George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Embree & Shotwell, 3 December 1787

To Embree & Shotwell

Mount Vernon Decr 3d 1787


Colo. Henry Lee (who called upon me as he returned home from New York)1 informed me that you dealt largely in grass seeds (saved in this Country)—that you sold none but what was good—and those on the most moderate terms.

Under this information I beg leave to ask the price of the following, and whether an opportunity could be depended upon for sending them by water to Alexandria before the month of March next.

Red Clover Seed
Timothy Do
Orchard grass Do

He told me that he had bought some of the first from you and he thinks at 4 dollars pr Bushl but not having the Bill at hand could not be positive. Imported Seeds or the Seeds of this Country if not of the last years growth I would not purchase. the first, unless brot in the Cabbin is always injured and the latter is not to be depended upon.2 Your answer to this letter by the Post will oblige Gentn Yr Most Obedt Sert

G. Washington


Embree & Shotwell (Lawrence Embree and William Shotwell) of 24 Queen Street, New York, specialized in the sale of grass seeds.

1On 7 Dec. Henry Lee, Jr., wrote to James Madison of his visit to Mount Vernon on 24–26 Nov.: “I saw Genl. Washington on my return, he continues firm as a rock” (Rutland and Hobson, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 10:295–96; see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:220).

2Embree & Shotwell replied from New York on 14 Dec: “Respected Friend Thy Esteemed Favour of 3d Inst. was duly Recd. We now have the pleasure of replying thereto, And wish it was in our power to give thee Assurances, of supplying thee with ⟨all⟩ the kinds of Grass Seeds thou mentions; but the Orchard Grass is not at present to be procured, and we are something doubtfull whether we shall be able to obtain any, timely to ship for Alexandria; As to Clover and Timothy, we are at present selling of the Growth of this Country; The former @ 10d. per lb. & the latter @ 22/ per Bushel, of unquestionable Quality. Imported Seeds we decline dealing in, they being so uncertain that we dare not recommend them. Should have but little doubts of meeting with a Conveyance for Alexandria, tho at present know of none. Should thou incline to Order any Seed, will thank thee for thy Instructions as early as Convenient” (DLC:GW).

After receiving this response GW wrote on 30 Dec. from Mount Vernon:“Gentn Your letter of the 14th came duly to hand. Colo. Lee either did not comprehend the price of your Seeds or I have misunderstood him for they are higher than I was led to conceive. However as I want seeds on which I can depend. I will, provided they can be got to me by the end of March at farthest and as much sooner as you please—take ten Bushels of red clover seed, and 8 Bushels of Timothy seed; both of the last years growth, clean and good.

”If in consideration of the quantity, and the prospect of my dealing with you every year for a large supply of these articles (if I find my interest in it)you should be disposed to lower the retale prices mentioned in your letter to me, it may prove Mutually advantage to you, (if the Seed is sent) to whom, or in what manner the cost of them shall be remitted.

“Be so good, upon the receipt of this letter as to inform me if there be a moral certainty of a supply from you in the abovementioned time for should I depend there on and be disapointed it will be very injurious to me as the whole is for my own sowing and the ground will be prepared for it. I am Gntn Yr Most Obedt & very Hble Servant G. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW).

GW acknowledged the arrival of the seed in a letter from Mount Vernon of 22 Feb. 1788: “Gentlemen, I have received your letter of the 28th Ulto enclosing an Invoice of the Seeds shipped on board the Sloop Molly Beverly on my account which have since safely arrived.

”The amount of your bill will be paid you by the House of Murray Mountford & Bowen at New York.

“The quality of the seeds cannot be determined till I have an opportunity of trying them, but let them turn out as they may, I dare say there has been nothing wanting on your part to procure those of the best quality for me. I am Gentlemen Yr Most Obedt Hble Servant Go. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). GW again bought seed from Embree & Shotwell in the winter of 1788–89 (see GW to Embree & Shotwell, 3 Oct., 26 Dec. 1788, 28 Jan., 15 Mar. 1789, Embree & Shotwell to GW, 17 Oct., 3 Dec. 1788, 19 Jan. 1789, and GW to William Shotwell, 7 April 1789). For GW’s payment to Embree & Shotwell through the New York firm of Murray, Mumford & Bowen for the seed that he received in February 1788, see GW to Embree & Shotwell, 3 Oct. 1788, and Embree & Shotwell to GW, 17 Oct. 1788, and note 1 of that document.

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