To William Augustine Washington
Philadelphia Feby 17th 1793.
The last time I had the pleasure of seeing you, you promised (hearing me complain of the difficulty I found in procuring Oyster shells) to use your endeavors to engage the Skippers of the small Craft in your neighbourhood, to supply me.1 The season is approaching in which I shall stand in great need of them—and must suffer very much unless I can obtain a supply. Mr Whiting who looks after my business at Mount Vernon, informs me that he has not received—nor knows not where to get one.2 Let me pray you therefore to write him (by Post to Alexandria) what your prospects are; what he may depend upon; and in what time. The same account to me, would be very satisfactory; because, if this resource fails, I must try some other mean to obtain a Supply.3 My best respects attend your lady in which Mrs Washington unites;4 and I am Dear Sir Your Affectionate Uncle
ALS, sold by Sotheby’s, catalog 5621 “REPUBLIC,” item 32, 23 Oct. 1987.
1. GW met with his nephew at Georgetown, probably when GW stopped there while on his trip to Philadelphia in October 1792. During their conversation William Augustine Washington promised, if possible, to hire someone to transport oyster shells to Mount Vernon, where they were needed to supply lime for making mortar to lay the brick foundation for the new treading barn planned at Dogue Run farm (GW to Anthony Whitting, 14, 28 Oct. 1792, and enclosed Plan for a Barn). William Augustine Washington’s estate, Haywood, was in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
3. Apparently receiving no reply to this letter, GW wrote his nephew on 3 Mar. about the promised shipment of oyster shells. William Augustine Washington’s reply of 20 Mar. has not been found. In the meantime Whitting had procured a supply of prepared lime elsewhere. GW, however, preferred oyster shells because they did not spoil in storage (GW to Whitting, 28 April, 12 May 1793). Therefore, he continued to seek a shipment of oyster shells as GW’s letter to his nephew of 29 April indicates. For William Augustine Washington’s reasons for his failure to ship oyster shells to Mount Vernon in a timely fashion, see his letter to GW of 14 May 1793.
4. In 1792 William Augustine Washington married his second wife, Mary Lee (b.1764), the eldest daughter of Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), U.S. senator from Virginia, 1789–92.