George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Pearce, 20 April 1794

To William Pearce

Philadelphia 20th April 1794

Mr Pearce

Your letter of the 15th, with the weekly reports, came to hand as usual, yesterday. I was sorry to learn by the first that you had been unwell.1

It is almost impossible for me to say, with exactness, what I owe the Estate of Mr Anthony Whitting, because his accounts do not appear to have been regularly kept, but rather in detached Memms. More than his wages from the first of Jany until the day of his death (which I think was about the middle of June) at the rate of One hundd pounds Virga Curry pr annum, I cannot owe him;2 because my Nephew when his health obliged him in November 1792 to spend the Winter with his father in law Colo. Bassett, paid Mr Whitting, and all the under Overseers (as he did not expect to be back again if ever, in less than Six months) their full wages for the year, ending the last of December. More therefore than from the close of that year, until the time of his death, in the succeeding one, can[not],3 as I have observed before, be due to the Estate; and this, rather than do it a possible injury, you may pay his Exrs or Admrs; although (as he always had money of mine in his hands) it is probable he might, as it became due to him, have applied part to his own use.4

With respect to the Bond which you say his Exrs are enquiring after, I never saw, or heard of such an one; except whilst I was in Virginia last;5 when I was told by some one, what you have mentioned in your letter. Mr Lear (who at that time was my Secretary) being called to the Federal City on business, & hearing that Mr Whitting was dead, or at the point of death (I am not sure which) and knowing that my affairs at Mount Vernon would, by this event, be thrown into great disorder, went down there (which he had not intended to do when he left Phila.) and remained there until I got home; at which time he gave me all the Papers he had found belonging to Mr Whitting. The private papers in one bundle—and those which concerned my business in another.6 In neither of these was there any bond, nor did I ever hear the circumstance mentioned, until I went to Virginia last Fall. If such a bond did exist, it certainly can be no difficult matter to learn from whom it was obtained; & whether it has been discharged, or not; if discharged, the person paying it will know to whom; without which the bond will be of no use to any one. All Whittings private papers were, to the best of my recollection, turned over to Mr Ring; who, by a non-cupitive Will, was made his heir.7

I am glad to find you are upon the point of sowing Buck wheat at all the Farms. It is essential it should be in the ground without delay, if two Crops are to be plowed in, before the Wheat is sown thereon. Does the Oats which you have sown, and the grass-seeds, come up well? and how are your seasons, and the temper of the ground? By the last Reports you appear to have had rain twice during the week they were made.8 In this neighbourhood the earth is dry, & rain wanting. Did you allow a plenty of seed to the ground that was resown with grass, as well as the other, for the first time.

As the Embargo is continued until the 25th of next month, I think you had better grind no more Wheat until you hear further from me; & let that which is in the straw, remain there; as the safest mode of keeping it; unless you should discover any appearance of the fly about the stacks; in that case, it might be proper to get it out, & grind it as speedily as possible.9

I do not know how much ground you have sown with flax; but as there is no foreseeing what our disputes may end in, it is my wish that you would add a good deal more (if not too late) to what you have already sown; that, let what will happen, I may make a shift to cloath my Negros. This makes it peculiarly necessary also to be extremely attentive to the Wool; for I am satisfied that a tenth part of what is sheared, in bringing it home, and after it is in the usual place, where it is kept, is stolen from me. To guard against both these modes of pilferring, will require much caution; & a strict watch.10

Has there been many Mares, or Jennies, sent yet to the Jacks or Horse? or have you reason to expect that many Will be sent this Season, besides my own?11

Enclosed you will find a letter of complaint—Butler against Crow12—I do not see that it is in my power, or yours, to interfere in the matter otherwise than in an amicable manner. If this fails, the Courts of Justice are equally open to both, and that must be the resort of the injured party. If however, Butler is acquainted with any mal-conduct in Crow, & is able to prove it, he ought, as an honest man, to come forward with it; but he should take care to advance nothing that he is unable to support, lest it should recoil upon himself. When I was last at Mount Vernon, I received numerous complaints from my Negros of their not having been supplied as usual with Fish, & strong insinuations were held out that breaking open the house, in which they were deposited, was no other than a pretence to cover a more nefarious mode of disposing of them. In short it was hinted that Crow had sold them. but as there did not appear any proof of the fact, I set on foot no enquiry, but resolved to lay in a sufficiency for my people this year; secure them well; and let only one person have access to them for delivery, & to be responsible. The Key to be locked up with others at the mansion Ho., and a periodical time for issuing a certain number to each farm, to be distributed by the Overseers in certain proportions to the old & young thereon.

I hope, as the weather seems to be turning warm, that the fish will run more abundantly. Keep a regular acct of this business, that, when it is closed and everything charged, & every thing credited that appertains to it the profit or loss may be ascertained.13 I wish you well & am Your friend

Go: Washington

P.S. Since writing the foregoing letter I have received one from Mr Lear (now in London) containing the following paragraph.

“I have engaged 5000 of the white thorn plants which will be put on board the Ship Peggy bound to George Town, she will sail by or before the 10th of February and is addressed to Colo. Deakins.” 14

Make diligent enquiry for the Vessel if she is not already arrived, as the Season is advanced & the plants will be much injured, if not lost, if not soon got into the ground. I conceive they had better be placed at once where they are finally to remain—and as many may die, plant them thicker on that account. You may have the ground prepared against the plants arrive that not a moment may be lost that can be avoided—plant them where, in your own opinion, they will answer best; Or if Butler, who ought to understd this business thinks they had better go into a nursery in the first instance, let it be so.15

G. W——n

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

1Pearce’s letter of 15 April and the enclosed farm reports have not been found.

2Anthony Whitting, GW’s previous estate manager, had died on 21 June 1793 (Tobias Lear to GW, 24 June 1793).

3On the letterpress copy, GW corrected “can” to “cannot.”

4On the departure of George Augustine Washington and his family from Mount Vernon in October 1792 in order to spend the winter months at the home of Burwell Bassett, Sr., see GW to Betty Washington Lewis, 7 Oct. 1792. According to GW’s financial records, Whitting received £42.13.5 on 5 Oct. 1792 as payment “in full” for his services from 3 Sept. through 25 Dec. 1792 (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 310). On 2 Aug. 1794, £40 in cash was paid to Whitting’s executors (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 ).

5GW was last at Mount Vernon between mid-September and 28 Oct. 1793 (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 239, 241).

6On Lear’s presence at Mount Vernon, see Lear to GW, 19 and 24 June 1793. GW visited Mount Vernon between 27 June and 7 July 1793 (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 189–90).

7On William Ring, see n.6 of GW to Howell Lewis, 4 Aug. 1793. A nuncupative will is one that is declared orally before witnesses.

8The previous farm reports, which were enclosed in Pearce’s letter to GW of 9 April, have not been found.

9On the thirty-day embargo, which was placed on all ships and vessels in U.S. ports, and its extension to 25 May, see the congressional resolutions of 26 March and 18 April (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 . 1:400–401).

10The remaining text is taken from the letterpress copy.

11For the fees charged by GW for the stud services of his horse Traveller and the jacks Knight of Malta and Compound, see n.1 of Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., to Angell & Sullivan and Samuel Hanson of 26 February.

12The letter from James Butler, the overseer of Mansion House farm, in which he complained about Hiland Crow, the overseer of Union farm, has not been found.

13For Pearce’s record of the expenses and income generated by GW’s fishery, see Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–97.

14The quotation is based on a passage in the postscript to Lear’s letter to GW of 26–30 January. For additional mention of this shipment, see Lear to GW, 12 February.

15On the receipt of the white thorn plants and their planting at Mount Vernon, see the farm reports for 25–31 May (DLC:GW).

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