George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Fenwick, Mason, & Company, 9 July 1790

From Fenwick, Mason, & Company

Bordeaux [France] the 9 July 1790.


On 24 April last we had the honour to inform you1 that the draft you forwarded us on Jauge & Dupuy of this City for 50 Dollars,2 had not been paid, since which we have been without any of your Favours.

Tis only since three or four weeks that we have had the mortification to hear that the Packet-Boat on which your wine was shipped last Winter, had again been distressed & put into Brest very much damaged.3 this circumstance gives us extreme pain as we find your Excellency has been disappointed in receiving those Wines which we had hoped & beleived long since at hand, and the more unfortunate it is, as no Insurance having been ordered, none was made by us.

We have written a friend at Brest to claim what there may be saved, & to send it on to its original destination, if an opporty soon offers, or otherwise forward it to us. We heard from him under date 23rd of last month, that the Cases have been Split, & that ¼ or more of the Bottles broken—We have much to fear the Wine has been spoiled—by the first opportunity to New York or any neighbouring Port, we shall take upon ourselves, though without your Orders to ship you about half the quantity of each kind of Wine upon a presumption that the disappointment & Delay will be much greater to your Excellency than the Loss, if what is saved gets to our hands again, and we find the quality hurt, we will make up the whole without delay, not doubting it will meet with your approbation.4

Much chagrined at this disagreable affair, we have the honour to remain with the most profound respect. Your Excellency’s most obedient & very humble Servants

Fenwick Mason & Co.

LS, DLC:GW; LS (duplicate), DLC:GW.

GW originally ordered claret and champagne from Fenwick, Mason, & Company in August 1789, and the merchants responded four months later that they had sent him in December 1789 twenty-six bottles of claret, twelve dozen bottles of “vins de grave,” and twenty-four bottles of champagne (see GW to Wakelin Welch & Son, 16 Aug. 1789 and note 1, Wakelin Welch & Son to GW, 8 Oct. 1789, GW to John Mason, 12 Oct. 1789, Fenwick, Mason, & Company to GW, 17 Nov., 5 and 7 Dec. 1789).

1The letter, sent by the Britannia, Captain Herrick, reads: “On the 7th December past, we had the honour last to address your Excellency (by duplicates) covering Invoice & Bill Lading of the Wine you were pleased to order us to send you, shipped in the Packet boat Jean Jacques; as We hear that Vessell put afterwards into Saint Malo & was there detained some time in very cold weather, we apprehend much the Wine may have been injured which would give us much concern & makes us anxious to hear how it succeeded.

“The draft of which in our last, we had the honor to acknowledge the receipt of, on Messrs Jauge & Depuy of this city for 50 Dollars has been duly presented when at ⟨Exchange⟩ a second time to those Gentlemen, who disavowing all knowledge of such a Man, as the drawer, have refused payment when it became due. this draft carries with it every appearance of a fraud in the drawer, whome nobody knows here, and indeed whose name cannot be read, and as he is no longer in America, we think it useless to return said draft with protest untill We hear further from you, or your Excellency’s orders to do so, which when at hand we shall obey with the greatest attention and exactitude.

“Soon after the shipment of your wine say 21st of December past, We passed our draft on Messrs Waklin Welch &. of London for amount of Invoice as you were pleased to order us, say £1249.5 exchange @ 28/4 d. per 3 livres à 40 days, which makes £49.os.3d. Sterling, which has been duly honoured and closes this transaction” (DLC:GW).

2For the bill of exchange on Bordeaux merchants Jauge & du Preis (du Puis), see GW to John Mason, 12 Oct. 1789 and note 3, and Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends 70.

3For the French packet service from Bordeaux to New York and its unreliability, see Thomas Jefferson to Madame d’Anterroches, 9 Mar. 1789, and William Short to John Jay, 25 Mar. 1790 (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 14:627, 16:270).

4On 10 Aug. 1790 Fenwick, Mason, & Company again wrote to GW, enclosing a duplicate of this 9 July letter, noting that the original was sent by the packet from L’Orient, and an invoice and bill of lading for 6 cases (150 bottles) of 1785 vintage Chateau Margeaux claret and 2 cases (72 bottles) of the “best vin de Grave growth of Sauterne[s],” totaling £572.13, including shipping and insurance costs, customs duties, and the firm’s commission. This wine was shipped on the St. James of New York, William Van Leuvenigh, master, and arrived at New York at the end of October 1790. The 10 Aug. letter and its enclosures, all of which GW sent from Mount Vernon on 27 Oct. 1790 to Lear in Philadelphia, stated: “We have not as yet received what was saved of Your wine from Brest. meeting with a ship for New york, we have shipped as by Invoice & Bill Lading for you, six cases of claret & Two of grave wine, making about half the quantity of the first shipment of each kind the best, the red wine tho’ of the same Vintage & growth sent before, could not be had now at the same price on account of the increase in age & the demand old Wines are getting into” and that “for fear of another accident we have made insurance on this parcell” (Fenwick, Mason, & Company to GW, 10 Aug. 1790, DLC:GW; GW to Lear, 27 Oct. 1790, Lear to GW, 31 Oct. and 14 Nov. 1790; New-York Daily Gazette, 12 Nov. 1790).

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