George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 10 April 1793

From Tobias Lear

Philadelphia April 10th 1793.


Agreeably to the wish expressed in your letter of the 5th instant, with which I have been honored, I have made enquiries respecting the price of flour &c. and find that superfine flour is now selling for forty three & six pence & forty four shillings per barrel, for the Cash—and at forty five & forty six shillings, for notes payable in sixty days. Common flour is from 3/ to 3/6 less. For a week or ten days past I am informed that flour has been rather dull; but the Accounts from Europe being so much more favorable with respect to our commerce than was apprehended, will, it is thought, very much increase the demand for it. These accounts having arrived but yesterday, the effects of them do not yet begin to be felt.1 It is a general opinion that every article of our produce will rise very much within a month or six weeks—flour particularly—for this being the season when it is brought to market in the greatest abundance the price is always less than it is about the middle or latter part of may. Our neighbour Captain Anthony,2 who is ranked high among the most knowing ones on this subject, told me this morning that he was confident flour would be much higher to the Southward in a few weeks than it has been for some time past in that quarter. His opinion he says is founded on this ground that lately flour has been offered in Baltimore—Alexandria & George Town in large quantities and at a low price, compared with the prices in Philadelphia—that the reason of its being offered at that rate was to raise the Cash from it immediately—the want of Cash has prevented those from purchasing who wished to do so, and were ready to give good bills at sixty days, this not suiting the owners of the flour it has laid on hand ’till the p[r]esent time. The probability of a great demand for this Article—and a general knowledge of the circumstances above mentioned, will cause the purchasers of flour to send large orders to the Southward—which will create a competition among them, and give the seller his own price. This reasoning appears to me to be good, but whether the circumstances from which it is drawn be justly stated or not is more than I can tell. Indeed it is not an easy matter to draw an unqualified opinion upon these subjects from persons who are often intersted in concealing their true sentiments upon them.

From Mr deBarth’s communication to me upon the subject of paying his bond—I presume that he is as destitute of public securities as he is of Cash—I will, however, take an occasion to ask him if he is able & willing to make payment in them at their current value.3

We had three arrivals here yesterday from England, and the principal accounts brought by them will be found in the enclosed papers.4

General Hull arrived yesterday from the Northward, and Genl Knox says he shall write to you by this post and mention generally the information which he brings from thence.5

Mr B. Randolph has not yet arrived6—Mrs Washington, the young folks—Mrs Lear & our little boy & all the family are in good health—and unite in the best wishes for your health & happiness & that of those with you, with—Your obliged, faithful & Affecte Servant

Tobias Lear.


1Lear is referring to the recent arrival in Philadelphia of the news that France had declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands on 1 Feb. (Lear to GW, 8 April).

2Shipping merchant Joseph Anthony, Sr., of the firm of Joseph Anthony & Son at 5 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, resided at 225 High Street, a short distance from GW’s house at 190 High Street (Philadelphia Directory, 1793 description begins James Hardie. The Philadelphia Directory and Register . . .. Philadelphia, 1793. description ends ).

3For French émigré John J. De Barth’s inability to fulfill an earlier agreement to purchase land on the Ohio and Kanawha rivers from GW, see Lear to GW, 1 April, and note 4.

4The three ships that arrived at Philadelphia on 9 April were the George Barclay, Captain Collet, and the Harmony, Captain Osman, both from London, plus the Adriana, Captain John Robertson, from Liverpool. The London packet, Roebuck, which carried London newspapers as late as 13 Feb., arrived at New York City on Friday, 5 April. The enclosed Philadelphia papers have not been identified, but they may have included the 8, 9 and 10 April issues of the General Advertiser and the 10 April issues of the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Gazette of the United States, all of which contained accounts from the London papers of the French declaration of war and the hostilities in Europe.

5For William Hull’s mission to Fort Niagara to solicit British cooperation in the American preparations for a proposed Indian treaty at Lower Sandusky in the Northwest Territory, see Lear to Cabinet, 24 Feb., n.2. If Knox wrote a letter to GW on this date, it has not been found.

6GW recently had appointed Beverley Randolph of Virginia, Timothy Pickering, who currently resided in Philadelphia, and Benjamin Lincoln of Massachusetts as the commissioners for the treaty at Lower Sandusky (GW to U.S. Senate, 1 Mar. [second letter]). Lincoln had arrived in Philadelphia a few days earlier to receive instructions and to prepare for the trip west (Lear to GW, 3 April).

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