George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Clement Biddle, 5 February 1799

From Clement Biddle

Philad[elphia] February 5. 1799

Dear Sir

I have now to answer to your several favors before me by forwarding the bill of loading of Captain Ellwood for the seven packages Containing the Book Case, a bundle with the shoes from Bedford, another with the hatts from parrish and a small Kag which I had prepared with the Grass seed & therefore thought best to send it, all which the Captain promises to have particular Care of and to land them at Mount Vernon, stowing them so as to be Come at next to the Goods he is to deliver at Norfolk—Your Account with the Bills of parcels is also inclosed1 and I have sent to Mr Fenno to furnish your Account for payment which I expect every moment.2

The price of flour since I wrote you3 has advanced a little, say from 9½ to 10 Ds. for superfine which is owing to an Expectation that the trade to St Domingo may shortly be opened from the discretionary power vested in the president, on the Other hand it is supposed that it will not take place until the messenger from Toussaint who it is said is returning with our Consul to the Cape shall first have gone out to that Island, but if the trade does open, it will Certainly raise the price of flour throughout the United States.4 I am very Respectfully Yr mo. Obedt and very hume Servt

Clement Biddle


1See GW to Biddle, 20 Jan. (the “several favors” are printed in note 2 of that document), and GW to Biddle, 1 February. The enclosed account shows the cost of the bookcase to be $152.13, $18.80 of which was for packing; the grass seed, $3.33; the two hats, $16; the boots and shoes, $22.00. Biddle’s receipts for his payments to John Douglass for the bookcase (15 Dec. 1798), to Catherine Roberts for the grass seed (25 Jan. 1799), and to Isaac Parish for the hats (5 Feb. 1799) are deposited at Mount Vernon. John Bedford was shoemaker for GW in Philadelphia.

2John W. Fenno had become the publisher of the Gazette of the United States on 4 Sept. 1798 upon the death of his father John in Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic.

3Biddle’s most recent letter, dated 27 Jan. and written in response to GW’s letters of 20 and 23 Jan., is missing.

4On 9 February 1799 John Adams signed the bill passed by Congress authorizing him to resume trade with Saint Domingue (Santo Domingo). General Toussaint L’Ouverture, after forcing the French Directory’s commissioner to flee the island in October 1798, sent his personal representative Joseph Bunel to Philadelphia with the American consul at Cap Français, Jacob Mayer, to secure much-needed food and supplies for his army. In March 1799 Secretary of State Timothy Pickering sent the new Consul General Edward Stevens to Saint Domingue with a shipload of supplies to negotiate with General Toussaint, and before the end of April the two had reached an agreement whereby two Saint Domingue ports would be open to American and British trade.

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