George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Cary & Co., 1 May 1759

To Robert Cary & Company

Williamsburg May 1. 1759.


The Inclosd is the Ministers Certificate of my Marriage with Mrs Martha Custis—properly as I am told—Authenticated,1 you will therefore for the future please to address all your Letters which relate to the Affairs of the late Danl Parke Custis Esqr. to me. as by Marriage I am entitled to a third part of that Estate, and Invested likewise with the care of the other two thirds by a Decree of our Genl Court which I obtaind in order to Strengthen the Power I before had in consequence of my Wifes Administration.2

I have many Letters of yours in my possession unanswerd,3 but at present this serves only to advise you of the above Change and at the sametime to acquaint you that I shall continue to make you the same Consignments of Tobo as usual, and will endeavour to encrease it in proportion as I find myself and the Estate benefitted thereby.

The Scarcity of the last Years Crop; and the high prices of Tobo consequent thereupon woud in any other Case, have inducd me to sell the Estates Crop (which indeed is only 16 Hhds) in the Country but for a present, & I hope small advantage only I did not care to break the Chain of Corrispondance that has so long Subsisted, and therefore have, according to your desire, given Captn Talman an offer of the whole.4

On the other side is an Invoice of some Goods which I beg of you to send me by the first Ship bound either to Potomack or Rappahannock, as I am in immediate want of them, Let them be Insurd, and in case of accidents reshipd witht Delay. Direct for me at Mount Vernon Potomack River Virginia; the former is the name of my Seat the other the River on which ’tis Situated. I am Gentn Yr Most Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

LB, in GW’s hand, DLC:GW.

Robert Cary & Co., a large London firm deeply involved in the Virginia trade, had long been one of the principal agents for handling the Custis family’s business affairs in London, receiving regular consignments of tobacco from Custis plantations and shipping, most recently to Martha Custis, British goods and supplies that the family required. As he indicates in this letter, GW intended to continue the connection with the Cary house. In fact, he not only continued to send most of the Custis tobacco to Cary and to order the needed goods from them, he also began consigning much of his own Potomac tobacco to Cary and to order from them goods and supplies for Mount Vernon. Only very few copies of the letters that Robert Cary & Co. regularly wrote to GW in the decade and a half before the American Revolution have been found; but GW kept in his business letter-book copies of (1) his letters to Cary & Co., (2) his orders for goods that he enclosed in the letters, and (3) the invoices for the goods shipped by Cary. GW kept separate his orders for his wife’s children, Martha Parke Custis and John Parke Custis, and for the Custis plantations owned by the boy; and Cary & Co. sent separate invoices for goods charged to the accounts of the two children. Beginning in 1760 after the dower plantations were assigned to GW, he always indicated which tobacco was to be credited to his account and which to John Parke Custis’s. Only those orders to Cary for goods and supplies that GW made for himself and his wife and for his Mount Vernon, not his dower, plantations, are printed in full in this volume, and similarly, only the invoices charged to his own account are printed here. The same holds true for the orders that he placed with other British merchants, such as James Gildart and Capel & Osgood Hanbury. GW’s Guardian Accounts will be printed for each year from 1762 through 1773, and extensive use of the invoices for the purchase of goods for John Parke Custis’s plantations will be made for documenting these accounts.

1The certificate of GW’s marriage to Martha Dandridge Custis has not been found.

3The unanswered letters from Robert Cary & Co. to Martha Custis that GW had before him probably included those dated 1 and 2 Mar., 17 July, and 30 Nov. 1758 (ViHi: Custis Papers). Mrs. Custis wrote Robert Cary & Co. on 20 Aug. 1757 of her husband’s death and wrote at least three times more before her marriage to GW in January 1759: on 20 Dec. 1757, 30 April 1758, and 1 June 1758 (ibid.). Her undated order of goods for 1758 to Cary is also in the Custis Papers. Her letter to Cary of 1 June 1758 has not been found.

4Capt. Henry Talman was master of the ship Cary, a French prize owned by Wakelin Welch & Company. Welch was a partner in Robert Cary & Company. Martha Custis shipped in 1758 thirty-six hogsheads of tobacco to Robert Cary & Co., seventeen to Capel & Osgood Hanbury also in London, and twenty-one to James Gildart in Liverpool.

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