, was on the constitutional committee, received pay as a delegate, signed himself concitoyen, and voted even on the question of the king’s execution. Becoming obnoxious to Robespierre, he was thrown into prison on the charge of being an Englishman, and plotting against France, and he was fortunate in escaping the fate of his colleagues—the Girondists. He conceived that Washington should interfere in his behalf; but such a conception of the functions of the President was as novel as it was remarkable. Morris was unable to secure his release, and it was not until the death of Robespierre that he was freed, and went to live with Monroe. Under the roof of that minister he wrote his famous letter to Washington, of which one sentence read: “As to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship (for so you have been to me, and that in the day of danger) and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide, whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.”
[1 ]A new edition of the spurious letters had lately made its appearance with the following title. “Epistles Domestic, Confidential, and Official, from General Washington; written about the Commencement of the American Contest, when he entered on the Command of the Army of the United States. New York, printed by G. Robinson and J. Bull. London, reprinted by F. H. Rivington, No. 62, St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1796.” To swell the volume into a respectable size, and to give the whole an air of genuineness, several important public despatches were added, which actually passed between General Washington and British commanders in America, and also a selection from addresses, orders and instructions. In this guise the work had an insidious aim, being intended to injure the reputation of Washington and weaken the influence of his character. This edition was sent out shortly after the two volumes of Washington’s Official Letters to Congress, which had been copied by permission in the office of the Secretary of State, carried to London by Mr. John Carey, and published there under his direction in the year 1795. This circumstance was made use of as an additional cover to the deception of the forged epistles, as will be seen by the following extract from the preface to the volume in which they were now introduced anew to the public.
[1 ]M. de Neufville, of Holland, had rendered important political services to the United States, in promoting loans in that country, and in various pecuniary transactions. By reason of these services his affairs became embarrassed, and he died leaving his family in distressed circumstances. His widow came to the United States, with the view of petitioning Congress for relief, and Mr. Hamilton wrote to the President on the subject of her claim. “I do not know,” said he, “what the case admits of; but, from some papers which she showed me, it would seem that she has pretensions to the kindness of this country.”
[1 ]“Our merchants here are becoming very uneasy on the subject of the French captures and seizures. They are certainly very perplexing and alarming, and present an evil of a magnitude to be intolerable, if not shortly remedied. My anxiety to preserve peace with France is known to you; and it must be the wish of every prudent man, that no honorable expedient for avoiding a rupture be omitted. Yet there are bounds to all things. This country cannot see its trade an absolute prey to France, without resistance. We seem to be where we were with Great Britain, when Mr. Jay was sent there; and I cannot discern but that the spirit of the policy, then pursued with regard to England, will be the proper one now in respect to France, namely, a solemn and final appeal to the justice and interest of France, and, if this will not do, measures of self-defence. Any thing is better than absolute humiliation. France has already gone much further than Great Britain ever did. I give vent to my impressions on this subject, though I am persuaded the train of your own reflections cannot materially vary.”—Hamilton to Washington, 19 January, 1797.
[1 ]The time had now arrived, when Washington was to resign his public station, and retire to private life. In February the votes had been counted in Congress for his successor, and it was found that John Adams was elected President, and Thomas Jefferson Vice-President.
[1 ]The refusal of the Directory to receive Pinckney as minister. He reached Paris on December 5th and on the 12th presented his credentials. Formal notification was received a few days later that no minister could be received from the United States, and this act was attributed to a belief that Monroe had been superseded for his kindly feeling to France. On December 30th a public audience of leave was given to Monroe, at which the general feeling was strongly shown, and by February Pinckney had been told to leave the country. This refusal, with the attending “circumstances of indignity,” was known in America late in March, and induced the President to issue a proclamation, 25 March, 1797, convening Congress in May.
[1 ]The following extract is from a Baltimore paper, dated March 13th.—“Last evening arrived in this city, on his way to Mount Vernon, the illustrious object of veneration and gratitude, George Washington. His Excellency was accompanied by his lady and Miss Custis, and by the son of the unfortunate Lafayette and his perceptor. At a distance from the city, he was met by a crowd of citizens, on horse and foot, who thronged the road to greet him, and by a detachment from Captain Hollingsworth’s troop, who escorted him in through as great a concourse of people as Baltimore ever witnessed. On alighting at the Fountain Inn, the General was saluted with reiterated and thundering huzzas from the spectators. His Excellency, with the companions of his journey, leaves town we understand this morning.”
[1 ]Memoirs of Major-General Heath, containing Anecdotes, Details of Skirmishes, Battles, and other Military Events During the American War.
[1 ]President Adams had summoned a special meeting of Congress, chiefly on account of the state of affairs between the United States and France. On the 31st of May he nominated to the Senate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Francis Dana, and John Marshall, to be jointly and severally envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary to the French Republic. The object of the mission, as stated by the President, was, to “dissipate umbrages, remove prejudices, rectify errors, and adjust all differences, by a treaty between the two powers.” Mr. Dana declined the appointment, and Elbridge Gerry was appointed in his place.
[1 ]“I had some hopes that the late conduct of our great and magnanimous allies would have produced but one sentiment in the Representatives of the people. I could not be otherwise than disappointed therefore (in a degree, for there are some, I fear, who under all circumstances are resolved to support their measures) at the opposition by so great a minority to the reported address. But so it has been; and, so it will be—whilst men are actuated by different motives and views. It is to be hoped, notwithstanding, that even those who are so tenacious of the honor, dignity, and interest of our good friends, will not be averse from guarding against their enmity by the adoption of such means as will enable the Executive to defend the country, against a continuation of the outrages it has sustained on our commerce.—This being the most effective if not the only means to obtain their friendship, or forbearance.—If justice is lacking we ought to render it,—on the other hand let our rights be claimed, and maintain’d with a dignified firmness.—No just offence can be taken at this, by France whilst it must be approved by all the rest of the world.”—Washington to Pickering, 12th June, 1797.
[1 ]Miss Bulkly.
[1 ]A letter from William Blount, a Senator from Tennessee, to James Carey, the government interpreter of the Creeks and Cherokees, had been disclosed in July, 1797, and was interpreted as a plan for exciting Indian hostilities upon an extensive scale. It was made the basis of proceedings against Blount by Congress, the charge in substance being that he “did conspire to set on foot a military hostile expedition against the Floridas and Louisiana,” for the purpose of conquering them from Spain and for Great Britain. He was expelled from the Senate, but an impeachment failed.
[1 ]The letter is incomplete.
[1 ]George W. Lafayette, and M. Frestel sailed from New York for France on the 26th of October.
[1 ]John Carey. See Ford, Spurious Letters Attributed to Washington, 16.
[1 ]The name placed at the head of this letter was fictitious. A person, signing himself “John Langhorne,” had written to General Washington, with the insidious design of drawing from him remarks and opinions on political subjects, which might be turned to his injury, and promote the aims of a party. The fraud was detected by Mr. John Nicholas, who ascertained accidentally that a letter from General Washington was in the post-office at Charlottesville, in Albemarle County, directed to John Langhorne (a name unknown in that neighborhood), and that it was sent for by a person whose political connexions and sentiments were in harmony with the party which had opposed the measures of Washington.
[1 ]“The running off of my cook has been a most inconvenient thing to this family, and what rendered it more disagreeable, in that I had resolved never to become the Master of another slave by purchase, but this resolution I fear I must break. I have endeavored to hire, black or white, but am not yet supplied.”—Washington to George Lewis, 13 November, 1797.
[1 ]As one of the envoys from the United States, in conjunction with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Elbridge Gerry.
[1 ]“I hope the calm with which this session of Congress has commenced will not be succeeded by a storm. I shall confess, however, that my expectations fall far short of my hopes on this occasion. Tranquillity will not continue to the end of it, nor can harmony be looked for while the same men who were sounding the tocsin at every thing that a wild imagination could construe into even a tendency to stretch the power of government here, are advocating the most outrageous violations of it elsewhere. But no conduct is too absurd or inconsistent for some men to give in to.”—Washington to Timothy Pickering, 11 December, 1797.
[2 ]“What their reception [Marshall, Pinckney, and Gerry] has been, and what may be the issue of the negotiation with which they are charged is not for me to pronounce. The late revolution, however, at that place, will not introduce them under the most favorable auspices in my opinion; but this event, like all other acts of the French government, is extolled by men amongst us as a master piece of vigilance, wisdom and patriotism. The means used to effect this are not overlooked, but applauded. Of course the Constitution, like Treaties, are not obligatory when they become inconvenient.”—Washington to William Vans Murray, 3 December, 1797.