George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Peterson & Taylor, 5 January 1788

To Peterson & Taylor

Mount Vernon January 5th 1788.


When I wrote to you last upon the subject of furnishing me with scantling, Plank &c. agreeable to the enclosed bill1 we could not come to any determination with respect to the matter, because the price of herrings, in which I proposed to make payment, could not be fixed. I now make the following proposal, viz.—I will allow you 6/ per Hundred for the scantling, reduced measure, 6/ per Hundred for the inch plank & 7/6 pe[r] do for inch and quarter do—As I understand you will want a large quantity of herrings in the fishing season—you shall give a preference to my landing for a supply provided a price can, at that time, be agreed upon between us; if it cannot, I will pay you for the scantling &c. in Cash after the fishing season is over as I have allotted the fish, or the money arising from the sale of them to supply me with the enclosed bill of scantling. The scantling must be furnished & delivered at my Landing by or before the first of march as I must have the frame &c. prepared before the season for cutting Grass comes on whe[n] my Carpenters will then be obliged to go into the field.

If you acceed to the above proposal and will supply the scantling at the time mentioned you will write me a line by the bearer that will put the matter upon a certainty.2 I am Gentlemen Yr Most Obedt Sert

G. Washington

P.S. If you cannot furnish the scantling so soon as mentioned above you will be so good as to let me know the earliest period in which you can supply it.


1Below the letter the clerk has transcribed: “A Bill of Scantling; and Plank to be provided by Messrs Peterson & Co. for and on acct of the subscriber, to be of the dimensions and exactly agreeable to the following directions.

 feet  inches
170 Sleepers 14 long 10 by 4
195 Joists 16 d[itt]o  8 by 4
  6 Plates 30 do  9 by 6
  6 d[itt]o 15 do  9 by 6
  2 do 30 do  8 by 6
  8 do 24 do  8 by 6
160 Rafters
6 inches at bottom &
4½ at top by 3 inches
20 do
 40 Rafters 12½ ft long
6 & 4½ by 3

This Scantling cannot be furnished too soon—at any rate it will be wanted in the month of March—Feby would be preferred—infinitly

 feet  inches
40 Window beams 16 long 4 by 3
20 do 11 do 4 by 3
31 Studs 10 do 6 by 4
16 do 11 do 4 by 3
 8 Rails 15 do 6 by 4

Note; The whole of the above must be surved⟨,⟩ and good of its kind—Pine—or it will not answer my purpose—10,000 feet of Inch plank (as much of it as possible to be seasoned, and wide as it can conveniently be obtained—2,000 feet of Inch and quarter &c. seasoned—if to be had and wide also.” GW’s letter has not been found, but see Peterson & Taylor to GW, 11 Dec. 1787.

2After the exchanges of these letters during the next few days, GW reached a final agreement on 9 Jan. with the Alexandria firm Peterson & Taylor. Peterson & Taylor replied to GW’s letter of 5 Jan. on the same day: “yours of this day came duly to hand with its Bill of Scantling & plank, therein enclosed. the prices you mention for the Same, and in the manner in Which payment to be made, we therefore, acceed to your, Terms. the Scantling you wish to have delivd by the first of March, but from the presan[t] appearance of the Winter, we cannott Say we can comply with the delivery at that time, however So far there is one of our Vessales that will Leave this town for the Eastern Shore on tuesday next the weather permitting and you may rest assured the Bill Shall be Strictly Attended too and be Sawed as Soon after it reaches our Mr Taylor, now in Maryland, as possible any further Obligation in this matter on account of the Severity of the Weather we would not want to enter into—the Inch & Inch & ¼ plank we belive will be green but they Shall be good, as will the Scantling also, if you Should think favourable of the Above, please to inform by Monday Evening that the Bill may be sent to be complyed with” (DLC:GW).

Two days later GW wrote from Mount Vernon: “Gentln I have recd your letter of the 5th inst. wherein you mention your compliance with the terms proposed so far as to furnish the Scantling, but leave the time for the delivery of it undetermined; this will wholly set aside the object which I had in view in wishing to contract with you to supply me with the bill sent you on Saturday—for I have not the smallest doubt of being able to furnish myself with Scantling upon lower terms than I have proposed to you provided the time which I have allotted to have it framed would permit me to take the chance of procuring it from the Vessels which pass from the Eastern Shore up to Alexandria (or if I could convey a letter seasonably to a Mr Joseph DeShields [Dashiell] of Maryland) who as I have been informed by Gentlemen of veracity that it has been and can generally be bought for 12/ per hundred measured side and edge which makes a difference of near 25 per Cent less than what I have engaged to give you. You therefore see, Sir, that my object in contracting with you is that I may depend upon its being delivered at a particular time and not subject myself to the hazard of not procuring it in time for my people to frame it before the season for cutting grass and Harvest come on—I am very willing to make any reasonable allowance for delays occasioned by weather or the River being blocked up, but still I cannot consent to leave the time of delivering it wholly unfixed. and would thank you to let me know. I am &c. G. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW).

GW received a reply later on that day, 7 Jan: “we receved your Letter of above date, and observe, you are desirous of haveing a time fixed upon for the Lumber being delivd agreable to the Bill Furnished—it is therefore to our Interest to have the Same delivd as soon as possible, and have no doubt but you will make allowances for delays occationed by Weather. we will agree to deliver in All, March Casualities Excepted, if that time should meet your Approbation, we will proceed to the Complyance thereof” (DLC:GW).

On 9 Jan. GW sealed the bargain: “Gentn Your letter of the 7th inst. came duly to hand. I accede to the proposal therein made, for you to have the Scantling and plank delivered at my landing, agreeable to the bill sent you, in all the month of March—as you say it will be for your interest to deliver it sooner if possible—it will be infinitely more pleasing to me to have it done. You will please to have it dilivered at my fishing landing near the ferry, as it will be more convenient for me there than at any other place. I expect the scantling will be of a good quality agreeable to promise, and if any of the plank can be had seasoned, particularly the Inch and quarter, it will be very disireable—I am Gentn Yr Most Obedt Hble Sert G. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW).

Peterson & Taylor wrote on 13 Feb. to say that the company would not be able to make delivery in March. The scantling and planks were delivered in April, but it was not until July that GW made a final settlement. See Peterson and Taylor to GW, 18 April, 14 July, and notes in both documents.

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