George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 29 October 1788]

Wednesday 29th. Thermometer at 42 in the Morning—53 at Noon and 50 at Night. Clear morning with a frost. Wind at No. West all day & cold.

Rid to all the Plantations. In the Neck—the hands were digging Potatoes but not being able to keep way before the plows, the latter went to breaking up field No. 8. Ordered the Pumpkins at this and all the other plantations to be taken up & secured as a severe frost might be expected.

The hands from the several places were at work as yesterday.

Took up the Mangel Wurzel, or Roots of Scarcity in the Inclosure below the Stable. Had those raised from the seeds sent me from Doctr. Rush (coming immediately from Doctr. Letsum) 48 in number—put by themselves; being of the grey or marble coloured sort. And those which approached nearly to this colour from the seed had from Mr. Peters was also put by themselves—both kinds to raise seed from for another year making together 2½ bushl. Those with red leaves, and leaves approaching nearly to this colour were laid aside for eating or giving to the Stock. The largest of these white leaved roots only weighed (after the leaves were taken of) 3 lbs. 6 oz. and altogether [ ] lbs. filling 6 bushels.

Colo. Symm on business respecting the Affairs of Colo. Geo. Mercer and his Mortgagees came here—dined, & returned afterwards.

John Coakley Lettsom (1744–1815) of London, a somewhat eccentric Quaker physician, corresponded with Benjamin Rush on a wide variety of subjects including, besides mangel-wurzel and medicine, the abolition of the slave trade, prison reform, and balloons. Born in the West Indies and educated at Edinburgh and Leyden, Lettsom enjoyed a large and lucrative medical practice in London, but expended much of his income on his elaborate suburban residence and various philanthropies. He was also the author of numerous medical, biographical, and philanthrophic works (RUSH description begins L. H. Butterfield, ed. Letters of Benjamin Rush. 2 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1951. description ends , 1:313, n.1). Marble-colored mangel-wurzel was considered to be the best variety (GW to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 27 Sept. 1788, DLC:GW).

On this date GW received, undoubtedly from Charles Simms, £7 18s. 5d., the balance due upon a bond from the estate of James Kirk of Alexandria. At the same time, he paid Simms for bringing suit for the bond and for entering an action against his neighbor Robert Alexander for a long-standing debt (LEDGER B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 275).

The deceased George Mercer’s affairs were no longer of much concern to GW. At the beginning of the War of Independence, GW had announced that he would cease acting as one of Mercer’s trustees, and in Nov. 1782 the general court ordered all bonds and other papers in GW’s hands relating to the 1774 sale of Mercer’s lands to be turned over to James Mercer. Nevertheless, an unsuccessful attempt was made about this time to involve GW in some of the continuing legal problems of George Mercer’s estate (“The Answer of George Washington to the Bill of Complaint exhibited against him by William Owens,” 15 Feb. 1789, ViU).

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