George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William DuVal, 6 January 1794

From William DuVal

Richmond [Va.] January 6th 1794


I beg leave to introduce to your Notice Mr Ast a Merchant in this City and a Gentleman of respectibility. He lived several Years in the Family of the late Thomas Barclay Esqr. when they were in Europe. He will offer Sir to your Consideration Three Schemes or plans which I am told, may be, if adopted benefial, of that Sir, you’ll be the most competent Judge, and if they merit your approbation their Utility will induce you to afford Mr Ast your Countenance and patronage.1 I am Sir, with the highest Respect, Your mo. obt Servant.

William DuVal.

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

William DuVal (1748–1842) was a lawyer, businessman, and veteran of the Revolutionary War. He married Lucy Ann Pope (1753–1795) in 1772 and after her death, Susan Brown Christian. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1782, and was the mayor of Richmond, 1805–6 (Bessie Berry Grabowski, The Du Val Family of Virginia, 1701; Descendants of Daniel Du Val, Huguenot, and Allied Families, [Richmond, 1931], 187–93). On 7 Jan., DuVal wrote a second letter to GW recommending William Frederick Ast; while not identical to this one, its wording is very similar (DLC:GW).

1William Frederick Ast (c.1767–1807) emigrated first to France from his native Germany. By 1787 he was serving as secretary to Thomas Barclay, the U.S. consul general to France. Ast arrived in Norfolk, Va., in early 1793 and established the mercantile firm of Ast, Bingham & Company with stores in Norfolk, Petersburg, and Richmond, where he settled. On 6 Nov. 1793, Ast solicited Thomas Jefferson’s assistance in forwarding to Congress his petition concerning a plan to provide insurance on a much less expensive scale than that offered by British companies (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 27:306–8). He had three different plans that would cover, respectively, losses on buildings, ships, and goods at sea. Although Ast did not receive the desired support from Congress, his fire insurance plan for buildings was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly on 22 Dec. 1794 as the Mutual Assurance Society, against Fire on Buildings of the State of Virginia (see John B. Danforth and Herbert A. Claiborne, Historical Sketch of the Mutual Association of Virginia, Richmond, Va., from its organization in 1794 to 1879, [Richmond, 1879]). Ast attempted, unsuccessfully, to solicit GW’s participation in a letter of 7 Oct. 1795, in which he enclosed a broadside explaining the terms and conditions of this insurance company and a list of its current subscribers (ALS, DLC:GW).

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