George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Parkinson, 28 August 1797

From Richard Parkinson

Doncaster [England] Augt 28. 1797


Having for some Time past had an Intention of going to America, which having been intimated to my good Friend Sir John Sinclair Bart, he desired me to write to you, by the first Conveyance to inform you; that he intended reccommending me to you, as an English Farmer, to take one of your Farms, on the Potomac, of which Farms he has sent me the Plans, Conditions &ca.1 Accordingly I take this the first Opportunity of writing to you to say, that I shall be exceeding glad to be under the Patronage of two such highly respectable Gentlemen, as Sir John & yourself, & shall be extremely so to take one of the Farms (if yet unlet) but before entering into any Agreements whatsoever, I shd wish to see them, which I think prudent, & hope you will coincide in Opinion with me; As I shd be very sorry to enter into any Agreements, which I might not be able to perform. Having a treatise on Agriculture entitled, “the experienced Farmer,” (a Proposal of which I have taken the Liberty to enclose) which I have got almost in a State of Readiness for the Press;2 & on Acct of other Business, which I must finish before I leave England it will be March next before I can set off for America.3 In my intended Work I have the Honour to be encouraged, by the first Men in Agriculture, in this Kingdom, and by the Nobility of the first Rank. The inclosed Proposal is the Heads of the Work, of which when printed Intend to take the Liberty to present you with a few Copies by different Ships, as I have been desired by my worthy Patron Sir John Sinclair.4

If your Farms shd be all disposed of ’ere this reaches you, it wd still give me the greatest pleasure to have a Situation near you, if possible—I shall conclude for the present & have Sir the Honour to be your very hble Servt

Richd Parkinson

ALS, DLC:GW. Parkinson addressed the letter to GW at “Belmont Mountn” in “America.”

Richard Parkinson (1748–1815), an agricultural writer, came to America in 1798 with his family and a number of different types of livestock, intending to rent one of GW’s Mount Vernon farms. After seeing the farm he decided not to rent it and instead leased Orange Hill, near Baltimore. He returned to England in 1800 and became steward to Sir Joseph Banks in Lincolnshire. In 1805 Parkinson published in London The Experienced Farmer’s Tour in America, which was published again the same year under the title A Tour in America in 1798, 1799, and 1800. In this two-volume work Parkinson was extremely critical of the agricultural practices of GW and other American farmers.

1Parkinson is probably referring to GW’s letter of 20 Feb. 1796 to John Sinclair about renting his farms at Mount Vernon and also probably his long letter to Sinclair of 11 Dec. 1796 in which GW also describes American farm land generally.

2The Experienced Farmer, an Entire New Work, in Which the Whole System of Agriculture, Husbandry, and Breeding of Cattle, Is Explained was published in two volumes in London in 1798.

3Parkinson wrote again on 27 Sept., delaying the day of his intended arrival and repeating much of what he wrote here: “I wrote a Letter by the last Month’s Mail, (which I hope you will receive safe) but since writing it, I am informed that on Account of the great Dangers & Uncertainties, Which Pacquets are liable to, it may be necessary to write one Letter by every Pacquet, until I have the Pleasure to receive a Letter from you notifying its receipt. My former Letter was nearly in Subject as follows—‘That Sir John Sinclair Bart having heard of my Intention of going to America, intended recommending me to you as an English Farmer, to take one of yr Farms on the Potomac—& desired me to write per first Opportunity to inform you of his Intention; that I shd be extremely glad to take one of the Farms of which Sir John Sinclair had given me the Plans &c. but that before I entered into any Agreement concerning them, that I shd be glad to look over them, as then I might be able, to judge better of the Agreements, I shd enter into, & hoped you wd coincide in Opinion with me; and that having a treatise on Agriculture to publish (in which I had the Honour to be encouraged by Men of the first Rank in the Kingdom & of Men of the first Knowledge in that most excellent Science) & other Business of Concern to finish before I could leave England, it wd be at least March next 1798 before I cd set off for America.’ Since I wrote the last Letter (of which the above is a Sketch) I find that as my Business is rather uncertain, when it will be finished, it may be April or the beginning of May before I can conveniently leave here; & as I percieve your Farms are not to be entered on till August or Septr next, it may perhaps be no inconvenience to you, but if it shd in the least I beg you will let me know; as I have a Son who can finish the Business, & who I can leave to finish it & he might come after myself & Family—I inclosed you a proposal with the Heads of my Work in my last—As soon as ever the Work itself comes from Press I will take the Liberty to present you with a few Copies of it, sent by different Vessels—If your Farms shd be all disposed of ere this reaches you, it wd give me the highest Gratification to be situated near your Estate in Virginia” (DLC:GW).

4The enclosure has not been found.

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