George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Anthony Whitting, 24 February 1793

To Anthony Whitting

Philadelphia Feby 24th 1793.

Mr Whiting,

Your letters of the 13th & 17th Instt have come duly to hand, but the one, which in the last, you promised to write on the 20th (that is on the Wednesday following) is not yet received.1

I have some idea that Tobacco, after being a certain time in the Warehouses (besides being subject to an annual or monthly tax) is liable also to be sold by public vendue. Inform yourself with precision on these points, and let me know the result; and for what the Tobacco would Sell: Mr Watson sometime ago wanted to buy it.2

I do not think it would answer to lay the foundation of the New Barn at Dogue-run with round stone; & if it would, the Carting of them from Muddy hole & Bricks from the Mansion (where they are always in demand) would be more expen[s]ive than making them on the spot; from the Earth taken from foundation of the building, as heretofore directed. Set therefore about making them, at that place.3

Davis ought not to be placed among the hands at the Fishery if (Overseer) Will is there;4 nor indeed on any other account—as the Brick work of the Barn ought to be hastened as much as possible: for no building was ever more wanting, both for convenience, & to prevent the loss which I am sure is sustained by theft from the grain in the open yards. With this admonition, joined to a desire that the hands which can be best spared—(that is with the least interruption to the most pressing and important work) may be employed at the landing—The allotment of them therefore rests altogether with yourself as you can decide better on the spot than I can at a distance, who ought, & who ought not to Compose the fishing gang.

If the Season and circumstances (for I do not know whether you mean to remove the Houses at Union Farm on Rollers, or after taking them to pieces) will permit you to set abt it immediately, there is nothing, the accomplishment of which will be more pleasing to me, than the concentration of the houses at the place allotted, on Union Farm.5 I regretted exceedingly, that the slothfulness of my Carpenters would not enable me to effect this last Autumn, whilst the ground was firm. If you can do it this Spring without breaking in too much upon other things, it will be highly pleasing to me.

Unless you have received, or may receive, any directions from Mrs Fanny Washington respecting the building my deceased Nephew was carrying on, it is my opinion that an entire suspension of it had better take place: and with respect to the conduct of the Overseer there, it is my wish & desire that you would attend to him as much as to any of my own. And, in addition to what was mentioned in one of my last letters to you concerning him if he should be detected in any knavish pranks, I will make the Country too warm for him to remain in.6

Your accounts of Davenports sloth, impress me more strongly with the idea of his laziness—I therefore request you to tell him, from me, that I expect the Season will not be suffered to slip away, and my wheat left unground; but on the contrary, that he will work of Nights, as well in the day, as all Merchant Mills do; & which he himself must have done before he fell into the idle habit he has acquired since he has basked in the Sun-shine of my Mill.7

Harrison’s land is bounded on two Sides, by mine—and I have little doubt is fed with timber from it; but unless I could no with certainty that it is unincumbered with leases I would not be concerned with it. If this fact can be ascertained, let me know it.8

How far have you advanced the grubbing below the old Clover lot? I am anxious for the progress of this work, but not at the expence of any other of more importance.

The correction you gave Ben, for his Assault on Sambo, was just & proper. It is my earnest desire that quarrels may be stopped, or punishment of both parties follow; unless it shall appear, clearly, that one only is to blame; and the other forced into from self-defence.9

If the Chicorium is really, & bona fide a weed, it had better be exterminated before it sheds its Seed; but from (what you call) the Carolina Grass, and all others in my small Garden by the Salt House—in the Vineyard Inclosure—and elsewhere save what Seeds you can: and if you have enough of the Fancy grass to seed the shady parts of the ground below the Lucern lot, and should prefer laying it to grass this spring, to cultivating it, for the purpose of getting it in better order against another year, sow this ground with that kind of Seed; as I think it will grow well in a shade, & appears to be a hardy & durable grass; of consequence, if horses & Cattle are fond of it, the cultivation must be valuable.10

I would never have parted with the horse Sampson, had I thought another would have been called for.11 To buy & sell at one hundred prCt loss, is a very unproductive business—nor would I breed from a Horse if I could obtain Colts from the Jacks: but it is to be feared that the same causes which impede the one, would apply to the other. However, rather than not make the experiment, if a well formed, & good blooded horse of proper age & size could be had reasonably, I would buy him: and if such is in your view inform me of it, with sufficient description of him, & the price; but make no positive bargain until I am advised thereof.12 I remain Your friend and wellwisher

Go: Washington


1Whitting’s letters of 13 and 17 Feb. have not been found. According to the postal schedule between Alexandria, Va., and Philadelphia, Whitting’s promised letter of Wednesday, 20 Feb., should have arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday, 23 Feb. (GW to Whitting, 2 Dec. 1792). For GW’s receipt of this letter, see GW to Whitting, 3 March.

2In May 1783 the Virginia assembly passed “An act to amend and reduce the several acts of assembly for the inspection of tobacco, into one act,” which stipulated that “there shall be paid to the proprietors of each warehouse, for all tobacco lying therein more than twelve months, at the rate of three pence per month for each hogshead, to be paid by the shipper thereof at the time of shipping the same.” Another proviso added that tobacco stored in a public warehouse for two years would be advertised in the Virginia Gazette (Richmond) . If no one claimed it within three months, it would be sold at auction, and the money given to the state treasurer. If anyone could prove ownership, he then would receive the money from the treasurer (Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends , 11:211–12, 233). Josiah Watson, who had been a Fairfax County justice of the peace 1783–84, was a successful Alexandria, Va., merchant in 1793.

3For GW’s plans for a new barn at the Dogue Run farm and his previous instructions to make bricks from the clay taken from the proposed site of the barn’s foundation, see his letter to Whitting of 28 Oct. 1792, and enclosure. GW had brickyards built at various locations on his estate, usually near current construction sites such as that near the greenhouse and new slave quarters built in 1792 on the Mansion House farm (GW to Whitting, 1 July 1792).

4For GW’s previous instruction that the slaves Overseer Will and Tom Davis should not be assigned to work together, see GW to Whitting, 3 February. Davis was usually assigned to masonry work (GW to Whitting, 17 Feb.).

5See figure 1, GW’s 1793 map of Mount Vernon, which shows a concentration of several houses in a line near the middle of the Union farm, which had recently been created by the merger of French’s and Ferry farms.

6George Augustine Washington, who died on 5 Feb. 1793, recently had begun construction of a house on land at Clifton’s Neck that GW had given him several years earlier (GW to George Augustine Washington, 25 Oct. 1786). For GW’s criticism of Tayler, his nephew’s overseer, see GW to Whitting, 10 Feb. 1793.

7For GW’s recent criticism of the miller Joseph Davenport, see GW to Whitting, 27 Jan., 10 Feb. 1793.

8For GW’s attempts to buy land owned by William B. Harrison, see GW to Robert Lewis, 23 Dec. 1792, and enclosure. This particular property was bounded on two sides by a 200–acre tract of land that GW had purchased in 1764 from William and Diana Whiting, and a 20½-acre patent received in 1771 from Thomas, Lord Fairfax, proprietor of the Northern Neck of Virginia, a vast early royal grant of all land between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers (Cash Accounts, June 1764, n.10, March 1771, n.8).

9Although GW had several slaves named Ben, he refers to this particular slave as “Matildas Ben” in a letter to Whitting of 3 March. According to GW’s 1786 Slave List, Ben would have been about 15 years old in 1793. In 1786 Sambo was a carpenter at the Mansion House farm, where Myrtilla (Matilda) was a spinner (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:277–78). In 1799 Myrtilla is identified as being married to the ditcher Boatswain, and Sambo had been reassigned to the River farm as a carpenter (Slave List, June 1799).

10Arthur Young had sent a packet of chicory (Cichorium intybus) seeds with his letter to GW of 25 Jan. 1791. GW often used the little garden and the vineyard enclosure for botanical experiments (GW to Whitting, 14 Oct. 1792, note 4).

11GW recently had given the stallion Sampson to his nephew Robert Lewis (Lewis to GW, 4 Jan., and note 2).

12For GW’s purchase of the stud horse Traveller, see Tobias Lear to Thomas Lowrey and Abraham Hunt, 7 Mar., and note 3.

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