George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Canon, 25 June 1790

To John Canon

New-York, June 25th 1790.


Your letter of the 2. instant has reached my hands and in consequence thereof I have applied to Mr Scott for fifty pounds as you desired, who informs me that he did not expect a draught to exceed £15. or £20. and therefore had not made his arrangements for 50. however he says he will pay it if he can make it convenient.1

As the rents of my lands under your care were to be paid in wheat, and the demand for, and high price of that article having been very extraordinary the year past, I did not conceive there could have been any difficulty in making payments or in obtaining cash and a good price for the wheat after it was deposited in your hands, for I presume the payment is not commuted from wheat to cash at the customary price, when it would fetch more than double what it does in common years;2 This would be hardly doing justice to the Landlord, and I always wish for his, and the tenants’ interest to be reciprocal.

By a letter which I received from you before I left Mount Vernon,3 if I recollect the substance of it, the Tenants then upon my lands were to furnish a certain number of rails besides a stipulated quantity of wheat for their rent—and, from that circumstance I thought there might be but little deduction in future on that account—however, I find by your last letter that you expect a considerable portion of the rents will be deducted on that account for the present year—I should wish to have the matter of fences, repairs &ca finished and done away that I might know what net proceeds to calculate upon, which can never be done so long as these annual and uncertain deductions are to be made. I am Sir, with great regard, your most obedient servant

G. Washington


1No letter from Canon to GW of 2 June 1790 has been found. The “Mr Scott” referred to was probably Thomas Scott, a member of the House of Representatives from western Pennsylvania and the brother of James Scott, a tenant on GW’s tract on Millers Run in Washington County, Pennsylvania. GW had employed Canon as land agent for his Millers Run and Washington’s Bottom tracts since 1786 (see GW to John Canon, 26 Dec. 1788, source note). For a summary of the long history of GW’s land investments in Washington County, see Brice McGeehon to GW, 18 Oct. 1788, source note.

2It has been estimated that the wholesale price of grain in the Philadelphia market, which had been depressed since the end of the war, rose 31.9 percent between 1789 and 1790 (Bezanson, Wholesale Prices in Philadelphia, description begins Anne Bezanson et al. Wholesale Prices in Philadelphia, 1784–1861. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1936–37. description ends 1:424).

3No letter from Canon to GW describing the rents to be received from tenants on Washington’s western Pennsylvania lands has been found. GW had written to Canon requesting this information on 15 Sept. 1788: “As I have not received a line from you for more than fifteen months, and am altogether in the dark respecting the business which was committed to your care, I would thank you for information respecting the tenements, the Rents &ca of my Lands in Fayette and Washington Counties. And, as the latter, that is the Rents, may have been received in spicific articles I should be glad to know they are disposed off” (LB, DLC:GW). Not receiving a prompt reply, GW wrote again on 26 Dec. 1788 enclosing a duplicate of his September letter (see GW to Canon, 26 Dec. 1788). Apparently Canon had made an agreement with the tenants to receive rents in wheat at his mill, with allowances to be made for fence repairs and perhaps for other maintenance and improvement of the property.

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