George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Sinclair, 6 June 1798

From John Sinclair


SirWhitehall [London] 6th June 1798

Since I had the honour of writing you last, a change has taken place in the Board of agriculture, respecting which, I beg to refer you, to the inclosed papers, and the annexed Postscript.1

Matters continue here, in so strange a state, that it is impossible to foresee, what may be the situation of this country, six, or even 3 months hence. We are, upon the whole, pretty safe at home, but the disturbances which have taken place in Ireland, though they will probably be quelled for the present, yet furnish a very alarming prospect in future.

Whatever happens, I shall always remember, with peculiar pleasure, my epistolary correspondence with General Washington. With great truth and regard, believe me, your most faithful and obedient Servant

John Sinclair

N.B. Mr Parkenson proposes leaving London in a few days, and, I hope, will render himself, an agreeable and useful neighbour to you at Mount Vernon.


1Sir John Sinclair, president of the British Board of Agriculture since its creation in 1793, was replaced in that office at the board’s annual meeting in March 1798 by John Southey, Lord Somerville, who was backed by the prime minister, William Pitt. In a second postscript, enclosed in this letter, Sinclair told GW: “A change has taken place at the Board of Agriculture, at the last annual Election, in consequence of which Lord Somerville was chosen President by a Majority of one. It was carried by the Cabinet Ministers, & other official Members, who had never attended, and as it is only to be considered as a stroke of Political resentment, for having differed with Ministers in Parliament (for the Members unanimously voted me their thanks as soon as the Board reassembled,) I give myself no concern about it; & continue as much disposed to promote the Interest of the Board as ever. It has induced me however, to resolve in future, to pay more attention to the Management of my own private affairs, & less to public matters, than I have done for some years past.”

Another enclosure lists the twenty-five members of the board who voted and indicates those who voted for Lord Somerville. Sinclair also included (1) a copy of a letter from Somerville to himself, 14 May 1798, covering a resolution of the board thanking Sinclair for his services, (2) a “Memorandum respecting the culture of Beans in america,” and (3) a list of twelve “Political surmizes in London, regarding the destination of the Toulon Fleet,” dated 4 June. The last three “surmizes,” numbers 10 through 12, were: “To take a bottle of Port with Mr Pitt in Downing Street”; “To eat a mutton chop with General Washington at Mount Vernon”; and, “At all Events, either to get rid of Buonaparte, or at least to make some use of him.”

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