George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Smith, 10 April 1797

From Alexander Smith

Vienna [Md.] 10 Apl 1797


Herewith You will receive by Capt. Walter the different kinds of plank agreable to Your Memo. forwarded to me by Mr Henry from Philadelphia1—the quantity of Inch plank has fallen a little short of what was expected.

The only reason that can be assign’d for the Vessel not being with you in the first week of this month, there was some dificulty arose in carting the plank to the landing.

The cost and freight you have Stated as below—in Maryland Currancy dollars at 7/6 each.2 I have the Honor to be Your most Obt & very Hble Servant

Alexr Smith


Alexander Smith apparently had a lumber mill in Vienna, in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is not the Alexander Smith of Alexandria with whom GW had dealings. Vienna, at that time a port of entry on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is on the Nanticoke River.

1On 13 Jan. 1797 GW wrote a letter about planking to John Henry (1750–1798), of Weston, Dorchester County, Md., who at this time was one of the U.S. senators from Maryland. The letter reads: “Dear Sir For want of a Memo, from the Overlooker of my Carpenters (which I thought I had brought with me from Mount Vernon) I am unable to furnish an accurate Bill of the Plank & Scantling my purposes require; but as the former of these never comes amiss to me, I would en[g]age

5000 feet of 3/ Inch } as free as possible from Sap.
2500  Do of 1¼ &
1000  Do of 1½

And should be glad to know from the person in whom you could most confide, whether upon receiving a Bill of Scantling & an additional qty of Plank, after I return home, I could be supplied therewith, delivered at Mount Vernon, & in how short a time after receiving the said Bill—With very great esteem & regard I am—Dr Sir Your Obedt Servant Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, NN: Washington Papers). In the library at Mount Vernon there is a typescript of a draft of a second communication to Senator Henry, dated 28 Jan. 1797. The draft indicates that GW was returning to Henry a letter of Alexander Smith written in response to a memorandum from GW regarding the purchase of planking. “In that letter,” GW wrote, “Mr. Smith supposes the Plank contained in the President’s memo, may be delivered at Mount Vernon for 10/ @ 11/3 (I presume Maryld currency, i.e. dollars at 7/6) but as this mem. comprehended plank of three thicknesses viz.—Inch, 1¼ & 1½, he is unable (perhaps from not understanding the mode of selling) to apply this price, unless as an average. Be this however as it may, the P. would take the quantity formerly mentioned, upon as good terms as Mr Smith can afford to deliver at Mount Vernon. . . .”

2The account written below Smith’s signature reads:

2515 feet Inch ⟨illegible⟩ plank @ 12/6 15.14. 3½
freigh on ditto @ 3/9 perc. 4.14. 0
20. 8. 3½
1038 feet Inch & half plank @ 15/ 7.15. 6
freigh on ditto @ 4/6 2. 6. 6½
10. 2.  ½
4817 feet Inch plank @ 8/3 17.17. 4
freigh on ditto @ 3/ 7. 4. 6
25. 1.10
£55.12. 2

GW records in his Day Book (Cash Memoranda, 1794-97 description begins Cash + Entries & Memorandums, 29 Sept. 1794–31 Aug. 1797. Manuscript in John Carter Brown Library, Providence. description ends ) paying Thomas Muir on 21 April £40.12.0 for Alexander Smith. See also Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 28. GW ordered lumber from Smith again on 3 April 1798.

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