To Henry Lee
Dear Sir,Mount Vernon 16th Oct. 1793.
Since my arrival at this place I have been favoured with your letters of the 17th ulto and 7th instt. For your kind attentions to me I pray you to receive my sincere acknowledgments.
I have always (from the accounts given of it) entertained a high opinion of Colo. Taliaferro’s threshing Machine, but knew at the sametime I had no stream that could supply water for one, on any of my Farms. This was confirmed when Mr Payne came hither & examined them.
The model brought over by the English farmers may also be a good one, but the utility of it among careless negros, & ignorant Overseers, will depend absolutely upon the simplicity of its construction; for if there be anything complex in the Machinery, it will be no longer in use than a mushroom is in existence. I have seen so much of the beginning & ending of these new inventions that I have almost resolved to go on in the old way of treading, until I get settled again at home, and can attend myself to the management of one.
As a proof in point of the almost impossibility of putting the Overseers of this Country out of the track they have been accustomed to walk in, I have one of the most convenient Barns in this, or perhaps any Country, where 30 hands may with great ease be employed in threshing. I had half the Wheat of the farm stored in this Barn and nothing to do but to lay it on the floor; yet,1 when I came home about the middle of September, I found a treading yard within 30 feet of the Barn door—the Wheat again removed from the Barn—and the horses treading it out on the ground in an open exposure liable to the vicissitudes of weather. I am now erecting a building for the express purpose of treading. I have sanguine expectations of the utility of it—and if I am not deceived in them—it may afford you some satisfaction when you come into this part of the Country to call & look at it.
I have a grateful sense of your kind offer of Mr Workman. Previous however to the communication I had engaged a manager from the Eastern shore of Maryland2—But the impression on my mind is not lessened on that account.
I have not, as you will perceive, touched the subject of Politics in this letter. The reasons are, your letter of the 17th has expressed my ideas precisely of the conduct, & views of those who are aiming I am certain at nothing short of the subversion of the General Government; and that they would do it at the expence even, of plunging the Country in to the horrors of a disastrous war; and because I wish to wait a little longer to see what may be the sense of legally constituted bodies at the meetings about to take place.
The public service requiring it, I shall set off in about ten days for Philadelphia or vicinity. Though unknown to your lady, I beg my respectful compliments may be presented to her.3 I wish you an agreeable & harmonious Session—and with much truth I am Dear Sir Your Affecte Hble Servt
ALS, NjMoHP; ADfS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. The draft, which was heavily revised, in many places differs from the ALS in phrasing but not in meaning. The letter-book copy follows the wording of the draft.
1. On the draft the preceding portion of this sentence reads: “half the Wheat of the Farm was actually stored in the Barn in the straw by my order for threshing; notwithstanding.”
3. Lee had married his second wife, Ann Hill Carter, in June 1793.