George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Tobias Lear, 25 September 1793

To Tobias Lear

Mount Vernon Sepr 25th 1793

My dear Sir,

I have not written to you since we parted, but had just sat down to do it when your letter of the 13th instt was brought to me from the Post Office in Alexandria.

It gave Mrs Washington, myself and all who knew him, sincere pleasure to hear that our little favourite had arrived safe, & was in good health at Portsmouth—We sincerely wish him a long continuance of the latter—that he may always be as charming & promising as he now is—that he may live to be a comfort & blessing to you—and an ornament to his Country. As a token of my affection for him, I send him a ticket in the lottery now drawing in the Federal City; and if it should be his fortune to draw the Hotel, it will add to the pleasure I feel in giving it.1

We remained in Philadelphia until the 10th instt. It was my wish to have stayed there longer; but as Mrs Washington was unwilling to leave me amidst the malignant fever which prevailed, I could not think of hazarding her & the Children any longer by my remaining in the City—The house in which we lived being, in a manner blockaded by the disorder which was becoming every day more & more fatal. I therefore came off with them on the above day, and arrived at this place the 14th without encountering the least accident on the Road.

You will learn from Mr Greenleaf that he has dipped deeply in the concerns of the Federal City; advantageously I think for himself, and I am pleased with it on public ground also; as it may give facility to the operations at that place, at the same time that it is embarking him in a measure which, although it cannot well fail under any circumstances that are likely to happen, may be considerably promoted by men of Spirit with large capitols. He can, so much better than I, detail his engagements, & the situation of things in and about the City, that I shall not attempt to do it at present.2

Mrs Washington having decided to let Nelly Custis have her Watch & Chain, is disposed to receive substitutes in lieu there of at about Twenty five guineas price; and leaves the choice of them to you. The plainness of the Watch &ca will be no objection. One hundred and twenty dollars in Bank notes are enclosed for the purchase of them.3

If it should be convenient, and perfectly safe for you to engage for me, on reasonable terms, a compleat Black Smith, you would oblige me by doing so. As there are laws in England prohibiting such engagements under severe penalties,4 and such may exist in other Countries, you will understand me clearly, that, for no consideration whatsoever would I have you run the smallest risk of encountering them. You know full well what kind of a Smith would suit my purposes—it is unnecessary therefore for me to be particular on this head. He must, however, have a character on which you can rely not only as a compleat workman for a Farm, but as an honest, sober & industrious man. If he comes on Wages they must be moderate; & with, or without wages he must be bound to serve me three years, four would be better.

Mrs Washington thanks you for your kind recollection of her request respecting Lincoln, and desires me to assure you of her sincere love for him—in which I Join—and of her friendship & regard for you. In whatever place you may be, or in whatever walk of life you may move, my best wishes will attend you, for I am & always shall be Your sincere friend and Affectionate Servant

Go: Washington

P.S. I have just received a letter from the Earl of Buchan in which he says my letter intended to accompany the Portrait had got safe to his hands, but that he had seen heard nothing of the Picture. If you should, while in New York see the Painter of it, be so good as to mention this circumstance to him, & enquire into the cause of the failure.5

The District attorney of New Hampshire has sent his resignation6—I am entirely unacquainted with the characters in that line, in that State, and would thank you to name the person whom you think best qualified to succeed Mr Sherburne, & most likely to give general satisfaction.

G. W——n


1In order to raise money for the construction of public buildings in the Federal City, Samuel Blodget, Jr., with the approval of the commissioners, advertised a lottery in January 1793, with the grand prize to be ownership of a hotel to be constructed in the city. Promised for 9 Sept., the drawing was postponed until 23 Sept. (Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 19 Jan.; Virginia Chronicle and, Portsmouth & Norfolk General Advertiser, 21 Sept.). Commencing on that date, the drawings continued into 1794.

2GW wrote to James Greenleaf on this date: “Understanding from Doctr Stuart, it was not likely you would leave George Town before friday, I take the liberty of giving you the trouble of the enclosed letter to Mr Lear” (ALS, NNYSL). For Greenleaf’s arrangement to purchase 3,000 lots in the Federal City, see GW to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 20 Aug., n.3.

3Lear purchased a horizontal gold watch at London in January 1794 (see Lear to GW, 26–30 Jan. 1794, and Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 4).

4GW may have had in mind the 1785 “act to prohibit the exportation to foreign parts, of tools and utensils made use of in the iron and steel manufactures of this kingdom; and to prevent the seducing of artificers or workmen, employed in those manufactures, to go into parts beyond the seas” (25 Geo. 3, c.67). See also “An act to prevent the inconveniencies arising from seducing artificers in the manufactures of Great Britain into foreign parts” (5 Geo. 1, c.27 [1718]).

5GW was referring to the Earl of Buchan’s letter to him of 30 June. Lear reported the results of his meeting with the painter Archibald Robertson in a letter to GW of 9 November.

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