George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Cushing, 7 October 1785

From Thomas Cushing

Boston October, 7th 1785

Dear Sir

I have the pleasure to Acquaint you of the safe arrival of a very fine Jack Ass, which I have just received from Glocester, a Town in this State, It was Sent to me by Mr David Pea[r]ce a Merchant there, who writes me, it came in a Ship of his from Bilboa & that he was directed to send it to me in order to be forwarded to your Excellency, It was accompanied by a Spaniard, to whose special Care he was Committed untill delivered;1 All the Intelligence I have directly from Spain relative to this matter is contained in a Letter I have received from Wm Carmichael Esqr. dated Madrid, July 22 1785, Wherein he writes me, that “By the Vessell that conveys this Messrs Gardoqui mean to Send one of the Jack Asses presented by the King of Spain to our late Commander in Cheif and in Consequence I take the Liberty of repeating my request to you to forward this Animal by the mode you shall judge most expedient to the Southward. Messrs Gardoqui’s Correspondent at Beverly will have the Honor of sending you advise of the Arrival of the Vessell and at the same time Inclose you this Letter.” Thus far Mr Carmichael—as I received this Letter of Mr Carmichael, not from Messrs Gardoqui’s correspondent at Beverly, but by a Vessell that arrived at Glocester, I conclude another of these Animal’s has been shiped by a Vessell bound directly to Beverly & whose arrival may be hourly expected.2 I have taken care that the Spaniard and The Jack Ass should be well provided for, he is a fine Creature, just fifty Eight Inches high, & the largest that I beleive ever came into this Country,3 As he has been something Bruised upon the Passage by the frequent tossing of the Vessell, although no ways essentially hurt, I shall suspend sending him forward untill he is recruited or perhaps untill the arrival of the other and in the mean Time I should be glad to be favoured with your directions whether to Send them by Land or water, The sooner I have them the better, as it is said Cold Weather does not agree with these animals; It will naturally occur to you, Sir, that it will be very expensive to Send them by Land as I understand the Spaniards (who have the Care of them) are to Accompany them untill delivered to Your Excellency, and as they cannot Speak English must be furnished with an Interpreter and Guide, on the other hand it must be Considered that sending them by water, although it will be less expensive, yet it be attended with a greater Risque; Which ever way you please to have them sent I shall comply with your directions and you may depend, Sir, I shall in this Instance, as well at all other times, with great pleasure execute your Commands and cheerfully contribute all in my Power either to your Pleasure or Emolument.4 Mrs Cushing my Son & Daughter join with me in tendring their best regards to yourself & your Lady.5 I remain with great Esteem and respect Your Most Obedt humble servt

Thomas Cushing


Thomas Cushing (1725–1788) represented Boston in the Massachusetts General Court from 1761 and was speaker from 1766 until the colony’s charter was revoked in 1774. After the adoption of the Massachusetts constitution of 1780, Cushing was elected lieutenant governor, an office that he held until his death.

1GW had been anxiously awaiting word of the safe arrival of two jackasses since receiving William Carmichael’s letter of 3 Dec. 1784 from Madrid saying that the king of Spain was giving the hero of the American Revolution a pair of the animals. For a general description of the negotiations for the two jacks and of the safe passage of one of the two to Massachusetts and overland from there to Mount Vernon, see note 1 in Carmichael’s letter of 3 Dec. 1784. For the details of the shipment of the surviving jackass from Bilbao, Spain, to Gloucester, Mass., see David Pearce to GW, 6 Nov., n.1. The Gloucester merchant was named David Pearce, not Peace, and the Spaniard was Pedro Tellez.

2As Cushing suspected, Carmichael’s letter to him referred to the second jack, the one, as Cushing was soon to learn, that had died at sea. This notice appeared in the Salem Gazette (Mass.) on 25 Oct.: “Capt. Ashton, who arrived at Beverly, a few days ago, from Bilboa, brought out one of the four [two] Jack-Asses sent as a present from the King of Spain to General Washington; but the animal, notwithstanding the extraordinary precautions which were taken for insuring his health & safety, died on the passage.” In a letter of 3 Aug. 1785 John Gardoqui at Bilbao informed John and Andrew Cabot that he had “shipt on Board the Bearer hereof Capt. John Ashton of the Brigg Remmitance by directions from our very worthy freind Wm Carmichael Esqr. of Madrid a Jackass for Breed, which is to be presented in the name of H.C.M. to Generall Washington therefore as the Brig is bound to your port; we have to request the favour of your forwarding on receipt hereof the within leters to the Honble Thos Cushing Esqr. of Boston who will provide the method of the animals being conveyd to the Generall” (MHi: Nathan Dane Papers).

3The bill of lading, dated 8 Aug. 1785, referred to in note 1 of William Hartshorne & Co. to GW, 26 Nov., describes the animal being sent to David Pearce as “a he Jack ass fourty four Spanish Inches high.” On the back of the manifest, or bill of lading, Lund Washington wrote: “Captn Sullivan informs me 12 of our Inches make 13 Spanish—at same time says in some parts of the Country 12 of our Inches are equal to 14 Spanish—L. Washington.”

5Cushing was married to Deborah Fletcher Cushing (d. 1790). His son was Thomas Cushing, Jr. Cushing may have been referring to his unmarried daughter Margaret.

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