Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO — McDOWELL. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799)
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TO — McDOWELL. 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIV (1798-1799).
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TO — McDOWELL.1
Mount Vernon, 2 September, 1798.
Your favor of the 13th ultimo, with the accounts, came duly to hand, and I thank you for the trouble you have had in paying and taking receipts therefor. The small balance of £1 3. 5½ may, if you please, be given to Mr. Custis.
It was my intention to have written fully to you by the return of this young gentleman to college, but the debilitated state into which I have been thrown by a fever, with which I was seized on the 18th, and could procure no remission of until the 25th past, renders writing equally irksome and improper.
Were the case otherwise, I should, I confess, be at a loss to point out any precise course of study for Mr. Custis. My views, with respect to him, have already been made known to you, and, therefore, it is not necessary to repeat them on this occasion. It is not merely the best course for him to pursue that requires a consideration, but such an one as he can be induced to pursue, and will contribute to his improvement and the object in view. In directing the first of these objects, a gentleman of your literary discernment and knowledge of the world, would be at no loss, without any suggestions of mine, if there was as good a disposition to receive, as there are talents to acquire knowledge; but as there seems to be in this youth an unconquerable indolence of temper, and a dereliction, in fact to all study, it must rest with you to lead him in the best manner, and by the easiest modes you can devise, to the study of such useful acquirements as may be serviceable to himself, and eventually beneficial to his country.
French, from having become in a manner the universal language, I wish him to be master of, but I do not find from inquiry, that he has made much progress in the study yet. Some of the branches of mathematics, particularly surveying, he ought, possessor as he is of large landed property, to be well acquainted with, as he may have frequent occasion for the exercise of that study.
I have already exceeded the limit I had prescribed to myself when I began this letter, but I will trespass yet a little more, while I earnestly entreat that you will examine him, as often as you can make it convenient, yourself; and admonish him seriously of his omissions and defects; and prevent, as much as it can be done, without too rigid a restraint, a devotion of his time to visitations of the families in Annapolis; which, when carried to excess, or beyond a certain point, can not but tend to divert his mind from study, and lead his thoughts to very different objects. Above all, let me request, if you should perceive any appearance of his attaching himself, by visit or otherwise, to any young lady of that place, that you would admonish him against any such step, on account of his youth and incapability of appreciating all the requisites for a connection which, in the common course of things, can terminate with the death of one of the parties only; and, if done without effect, to advise me thereof. If, in his reading, he was to make common-place notes, as is usual, copy them fair and show them to you, two good purposes would be answered by it. You would see with what judgment they were done, and it might tend much to improve his handwriting, which requires nothing but care and attention to render it good. At present, all of his writing that I have seen is a hurried scrawl, as if to get to the end speedily, was the sole object of writing.
With sincere esteem and regard, I am, sir, your obedient.
P. S. Knowledge of book-keeping is essential to all who are under the necessity of keeping accounts.1
[1 ]President of St. John’s College, Annapolis.
[1 ]“The enclosed was written at the time of its date, and, with Mr. Custis, I expected would have left this the next morning for St. John’s college; but although he professed his readiness to do whatever was required of him, his unwillingness to return was too apparent to afford any hope that good would result from it in the prosecution of his studies. And, therefore, as I have now a gentleman living with me who has abilities adequate thereto, will have sufficient leisure to attend to it, and has promised to do so accordingly, I thought best, upon the whole, to keep him here.”—Washington to McDowell 16 September, 1798.