George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Anderson, 21 June 1797

From James Anderson

Mt Vernon 21 June 1797


Your letter of 18th gave me much Satisfaction every alteration which You think well of will be attended to in the Planing & executeing the Improvement of Your Estate.

And as much Grass seeds as possable saved for every purpose proposed.

Your Excellency’s approbation and mark thereof in allowing me £140 Hire is very agreable for this & future times.

It will please me better than any share, for some reasons besides those mentioned by Your Excellency. & will prevent the most distant Idea (I hope) of Grudge—And I flatter myself that my best endeavours, shall always be directed for Your Interests And whenever they are otherwise, or that I slacken in my Industry I would then be unworthy of continuing in Your Service.

The expence of fixing a house for a Distillery 3 more Stills & a Boiler will be nearly thus 3 stills & one Boiler something about 520 Doll[ar]s Additional Mash Tubs 1—We have already one Stove which I bought and will do And the mash Tubs purchased are good as well as every other thing.

The Building of a Still house a small malting house & Still, I could not well estimate—Our own people will do the whole excepting seting up the Stills, A Strong Cellar must be at hand to Lodge the Spirits in—And if such a Work be’s carryd on, the constant Milling of Wheat, Buying Wheat &ca.

I then must move to the place of Action, as the most of the business will be done at that particular Spot.

But this could be done after the work is set fully agoing.

I do think if Mr Stewart will Stay, He can be trusted sooner than many others. And am Satisfied Billy may do at the House and J. Cash do both Union & Doguerun Farms at £60.2

Mr Neale refuses staying unless his hire is made larger—My opinion is rather than do so I’d have none—Isaac may have, as at present the charge of the Shop—And James the charge of that without doors—where only 3 & Himself are constantly at work—It will rather increase my labour pursuing these alterations, But that will never be any objection where a saving can be made.3

And by this there would be loped off £126 besides the finding of 3 familys—which might be nearly.

My views are not directed by any particular dislike at any of them—Who all obey, & are rather oblidging But in one Hand, I would wish not only to see Your Estate improved but Also to see some handsome profit made. Being with the most sincere esteem Your Excellencys Most Obdt Humble Set

Jas Anderson

a State of the Distillery is herewith handed.4


1In the margin Anderson added $520 and $120 to get a total of $640.

2William Stewart was the overseer at River farm, and Joseph Cash, at Dogue Run farm, both at Mount Vernon. George Washington Parke Custis in his Recollections, 450–51, has this to say about William Lee (“old Billy, the famed body-servant of the commander-in-chief during the whole of the War of the Revolution”) after GW’s retirement to Mount Vernon in 1797: “Of a stout athletic form, he had from an accident become a cripple, and, having lost the power of motion, took up the occupation of a shoemaker for sake of employment. Billy carefully reconnoitred the visiters as they arrived, and when a military title was announced, the old body-servant would send his compliments to the soldier, requesting an interview at his quarters. It was never denied, and Billy, after receiving a warm grasp of the hand, would say, ‘Ah, colonel, glad to see you; we of the army don’t see one another often in these peaceful times. Glad to see your honor looking so well; remember you at headquarters. The new-time people don’t know what we old soldiers did and suffered for the country in the old war. Was it not cold enough at Valley Forge? Yes, was it; and I am sure you remember it was hot enough at Monmouth. Ah, colonel, I am a poor cripple; can’t ride now, so I make shoes and think of the old times; the gineral often stops his horse here, to inquire if I want anything. I want for nothing, thank God, but the use of my limbs.’”

3Isaac was a carpenter by trade, married to the dower slave Kitty, a dairymaid. See the Farm Reports, 2–8, 9–15, 16–22, 23–29 April, GW to Anderson, 21 Dec. 1797, and List of Slaves, June 1799 (DLC:GW). James also was a carpenter by trade. He was married to GW’s slave Darcus. John Neale was head carpenter at Mount Vernon.

4Anderson on this date begins to record in his ledger a separate account for the Mount Vernon distillery, recording expenditures for making whiskey and receipts from its sale. Not until the fall of 1797 was work begun on the erection of the stone building near the mill to house the distillery, but by early 1798 the new stills were in operation (Mount Vernon Ledger Book, 1797–99, pp–9, 79; see also GW to Robert Lewis, 26 Jan. 1798, and GW to Samuel Davidson, 2 Mar. 1798).

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