George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Pearce, 6 April 1794

To William Pearce

Philadelphia April 6th 1794

Mr Pearce,

Your letter & Reports of the 1st instant I have received, and am glad to find by the first that you have got your family safe to Mount Vernon; as, unquestionably, it will be a satisfaction to you to have them along with you. Change of Air may, and I hope will, restore your eldest daughter to health again.1

I had no doubt but that the late capture of our Vessels by the British Cruisers, followed by the Embargo, which has been laid on the Shipping in our Ports, wd naturally occasion a temporary fall in the article of provisions;2 yet, as there are the same mouths to feed as before; as the demand, consequently, will be as great; and as the Crops in other parts of the world will not be increased by these means, I have no doubt at all, but that, as soon as the present impediments are removed the prices of flour will rise to what it has been (at least) for which reason hold mine up to the prices mentioned in my last; & if they are offered, make a provisory agreement, to be ratified, or not, by me; an answer to which can be obtained in a week.3 With respect to the Wheat on hand, you must (if you hear nothing to the contrary from me) be governed by circumstances & your own judgment, in getting it out of the straw; but, at any rate, remove it into the Barns for the purpose of threshing in weather when the people cannot work out.

When salt, or any other article of which you are in want, gets to a high price, provide for the present occasion only unless there is a moral certainty of their rising still higher; in that case prudence would direct otherwise.

It was not my expectation that either grass or grain could be rolled at the expence of stopping the Ploughs; consequently, if the Oxen were not in a condition for the accomplishment of this work the execution of it was not to be expected: but is not this an instance among a variety of others, of the impolicy of not breaking a great number of Steers at each of the Farms? which would prevent the few that are broke from being reduced too low for the services thereof. Twenty Oxen are not more expensive than ten broke, & ten unbroke Steers, because you feed them as Oxen only when they are worked; and unbroke steers must be fed, as well as Oxen (though not in the same manner) at other times. By this means there never would be a want of draught Cattle for Cart, Harrow or Roller.

How does the young grass which was sown in the new meadows, last fall, and the clover come on? Was the latter injured much by the Winter?

Besides the number of Stacks which are yet in Wheat, I wanted to know what those stacks are supposed to contain; and this the Overseers, by comparing the size of them with those which have been tread out, may certainly give a pretty near guess at.

The three bushels & half of Oats, mentioned to you in my last, are not of such superior quality as I had been led to expect from the account given of them; yet, notwithstanding, ground may be kept sometime longer for them, or until you hear further from me, on this head.4

The imposition with respect to the Garden seeds, is very unjustifiable; ’tis infinately worse than simple robbery, for there you loose your money only, but when it is given for bad seed you lose your money, your labour in preparing for the reception of them, and a whole season.

Cloaths must be provided for the Young Gardener at Alexandria. Those for work to be strong, & substantial. Sunday, or holliday Cloaths to be decent, and such as may please without going to more expence than is necessary: but of the latter class I should conceive he can be in no want now, unless he has made an improper use of a whole suit (of very good Cloaths) which were given to him the latte end of October last.5

I am sorry to find that my chance for Lambs this year, is so bad. It does not appear to me by the Reports that I shall have more than a third of what I had last year: what this can be ascribed to is beyond my comprehension, unless it be for want of Rams, or bad Rams. Let therefore, at Shearing time, a selection of the best formed, & otherwise promising ram lambs be set apart (in sufficient numbers) to breed from; & when they are fit for it, cut the old ones and turn them aside, to be disposed of.

At Shearing time also, let there be a thorough culling out, of all the old, and indifferent sheep from the flocks, that they may be disposed of, & thereby save me the mortification of hearing every week of their death! which is the more vexatious as I was taught to believe that every indifferent sheep was drawn for this purpose last Spring, notwisthstanding the loss of them which has been sustained the past winter; and indeed unto the present moment.

When you go next to Alexandria take the exact dimensions of the rooms in my house at that place, that I may send paper for them. Give the length & breadth of each. and height from the wash board to the Chair board (as they are commonly called) and thence to the Cornish, if any, with the doors and windows, & size of them, in each room or passage. If there is occasion to make good the plastering in any of the rooms, no white wash is to be put thereon; because it is improper for paper. Thomas Davis must paint the outsides of both houses there; the lower part of a stone colour, and the roofs red. the Inside of the dwelling house is also to be painted. The whole in short is to be put in very good, & decent condition. If the planking between the two houses is plained, this also should be painted.6 I am Your friend &ca

Go: Washington

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

1Pearce’s letter to GW of 1 April and the enclosed farm reports have not been found.

2For a list of American ships detained by the British in the West Indies, see Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 11 March. On the embargo imposed by Congress, see Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:400.

3The suggested prices of flour are contained in GW’s letter to Pearce of 23 March and not in his letter of 30 March. For the postal schedule between Philadelphia and Alexandria, Va., see GW to Anthony Whitting, 2 Dec. 1792.

4On GW’s recent shipment of oat seed to Alexandria, see his letter to Pearce of 30 March.

5On GW’s acquisition of gardener John Gottleib Richler in July 1793, see n.8 of GW to Frances Bassett Washington, 28–29 July 1793. On 14 July 1794, Pearce paid £2.00.6 to “Neil & Tomsons” and £4.10.5 to “Riddle & co.” for clothing for the “young Gardener” (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 ).

6For earlier instructions from GW to have his house and stable in Alexandria, Va., prepared for occupancy by Frances Bassett Washington, see his letters to Pearce of 12 Jan. and 16 February. According to GW’s Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends for 28 May, GW paid $22 for “paper hangings” sent to Virginia. Thomas Davis was a dower slave assigned to the Mansion House farm.

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