George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Vaughan, 4 November 1788

From Samuel Vaughan

Jamaica 4th November 1788

Dear Sir,

I have lately bought two proof Jack Asses for breeding Mules on the Pen,1 one of which tho small, cost two Years since 150£.

As Your Excellency has two Jack Asses, perhaps superiour to any out of old Spain, I would propose Your procuring fifty she Asses of the largest that can be had, to raise that Specia, as You would have purchasers come to your door for such superiority.2 Mr Tharp is going to send a ship to Marselles on purpose to endeavour to procure one or two, but I doubt his success.3

I recomend this not so much from lucrative motives, as from the unspeakable utility it would be to the West India Planters in general, who stand in great nead of many Mules, the chief supply of which have been purchased of the Spaniards at the price of 20£ & upwards—tho of an inferiour sort. Mr Wedderbourn, (who will wait upon Your Excellency, and who is Attorney for a great number of Sugar Estates[)], can give You full information of any thing relative to this Island.4

I hourly expect a number of She Asses from London for the above purpose. Should the English Asses be superiour to those on the Continent, if You write to Saml Vaughan and Son in London, the House will take a pleasure in-executing any Commands from Your Excellency.

I rejoice to hear the Congress are to meet the first Wednesday in March, at New York. The World looks up to You Sir, with anxious expectations of Your presiding there, to put a finishing hand to a Constitution for settling the unalienable Rights of the People on a lasting foundation, for promoting the united and durable happiness of a great Empire. I beg my respectful compliments to Mrs Washington, the Major & family,5 being with the utmost esteem respect & regard, Dear Sir, Your obedt & most hble Servt

Saml Vaughan


Samuel Vaughan (1720–1802), a London merchant who had vigorously supported the colonies during the Revolution, immigrated to Philadelphia in 1783 with members of his family. He established a mercantile business with his son John and was involved in the city’s elaborate plans for postwar landscaping. In 1785 Vaughan sent GW the marble chimneypiece he installed in the New Room at Mount Vernon and offered further help in supplying workmen for construction (GW to Samuel Vaughan, 6 April 1784, GW to Benjamin Vaughan, 5 Feb. 1785). In late 1787 Samuel Vaughan sailed for Jamaica to visit his estates on the island. By 1789 he was back in the United States, and in 1790 he returned permanently to England. For Vaughan’s attempt to secure a federal appointment for his son, Samuel Vaughan, Jr., see GW to Vaughan, 21 Mar. 1789.

1In Jamaica the term pen referred to a farm or plantation, often one used for breeding domestic animals.

2In the early 1780s GW became interested in acquiring a Spanish jackass for breeding purposes. Charles III of Spain, learning that Richard Harrison of Cadiz was negotiating for a Spanish jack for GW, “ordered two of the very best to be procured & sent you as a mark of his respect” (Jefferson to GW, 10 Dec. 1784). One of the jacks died at sea, but the other, under the care of a Spanish keeper, arrived at Mount Vernon in December 1785. GW named the jack Royal Gift, but it at first appeared that his plans for the jack’s breeding capabilities were premature. “I have my hopes,” GW wrote William Fitzhugh, “that when he becomes a little better acquainted with Republican enjoyments, he will amend his manners & fall into our custom of doing business” (15 May 1786). A second jack, called the Knight of Malta, was sent to GW in 1786 as a gift from Lafayette. Advertisements in Maryland and Virginia newspapers indicate that by the late 1780s both animals were being offered at stud. See Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser, 26 Mar. 1789.

3Tharp is probably John Tharp (1744–1804), who was born in Hanover Parish, Jamaica, and educated in England at Eton and Cambridge. John Tharp returned to Jamaica in the early 1760s. As one of Jamaica’s wealthiest planters and slaveholders, Tharp divided his time between his Good Hope estate in Trelawny Parish, Jamaica, his English country place in Cambridgeshire, and his London townhouse.

4Wedderburn is probably James, John, or Peter Wedderburn, three members of the Wedderburn family of Jamaica who often acted as attorneys for various Jamaican estates. The family also had holdings in the parishes of Westmoreland, Trelawny, and Hanover. For information on Tharp and Wedderburn, the editors are indebted to Ms. Anita Johnson of the National Library of Jamaica.

5George Augustine Washington (c.1758–1793), the eldest son of GW’s brother Charles, served as a major in the Continental army and as Lafayette’s aide during the Revolution. In 1785 he married Frances Bassett (1767-1796), the daughter of Martha Washington’s sister and brother-in-law, Anna Marie Dandridge Bassett and Col. Burwell Bassett of Eltham in New Kent County, Virginia. The young couple made their home with the Washingtons, and when GW departed for New York in April 1789, George Augustine was left in charge of Mount Vernon.

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