George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Gardner, 16 August 1779

From William Gardner

Portsmouth [N.H.] August 16th 1779.


In conformity to the direction of the Hon’ble Board of War, do now inclose your Excellency an Invoice of sundry Merchandize, forwarded under Care of Mister David Gardner, and address’d to the Clothier at Camp; to be dispos’d of as Your Excellency may please to order.1

I am also particularly directed to inform Your Excellency, that it’s the desire of the Hon’ble Board, you should reserve as much of the Tea & Spices, as you may think proper for your Family’s use; for which purpose, have pack’d them seperate from any other Goods, in Hogshead Number 46, as your Excellency will please to observe by the Invoice. Those Articles, (with others already forwarded to Springfield, & some on hand preparing to be sent) are part of the Continental Moiety of the Prizes taken by the Warren, Queen of France, & Ranger, and brought into this port:2 There were many valuable Woollens among them, which the Honorable Board directed me to receive & forward to Camp; but previous to the receipt of their Order, Mister Langdon (the Agent here for Prizes &c.) had deliver’d them all (coarse & fine) to the Order of the Navy Board for the Eastern Department; which circumstance, have already inform’d the Honorable Board.

The prices in Sterling, with the Advance at foot, are exactly as I received the Goods from the ‘foremention’d Agent. In the interim, with due Respect, I am, Your Excellency’s most Obedient & very Humble Servant.

Wm Gardner, Agt Clothr


William Gardner (c.1751–1834), a merchant of Portsmouth, N.H., was deputy clothier for the state of New Hampshire and deputy continental naval agent for New Hampshire, under naval agent John Langdon. In August 1778, Gardner served as an ensign in Langdon’s company of militia light horse sent to Rhode Island. After the war, Gardner continued to engage in mercantile business. He served as a selectman of Portsmouth from 1785 to 1787 and as treasurer of New Hampshire from 1789 to 1791. In December 1790, GW appointed Gardner commissioner of loans for New Hampshire (see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 2 Dec. 1790, and n.4 to that document in Papers, Presidential Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 17 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987—. description ends 7:19–20). President John Adams dismissed Gardner in 1798, apparently for political reasons, but he was restored to the office by Thomas Jefferson in March 1801 (see Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 33:219, 669, 672, 675). He apparently held the office until his resignation in July 1816.

1Gardner inclosed and signed an invoice, dated at Portsmouth, N.H., 16 Aug. 1779, “of sundry Merchandize forwarded by William Gardner to General Washingtons Head Quarters, under Care of Mister David Gardner, and goes address’d to the Continental Clothier there; by Order of the Hon’ble Board of War; on Accot & Risque of the United States” that listed various clothing materials, including different colors of broadcloth; breeches pieces; “brown Selesia”; “White Shirts”; various colors and types of hose, buckram, and nankeen; various types of buckles; and “Binding or Gartering,” as well as luxury clothing items such as knee garters, various patterns of gilt and plated buttons, vest buttons, gloves, handkerchiefs, cravats, “Silk plush,” “blue dresden Lustre,” and “all Materials for a Suit.” In addition, the invoice listed table service items—such as tablecloths, napkins (some listed with the note “will serve for the Indians”), and “Serving Silk”— and administrative items such as memorandum books, account books, receipt books, pocket books, ink powder, rulers, letter paper, and an ink stand. The array of goods also included penknives, various types of thread, razors and razor straps, and seven pewter canteens. All of the above were packed in one hogshead and valued at £176.8½. “Hogshead Number 46,” intended for the use of GW’s headquarters staff, contained the following items, valued at £134.14.8½: two chests of hyson tea, a bag of green tea, three bags of souchong tea, six pounds of spices (cinnamon, mace, and cloves), two “Portmanteau” trunks, and 2½ yards of “Oznabrigs [Osnaburg] for Bags.” Another hogshead contained 590 pounds of black pepper valued at £29.10.

At the end of the invoice, Gardner listed the total value of the articles as £340.12.9. He added as additional charges £33.06 for packing the goods in “3 light Casks,” an advance (for converting the total value in pounds sterling to currency at 3,900%) of £13,625.17.3, and a commission for Gardner of £341.9.5. GW took issue with the two latter charges (see GW to the Board of War, 11 Sept.).

At the end of the invoice, Gardner added the following note: “The Souchon Tea will fall short the weight Charg’d, and the Pepper will exceed; being so receiv’d by me from the Continental Agent here, (Mr Langdon) who says he receiv’d the same in like manner; on behalf of the Continent in a late Division of prize Goods” (DLC:GW).

For GW’s complaint to the Board of War regarding Gardner’s charges for commission and the excessive advance taken by John Langdon, see GW to the Board of War, 11 September. For the distribution of these goods, see GW to the Board of War and GW to David Brooks, both 22 September.

2For the capture of the eight British ships carrying these goods by the Continental frigates Warren and Queen of France and the ship Ranger, see William Heath to GW, 17 April and n.1 to that document; Heath to GW, 22 April; and General Orders, 26 April.

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