George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Anderson, 13 December 1799

To James Anderson

Mount Vernon 13th Decr 1799

Mr Anderson,

I did not know that you were here yesterday morning until I had mounted my horse, otherwise I should have given you what I now send.1

As Mr Rawlins was going to the Union Farm, to lay off the Clover lots, I sent by him the Duplicate for that Farm to his brother—and as I was going to River Farm myself, I carried a copy for that Farm to Dowdal—Both of them have been directed to consider them attentively, & to be prepared to give you their ideas of the mode of arrangeing the Work when they are called upon.2

Such a Pen as I saw yesterday at Union Farm, would, if the Cattle were kept in it one Week, destroy the whole of them. They would be infinitely more comfortable in this, or any other weather, in the open fields—Dogue run Farm Pen may be in the same condition—It did not occur to me as I passed through the yard of the Barn to look into it. I am Your friend &ca

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Dreer Collection.

1GW had written a letter to Anderson on 10 Dec., and he had prepared elaborate plans for each of the Mount Vernon farms which he intended to enclose in that letter. For GW’s plans, see the Enclosure. GW’s letter of 10 Dec. to Anderson reads: “Mr Anderson From the various plans suggested by you, at different times, for Cropping the Farms which I propose to retain in my own hands—in the year 1800, and with a reduced force of the labourers on them in succeeding years, together with the operations necessary to carry them into effect; and comparing these with the best reflections I am able to bestow on the subject: Considering moreover, the exhausted state of my arable fields, and how important it is to adopt some system by which the evil may be arrested, and the fields in some measure restored, by a rotation of Crops which will not press hard upon, while Sufficient interval between them, is allowed for improv<e>ment: I have digested the following Instructions for my Manager (while it is necessary for me to employ one) and for the government of my Overseers [see Enclosure]; and request that they may be most strictly, and pointedly attended to and executed; as far however, as the measures therein required, will permit.

“A System closely pursued (altho’ it may not in all its parts be the best that could be devised) is attended with innumerable advantages. The Conductor of the bu[si]ness in this case can never be under any dilemma in his proceedings; The Overseers, & even the Negros, know, what is to be done, and what they are capable of doing, in ordinary seasons: in short every thing would move like clock work<;> and the force to be employed, may be in due proportion to the Work which is to be performed; & a reasonable and tolerably accurate estimate may be made of the produce. But when no plan is fixed, when directions flow from day to day, the business becomes a mere chaos: frequently shifting, and sometimes at a stand—for want of directions what to do, or the manner of doing it. These occasion a waste of time, which is of more importance than is generally imagined.

“Nothing can so effectually obviate the evil, as an established, & regular course of proceeding; made known to all who are actors in it; that all may, thereby, be enabled to play their parts, to advantage.

“This would give ease to the principal Conductor of the business; It would be more satisfactory to the persons who immediately Overlook it; and would be less harrassing to those who labour; as well as more beneficial for those who employ them.

“Under this view of the subject, & of the change which is about to take place next year, by having rented one of the Farms, the Mill, and Distillery, and havg it in contempla[tio]n to do the same with the Fishery, at the Ferry, the principal services which you can render me (after these events take place) is to explain to the Overseers, (who will be furnished with duplicates), the plan, in all its parts, which is detailed in the following sheets; hear their ideas with respect to the order in which the different sorts of work therein pointed out, shall succeed each other, for the purpose of carrying it on to the best advantage, correct any erroneous projects they may be disposed to adopt for the execution thereof; and then see that, they adhere strictly to whatsoever may be resolved on—and that they are always (except when otherwise permitted) on their respective Farms, & with their People.

“The work under such circumstances will go on smoothly; and that the Stock may be well fed, littered, and taken care of according to the directions which are given; it will be necessary to Inspect the conduct of the Overseers in this particular, and those also whose immediate business it is to attend upon them, with a watchful eye: otherwise, and generally in severe weather, when attention & care is most needed, they will be most neglected.

“Œconomy in all things is as commendable, in the Manager as it is beneficial and desirable by the Employer. And on a Farm, it shews itself in nothing more evidently or more essentially, than in not suffering the Provender to be wasted, but on the contrary, that every atom of it be used to the best advantage; and likewise in not suffering the Ploughs, Harrows and other implements of husbandry thereon, and the Gears belonging to them, to be unnecessarily exposed; trodden underfoot—Carts running over them; and abused in other respects.

“More good is derived from looking into the minutiæs on a Farm, than strikes people at first view; and by examining the Farm yards fences, & looking into fields—to see that nothing is within, but what are allowed to be there, produces more good, or at least avoids more evil, oftentimes, than riding from one working party, or from one Overseer to another, generally accomplishes.

“I have mentioned these things not only because they have occurred to me; and tho’ apparently, trifles, but because they prove far otherwise, in the result.

“And It is hoped, and will be expected, that more effectual measures will be pursued to make butter another year; for it is almost beyond belief, that from 101 Cows actually reported on a late enumeration of the Cattle, that I am obliged to buy butter for the use of my family.

“To visit my Lands in the Western Country (at my expence), so soon as the weather becomes temperate and settled in the Spring, Reporting the circumstances under which they are—and what they are cap<able of>—will be expected, It being of importance for me to receive a just, & faithful acct respecting <them>.

“After perusing the accompanying plans, carefully, furnish me with your opinion on the two following points. 1st what quantity of Seeds, & of what kinds, I shall have occasion to buy; and against what periods, for seeding the Grounds in the year 1800 in the manner therein directed: and 2d whether any & what number of hands can be withdrawn from the three Farms I retain in that year; In considering this last mentioned point, hear the opinions of the Overseers.

“The a/cts for the present quarter must be made final; as an entire new scene will take place afterwards; In doing this, advertise (in the Alexa. Paper) for the claims, of every kind and nature whatsoever, against me, to be brot in to you, by the 1st of Jan:, that I may wipe them off, & begin on a fresh score; All balances in my favr must either be recd; or reduced to speci<alties,> that there may be no disputes thereafter. I am Yr sincere friend—Well wisher—and Servant Go: Washington” (ADfS, DLC:GW). The plans for the future management of the three Mount Vernon farms that GW planned to begin his personal management of in 1800 (River, Union, and Muddy Hole farms) are printed as an enclosure to this letter to Anderson. Lawrence Lewis had rented Dogue Run farm, the mill, and the distillery.

2The somewhat more concise version of the plans for the three farms, also in DLC:GW, perhaps is the form that GW gave to the “Duplicate” plans that he prepared for the overseers of the individual farms. George Rawlins was overseer of Union Farm and Moses Dowdal of River Farm.

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