George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Pearce, 23 March 1794

To William Pearce

Philadelphia 23d March 1794

Mr Pearce

The weekly reports, and your letter of the 18th instant, came regularly to hand.1

The insufferable neglects of my Overseers in not plowing as they ought to have done in the Fall, begins now to be manifest; for I perceive by the account given of the plowing, that I am driven to the alternative of putting my Oats into ground not half plowed, & prepared, & thereby little to expect from it; or, in order to do this, be so late in sowing, as to hazard an entire loss of the Crop, if the Spring is not very moist and dripping; for I have seldom succeeded with Oats unless they were sown before the middle of March.

It did not occur to me in time, to advise running the rollers over your grass grounds, & even the Wheat, after the frosts had come fairly out of the earth; nothing would have recovered both more. The roots (even of that which had been thrown entirely out) would have been pressed in such a manner to the earth as to have shot forth fibres to restore the plant. now, I presume it is too late.

I do not, in the first place believe Spring Barley is to be had in that part of the Country, as little of it is grown there; and in the next place, it is not likely it would succeed, as I tried it two or three years unsuccessfully. If it is to be had at all, it is most likely to come from Wayles the Brewer in Alexandria;2 and you might, as Oats are scarce, make another experiment, if Seed is to be had. How does the Winter Barley look?

I am sorry to find Colo. Ball is so tardy in forwarding the

B. Wheat—I shall remind him of it by tomorrow’s Post.3 What quantity of Wheat is supposed to be in the Straw at the several farms? Before it is all out at Dogue run, take up one section after another and new lay it; ’till you are able to ascertain the true distance the pieces ought to be asunder; for the reasons mentioned to you in a former letter; attending particularly to the circumstance I mentioned, and am apprehensive of, viz.—that of the straw working between & choaking.4

Mr Smith has, I believe, been furnished with fish from my landing, and if he will give as much as another, ought to have the preference; but before you positively engage, enquire what the other fisheries were disposed to sell at. 4/ pr thousand for the Herrings, and 10/ pr hundred for shad, is very low. I am, at this moment, paying 6/ a piece for every shad I buy.5 I am entirely against any Waggons coming to my landing; but there is one thing which Mr Smith, or any other with whom you engage, must perfectly understand, if they agree to take all (over what I want for my own use) that is, when the glut of the fish runs, he must be provided to take every one I do not want, or have them thrown on his hands: the truth of the case is, that in the height of the fishery, they are not prepared to cure, or otherwise dispose of them, as fast as they could be caught; of course the Seins slacken in their work, or the fish lye & spoil, when that is the only time I can make any thing by the Sein—for small hauls will hardly pay the ware & tare of the Sein & the hire of the hands—your account of the dificiency of Sein rope would have surprized me if it had not been of piece with the rest of the conduct which has waisted every thing I had, almost: whatever is necessary must be got, & I shall Depend upon your care and attention, now, to guard me against destruction of my property, while it is entrusted to your management.6

Secure a sufficiency of fish for the use of my own people from the first that comes, otherwise they may be left in the lurch, as has been the case heretofore, by depending on what is called the glut.

What quantity of Wheat have you yet in the straw, according to the conjectures of the Overseers, at whose farms it is? If you can get Six dollars a barrel for the superfine, & thirty four shils. for the common flour, in good hands, let it go, at Sixty days credit.

I have 25 Hds of Tobacco in the Warehouses in Alexandria; examine what condition they lye in, & see that they are safe. not having been able to obtain the price I set upon them they have lain there five or six years, at least. I have held these at a guinea a hundred, and would take it.7

Is your family arrived at Mount Vernon?8 you have said nothing about them in your last letters.

The Vessel with the Clover Seed &ca left this City on Tuesday last, and is, I hope, with you before this—Another goes tomorrow, on board which I send you (directed to the care of Colo. Gilpin) nine bolts of Oznabrigs, finding it cheaper to buy here than in Alexandria.9

Enclosed you have a bond of Colo. Lyles, who lives on Broad Creek (between you & Alexandria)—receive the amount with interest to the day of payment, & place it to my credit. If the money is wanting for paying the Overseers, or for other purposes, it may be applied accordingly; otherwise, when more can be added to it, I will direct the application another way. Remember it is Virginia money you are to receive, that is dollars at Six shillings. The readiest way of getting to Colo. Lyles is in your own Boat; & by so doing you can touch at the fishing landings between, & learn their expectations with respect to the prices of Fish.10

I send you 3 lbs. of Lucern Seed to sprinkle over the spring lot, where the former grew. The ground ought to be well torn with a sharp toothed harrow, in order to prepare it for the Seed, otherwise much of it will miss.11

With Colo. Lyles bond I send you a letter to him, which seal before delivery; you have also a statement of the account, as far as I have any knowledge of it. Receive nothing short of the whole sum which is due; unless you have no other means of discharging any demands upon me, for receiving a bond in driblets, is, in a manner, sinking it; and the amount of this bond, if it can be spared from other uses, I want to apply in discharge of another bond, which is also carrying interest.12 I am Your friend &ca

Go: Washington

ALS, ViMtvL; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW.

1Pearce’s letter of 18 March and the enclosed reports have not been found.

2Andrew Wales owned a brewery and distillery on South Water Street and a tavern on Union Street in Alexandria, Virginia.

3GW wrote Burgess Ball on this date to ask about the promised buckwheat seed.

4For GW’s instructions regarding the spacing between the threshing boards at the new barn at Dogue Run farm, see his letter to Pearce of 16–17 March.

5For Alexandria merchant Alexander Smith’s proposed fishing contract with GW, see his letter to GW of 3 July 1793. On 15 May, Smith paid Pearce £29.10.08 “for 147676 Herrings @ 4 per thousand,” and £17.10.06 “for 3295 Shad @ 10/ per hundred” (Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–1797 description begins Manuscript Mount Vernon Accounts, 6 Jan. 1794-19 Jan. 1797. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers. description ends ).

6In preparation for the fishing season, Pearce paid £22.15.00 on 3 Feb. to Robert Hamilton for 182 lbs of “Seine Twine @ 2/6 per lb.,” £60 on 1 April to Smith for 200 bushels of “Salt for fish” at 6/ per bushel, £13.09.04 to Lawrence McGinnis on 1 April for “kniting A new Seine & putting a piece in the Old Shad Seine,” and £14.05.4 to James Irvin on 6 May for “Seine Rope &c.” On 13 May, he paid £15 to Thomas Dyer “for hauling the Seine During the fishing Season” and £5.12.00 to “the People for hauling the Seine on Holyday Sundys & Sundy Nights” (Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–1797 description begins Manuscript Mount Vernon Accounts, 6 Jan. 1794-19 Jan. 1797. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers. description ends ).

7On the 25 hogsheads of tobacco currently stored in warehouses in Alexandria, see GW to Alexandria, Va., Inspectors of Tobacco, 21 Oct. 1792, and notes 1 and 3 to that document; and GW to John Fitzgerald, 28 April 1793, and n.3 to that document.

8On Pearce’s family, see n.2 of Benjamin Chew, Jr., to GW, 16 Aug. 1793.

9On the shipment of clover seed and other items aboard the Sally, which set sail on Tuesday, 18 March, see GW to Burgess Ball, 16 March, and GW to Pearce, 16–17 March. On 19 March, GW paid $80.91 to merchant Robert Smith for 3 bolts of oznabrig and $163.25 to the Philadelphia firm of Todd & Mott for 6 bolts of oznabrig; on 24 March, he paid $2.75 for its freight to the care of George Gilpin in Alexandria (Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends ).

10Alexandria merchant William Lyles lived in Prince Georges County, Md., on his estate of Want Water, which was located along Broad Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River. In 1789, he assumed responsibility for the payment of £795.15.4 that Robert Alexander owed to GW (Lyles to GW, 3 April 1789). According to his agreement with GW, Lyles paid £300 to GW in three payments of £100 each, on 7 May, 2 June, and 31 July 1789. Lyles then posted a bond for £495.15.04 on 19 Sept. 1789. This bond was to be paid in “four annual payments of £123.18.10 each on the 19th day of Septr in the years 1790, 1791, 1792, & 1793.” As of this date, payments had been made on 19 Oct. 1790 in the amount of £123.18.10 plus interest of £6.3.11; on 24 Nov. 1791 in the amount of £93.11.08; and on 1 Oct. 1792 in the amount of £105. An undated notation in GW’s ledger reads, “This acct settled by the payment of the above Bond with interest” (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 361).

The enclosed statement of 24 March (ADS [letterpress copy], DLC:GW) reads:

Willm Lyles Esqr. in acct with G: Washington

Dr.   Virga Curry  
1789 Sepr 19th To yr Bond of this date for £495.15.4  
1790 Octr ⟨19⟩ Int[eres]t thereon   26.17.   
1790 Oct. 19 To Bal[anc]e pr Contra  392. 9.7  
1791 Nov. 24 Interest thereon   23. 3.5  
1791 Novr 24 To Bale pr Con:  322. 1.4  
1792 Oct. 1 Intt thereon   12. 6.1  
       334. 7.5
1792 Oct. 1st To Bale pr Con.  229. 7.5  
1794 Aprl 1st Intt to this date   17. 4.0  
1790 Octr 19 By Cash  £130. 2.9  
  Bale  392. 9.7  
1791 Nov. 24 By Cash   93.11.8  
  Bale  322. 1.4  
1792 Oct. 1st By Cash  105.  
  Bale  229. 7.5  
       334. 7.5
E[rrors] Excepted—March 24th 1794.
Go: Washington

The enclosed letter to Lyles was also dated 24 March. In a letter to Pearce of 23 Nov. 1794, GW indicated that a payment from Lyles had been received earlier that month, but the amount was not specified (ALS, ViMtvL).

11On 24 March, GW paid $1 for “3 lbs. Lucerne seed to send to Mo. Vn” (Household Accounts).

12The other bond may have been for money owed Lund Washington. Upon receiving notification that money received from Lyles had been deposited in a bank in Alexandria, GW enclosed “money to discharge my bond to Mr Lund Washington” in a letter to Pearce of 23 Nov. 1794 (ALS, ViMtvL).

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