George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Mason, 13 September 1756

From George Mason

Dogues Neck Sept. 13th 1756

Dr Sir

Your Favour of the 29th Augt did not come to my Hands till yesterday: as I did not see the Messenger who brought it, who I understood call’d at my Building on his Way to Fredericksburg,1 I shall keep this, a Day or two, to see if he will call for an Answer as he returns from thence; if he does not, I shall send it to Mount Vernon, & beg the favr of Yr Brother to convey it by the first Safe Hand to Winchester.

By the inclosed List You will be able to judge whether We can furnish such Goods as will be necessary for our Friends the Catawba & Cherokee Indians.2

The principal Articles wanting are Kettles & strip’d Duffeilds;3 I much doubt whether they can be got on this side philadelphia, & perhaps not there; as the Indian-Trade has been at a Stand a good while.

The Goods are all ch[arge]d at the genuine f[ir]st Cost per Shop Notes; upon which, I think, We can’t afford to take less than 100 per Ct Virga Cury—which I hope will not be thought unreasonable; considering the Height of Freight & Insurance, & the high Exchange We shall be obliged to pay in papr Cury for Bills to make a Remittance4—I hope I shall not have any thing to do with the C[ounci]l, or C[om]m[itt]ee for tho’ I have no Objection to any of the Gentlemen in their private, yet they are the last people in the World I shou’d chuse to have any Concern with in their public Capacity! An uncontroulable power of delaying, altering, or rejecting the Accts of private persons, for Articles furnishd, or Services done, by their own Orders, is a very discouraging Circumstance; ’tis a power which I dare say none of the Governments Officers in England wou’d offer to assume, & I am mistaken if the frequent Exercise of it here has not been highly detrimental to the public, as well as greatly injurious to many private people!

My Friend Capt. Mercer5 gave Me Reason to flatter myself with the Thoughts of having your Company in Dogues Neck some time this Month; but I am afraid, if you wait the Arrival of the Warriours of the South, I shall not have the pleasure of seeing You a long time. We have been often made to expect great Matters from these Cherokees; & yet I stedfastly believe they have no Thoughts of giving themselves any further Trouble than to get what they can from us, by amusing us with fair promises!

I very sincerely wish You Health, Success, & every Felicity & am Dr Sir Yr most obdt Humble Servt

G. Mason

ALS, MH: Jared Sparks Collection. The letter is endorsed: “Inclosing a list of Indian Goods.”

1GW’s letter has not been found, but Robert Dinwiddie had advised GW on 20 Aug. 1756 to write to Mason “to know if he has any Guns fit for Inds.,” and GW wrote Dinwiddie on 8 Sept. that he had “not yet heard from Colonel Mason.” Mason’s “Building” was probably Gunston Hall, under construction at this time.

2The two-page list in George Mason’s hand and entitled: “List of Indian Goods at Rock Creek belonging to the Ohio Company,” is in DLC:GW, filed at the end of December 1756. Among the items listed “wth the prices at first Cost in London” are “Emboss’d Flanneles,” “printed Callicoes gay Colours,” “Ribbons—different Colours,” “strip’d & scarlet worsted Caps,” “Mens beav[ere]d Caroline Hats,” “Vermillion,” “Buck horn handled Cutlusses,” “pipe Tom-hawks,” “fine Indian Awl Blades,” “plain brass Rings,” “Neat Stone Ear-bobs set in Silver,” “brass Jews-harps,” “Morrice Bells,” “Looking-glasses, plate Glass,” “Barley Corn Beads black & white,” and “Knives of all Sorts used in the Indian Trade.” Among the items no longer in stock were “stripd Duffeilds,” “Brass & tin Kettles,” “Gun-powder,” and “Gun flints.” There were some guns still available: “Abt 1 dozn Riphells 4. ft Barrells, best Iron—Bullitt Moulds to each” and “abt 1 dozn 4. ft square barrell’d Guns very small Bores—best Iron mounted & stock’d like Riphells, a Bullit Mould to each.” Mason also noted that there were at Mr. Chapman’s (probably Nathaniel Chapman, former Ohio Company treasurer) “abt 2 dozn fusee Guns proved Barrells a 14/—very good at the price, but rather larger Bores than those commonly used in the Indian Trade; they wou’d answer very well for a Bullit & Shot, & believe wou’d suit the Southern Indians; as I have been told they do not use a single Bullitt so much as the northern Indians.” Mason was undoubtedly acting here in his capacity as treasurer, or cashier, of the Ohio Company. For earlier references to obtaining ammunition from Mason, see George Mercer to John Carlyle, 10 Oct. 1755, and GW to Thomas Waggener, 8 Oct. 1755 (second letter).

3Duffel is a coarse woolen cloth with a thick nap.

4Mason was asking that he be paid £200 in Virginia currency for every £100 sterling that he was charged for the goods themselves (“first Cost”). The rate of exchange—125.00 in August and 132.50 in October—as well as the other charges he cites, greatly reduced the apparent margin of profit. For a discussion of a very similar arrangement with John Carlyle, see Carlyle to GW, 12 Jan. 1756, n.2.

5George Mercer was more than just a friend; he was George Mason’s first cousin. Mercer’s father, John Mercer of Marlborough, served as a legal guardian to the young Mason children after the tragic death of George Mason’s father in 1735.

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