George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Peter, 13 February 1798

From Thomas Peter

George Town 13th Feby 1798

Dr Sir

I have called on Mr Davidson to enquire the business his Nephew’s are suitable for, & whether they were not looking out for places to be engaged in; to this he answered one of them was taken by the Potowmack Compy & the Other at my service—I then mentioned you were wanting a Young Man who could keep accounts, write a plain round Hand (as you had much Recording to do) & who must be entirely at your command, He observed this Nephew was only eighteen Years old just from School & the Highlands of Scotland; could spell well, correct in his calculations, industrious, sober, & Honest—I saw his Writing, it is a hand perfectly plain & with practice, attention & such directions as you may give would soon be a very good one. I told Mr Davidson from the business you wished him imployed in, you would not give great Wages, & the Person you get must be bound to stay two or three Years; he said his Nephew was Father & Motherless a Poor Boy without any dependance but his own industry, & therefore thought that it would take 100 dollars to Cloath him; that sum I informed him was the utmost you would give; his answer was you should certainly have him for two Years, from the Sum above mentioned he could not lay up any thing, but the advantage that would result to him in future, if he gave satisfaction would be more infinately, than a small additional Sallery—I am pritty certain rather then not be in your imployment you might get him bound for three years, & if you will suggest to me your wishes, I will endeavour to Treat accordingly.1 We are all Well, Mrs Peter joins me in respects to you & Mrs Washington and I am Dear sir your obedt Servt

Thomas Peter


1Samuel Davidson, an English-born bachelor living in Georgetown, at his death in 1810 left his estate to a nephew named Lewis Grant who changed his name to Lewis Grant Davidson. GW replied from Mount Vernon on 16 Feb.: “Dear Sir, Your letter of the 13th instant was received yesterday. Previous thereto, a young man of Hanover County, who writes a beautiful hand; said to be well acquainted with accounts; and can obtain good recommendations, has offered his services as a Clerk; but asking more than I am disposed to give, I had wrote him, that if he would fall to my mark, I would employ him in that line; and until I receive his answer, I am not enabled to say any thing definitively relatively to the Nephew of Mr Davidson.

“I may add however, that if my proposal is not acceded to (of which I shall be informed by the middle of next week) I would engage Mr Davidsons Nephew as a Clerk, at the rate of $100 pr Ann: provided he will Indent himself to me for three years, or (being as you say about 18) until he is of age—and provided also he has had a classical education or is capable of writing gramatically, and has some knowledge of accts & Book keeping or could soon acquire it; and above all is sober & discreet, & of good dispositions.

“It does not appear from your letter that Mr Davidson has been apprised that, whoever comes to me as Clerk, will not set at my Table. It is necessary that he should be previously informed of this—the one I have written to is acquainted therewith, & does not expect it. The person whomsoever he may be, will eat as I do, but at a second table with the House keeper, who is a decent & respectable woman. He will have a bed room over the Office where he will write (the one at present used by Mr Anderson) and will be very comfortably fixed having his washing, as well as bed & board found him. These things are mentioned beforehand, that matters may be clearly understood.

“If they are agreeable, and Mr Davidson & his Nephew will intimate as much, they shall hear further from me so soon as I receive the expected answer from Hanover: and if the Nephew possesses the qualifications I have enumerated, & will come bound, he will be accepted, if the other refuses my offer. I wish to be informed in this matter without delay—and at the sametime to receive a Specimen of the young man’s writing. Mrs Washington who is well unites with me in best wishes for yourself, Patcy & the Children, with—Dear Sir Your Affecte Servt Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB DLC:GW).

On 19 Feb. Samuel Davidson wrote to GW from Georgetown: “Mr Thomas Peter has done me the pleasure of a sight of your letter to him of the 16th current, respecting a Nephew of mine lately arrived from the highlands of Scotland. The terms you are pleased to offer him, are generous and proper; but a demur arises from the qualifications you require in him. He has not had the benefit of a Classical education, hence cannot now write gramatically. I wish not to deceive any one, and you are the last that come under that wish. Therefore, being apprehensive that the Youths acquired abilities—his natural ones I would answer for—may not meet your immediate wish, I must decline the intended honour of his being your clerk” (DLC: Papers of Samuel Davidson).

On 2 Mar. GW came up with another proposal and wrote Davidson: “Sir, Your favour of the 19th Ulto came duly to hand, and as it was your opinion that your Nephew was not educated in such a manner as to answer the purpose for which I had written to Mr T. Peter, I made no reply to it.

“Since then, another opening of a different kind, has occurred, which would afford employment for your Nephew on the terms suggested to Mr Peter, but at a different Place.

“I have erected a pretty considerable Distillery at my mill (about 3 Miles from this place) the operations of which are just commencing, under the Superinten[den]ce of Mr [James] Anderson my Manager (an honest Country man of yours) whose Son [John] resides thereat, & carries it on. He requires some person of sobriety and good character, in whose integrity reliance can be placed, as an Assistant, and who, if he conducts himself with intelligence & propriety, may probably when qualified therefor, become the Manager of it himself as both the father & son will give him every insight to fit him for a competent Distiller, in their Power.

“I will, as on the former occasion, allow One hundred Dollars pr Annum on condition that he is bound to me until he is of the age of 21, or for 3 years. His residence will be at the Distillery with young Anderson, where fit accomodations for lodging them, &ca are provided.

“I would thank you for an immediate answer as such a person as I have described is now requisite. I am Sir Your Most Obedt Servt Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW).

Davidson replied from Georgetown on 3 Mar.: “Your kind favour of yesterday is to hand. My gratitude is due—and tendered—for the interest you take in the welfare of my Nephew. I have engaged that Youth in a Wholesale Store in Baltimore, for which station he starts next monday morning; otherwise he would embrace with pleasure your present proposition” (DLC: Papers of Samuel Davidson).

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