George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Tobias Lear, 8 November 1793

To Tobias Lear

German Town [Pa.] 8th Novr 1793

My dear Sir

I arrived at this place at the time appointed—to wit—the 1st inst. but did not receive your letter of the 3d until yesterday for want of a regulr Comn with the P. Office and this too at a time when as you have well suppos’d I was immerced in the consideration of Papers from the different Departments after a seperation from the heads of them almost two Mo.

I have, however, run over your observations on the Potomac Navigation &ca &ca—and in a hasty manner, as I went along at the first reading made the notes & remarks which are returned with one of the copies.1 The statement made by you in all other respects accord with my ideas of facts as far as a recolln of them will enable me to pronounce; nor can I controvert by evidence even those which it would seem that I had queried by my remarks. Had I more leizure and especially if I could have had recourse to my papers, I might have been more correct in some things but as the 10th is the day appointed for your Sailing & that happening to be on a Sunday a chosen day by Sailors for commencing thier Nautical movements I did not incline to miss the Post of this day to return your observations and to furnish the letters you have asked for.2

It gives me sincere pleasure to hear that Lincoln continues well as I am sure it will do the family at Mount Vernon who must remain there until it is known what Congress will do; for ’till then I move like a snail with every thing on my back.

I do not yet know whether I shall get a substitute for William: nothing short of excellent qualities & a man of good appearance, would induce me to do it. and under my present view of the matter too, who would employ himself otherwise than William did—that is as a Butler as well as a Valette for my wa⟨nts⟩ of the latter are so trifling that any man (as Willm was) would soon be ruined by idleness who had only them to attend to—Having given these ideas—if your time will permit I should be glad if you would touch the man upon the strings I have mentioned—probe his character deeper—say what his age appearance & Country is—what are his expectations & how he should be communicated with, if, upon a thorough investigation of matters you should be of opinion he would answer my purposes well for Kennedy is too little acquainted with the arrangement of a Table, & too stupid for a Butler, to be continued if I could get a better.3

I once more, & I suppose for the last time before you sail, bid you adieu; my best wishes wherever you go will accompany you, for with much truth I am Your sincere friend & Affecte Servant

Go: Washington


1GW’s undated “Notes, or Remarks upon Mr Lear’s Observations” read: “Page 1st. The general idea I had entertained of the distance from the mouth of Potomack to the Capes of Delaware was, that it is short of 150 miles, but I never had any data to govern it. Therefore can neither confirm nor contradict this opinion.

“The River Potomack at the Mouth can be little, if any, short of 12 miles.

“5th. I cannot undertake to say that the streams of water here enumerated are navigable in their present state the distances which are mentioned, nor can I contradict it. that they may be made so a much greater distance I have not the smallest doubt from my former knowledge of them; and probably the activity of the navigation may have produced this agreeable discovery already; for this work unfolds every day surprizingly.

“8th. Does not the City of Washington extend more than two miles on the Eastern Branch? the Plan will decide this.

“16th. The Island from whence the freestone is taken is 40 Miles below the City.

“17th. The Streets also are given up by the Proprietors of the Land in the City as well as the sqrs.

“The two states give 192,000 Dolars—Virg. 120,000 & Maryland 72,000.

“19. In the Mississipi three times Six hands could not ascend the stream 15 miles pr day.

“20. If Philadelphia has hitherto been a shipping Port for the fur & Peltry of the lakes the difference of 400 miles will not apply—to Canada & New York it would.

“21. The Channel at Digges point is not Twenty feet from the shore. A Vessel can approach no otherwise than with her bow to a battery at that place for at least three miles; and present her stern unavoidably the same distance when She passes it—and the whole width of the Channel at that place scarely exceeds 300—I am sure not 400 yard⟨s.⟩” (AD, ICU).

2See GW to the Earl of Buchan and GW to John Sinclair, both this date.

3Patrick Kennedy entered GW’s service before May 1793, when he was paid two months’ wages, and he probably left GW’s service around May 1795, when he was paid wages “in full” (Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends ).

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