George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Clement Biddle, 17 August 1785

To Clement Biddle

Mount Vernon 17th Augt 1785

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 8th came safely by last Post1—I will, the first time I go to Alexandria, get an order from Colo. Hooe, Mr Hartshorne, or some other who has dealings in Philadelphia (for I have none, & know of no direct and safe opportunity of sending Money) to the amount of the Sum which you have lately paid on my Acct to Mr Boudinot.2

The inclosed is to Edward (I do not know his Surname) who formerly lived with Mr R. Morris, but now, I am informed, keeps the City Tavern, to see if he can be instrumental in procuring me a House keeper. I beg you to be so obliging as to direct, deliver, and consult him on the contents of the letter, which is left open for your perusal, & return me an answr as soon as possible.3

The Man who at present lives with me in the capacity of a Housekeeper (and is a very good one) is bound for the port of Matrimony, and will, after 4 or 5 Weeks which he has agreed to stay, leave me in a very disagreeable Situation if I cannot get supplied in the meanwhile—I give him £25 this Curry pr Ann. & a suit of Clothes which cannt be less than Seven pounds more—these, with the difference of Exchange, will be equal to abt £40 pensa Cury. This Sum I am willing to give to Man, or Woman (the former I would prefer) of good character, & really knowing and competent to my purposes.4

I have seen an Advertisement in some of the Philadelphia Papers of an Office for this kind of business, but however good it may be as a channel for enquiry I would not depend upon it, without other testimonials respecting the character & abilites of an applicant for the final adoption. Mrs Washington joins me in best wishes for yourself, and Mrs Biddle & family. I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Hble Ser<vt>

Go: Washington

P.S. Since writing the foregoing, I have met with, and now inclose you, a bank note for 30 dollars; which please to receive, and carry to my credit. Yr &c. G.W.

ALS, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence.

1Letter not found.

2See postscript.

3Edward Moyston formerly was steward in Robert Morris’s Office of Finance, and from 1779 to 1787 he kept the New Tavern (City Tavern or Smith’s Tavern) on Second Street in Philadelphia. See GW to Samuel Fraunces, 7 Sept. 1785, and Moyston to GW, 4 April 1787. GW’s enclosed letter to Moyston has not been found.

4In the spring of 1783, Mrs. Washington hired to become in May the housekeeper at Mount Vernon “a very Modest well behaved man” named Richard Burnet, who at the time was living with Benjamin Tasker Dulany and his wife Elizabeth Dulany, probably at Shuter’s Hill outside Alexandria (Lund Washington to GW, 12 Mar. 1783). Burnet proved to be a good cook and manager, and all went well for two years until he decided to marry, probably Ann Alton, daughter of GW’s old servant, John Alton (d. 1785; see Lund Washington to GW, 1 Oct. 1783, and GW’s account with Lund Washington, 1783–85, in Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 172–89). Burnet seems to have left GW’s employ after receiving his wages on 6 Sept. 1785 (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 189; see also GW to Samuel Fraunces, 7 Sept.). Thomas McCarty began work as housekeeper at Mount Vernon on 26 Sept. in place of Burnet (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:198). On 29 May 1786, however, GW recorded in his diary: “Found, when I was at Dogue Run that Richard Burnet and wife had been living in the House formerly [William] Barrys, since Wednesdy. last”; and on 12 Aug. he wrote: “Richard Burnet took his place on the wages of Thirty Pounds pr. ann.” (ibid., 337, 5:26). At the same time, August 1786, GW begins his account with “Richd B[urnet] Walker (Butler)” to serve as “House Steward & Butler @ £30 pr annm,” under which name Burnet continued at Mount Vernon until February 1789, shortly before GW left to assume the presidency (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 234, 252).

Two days before writing this letter, GW sent an advertisement to the printer: “The Subscriber wants a HOUSE-KEEPER, or, HOUSEHOLD STEWARD, who is competent to the charge of a large family, and attending on a good deal of company.—One who has been in the practice of these, and can produce testimonials of his (for a man would be preferred) or her abilities, sobriety, honesty and industry, will receive good wages and find a comfortable birth.—Without such testimonials it will be useless to apply. G. WASHINGTON” (Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser, 18 Aug.).

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