George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Anderson, 15 January 1797

Philadelphia 15th Jany 1797.

Mr Anderson,

Your letter of the 11th and Reports of the preceeding week, came to hand yesterday.

It is a thing I had resolved to do, so soon as I should be fixed at Mount Vernon, to seperate the old & bad horses, cattle and Sheep from the young, thrifty & good; and to dispose of them in some way or another, as soon as they could be got in order for it; by a Summer’s run, or other means not too expensive for the end. And I approve of your killing (for the purpose mentioned in your letter provided there are others to serve the Cows) the Bulls at Union & Dogue Run farms, which have got old & mischievous.

Having good meats for my Table by the middle of March, and in succession through the year, according to the seasons, is highly proper & very desirable, as it has always been my custom to supply it with the best.

In my last, I gave you full authority to add to my stock of Hogs by purchase; as I also did to your buying half a dozen or more Cows, and a Bull, if to be had of a good breed; and mentioned a Mr Gough of Maryland (near Baltimore) as a Gentleman who had been at much expence in the importation of them from England.

I have already given you my sentiments so fully with respect to the Distillery, that it is unnecessary to add more in this letter than to say, the place for, and manner of conducting it, is left entirely to yourself. Raising of Hogs by means of it, is certainly a very desirable branch of the business.

If Allison has cut Trees down in front of the house improperly, I shall be vexed, as well as regret it, because time only can replace them; and of that I have none to spare[.] I never expected that that ground would yie[ld] corn in proportion to the labour I meant to bestow on it: the primary objects of the cultivation are to cleanse it thoroughly of the under growth, and to lay it down (as mentioned in my memorandums) to grass for Pasture, or pleasure grounds; and in order th[at] it may be well worked and prepared for these, as well as for the benefit of the Corn cr[op.] I am clearly of your opinion that Davy ought not to attempt more of the latter at muddy hole, than you have described in yr letter.

Although, as I have mentioned in Several of my letters to Mr Pearce, it would be very pleasing to me to have the New road completed as soon as it could possibly be done, with convenience, yet I would not have other matters of more importance neglected on this account. Preparations for, and putting in crops, must be done in due season. or all is lost; but this is not the case with the Road, however much the completion of it is wished.

It has always been my intention, as soon as the kill Race is completed, and the Ditchers could be spared, to dig a large ditch on the East side of the road, five feet at least wide, with a high bank and a wattled, or Post & Rail fence thereon; but this must be a secondary work to the other, that is to the Race. I do not mean however, from what is now said, to discourage you from taking hands from the respective Farms to finish this road, and making the ditch unless, as above, it should interfere too much with your preparations of the ensuing Crop. The motive to the Ditch & Fence I have spoken of, from the Mansion Ho. Inclosure to that of Muddy hole, is, that all within, & between the said Ditch & Creek, wd make a large & most excellent Woodland pasture for Brood Mares, &ca, as a great deal of Marsh, & grassy places wd be included.

I never intended to fill up the lower floor of the Barn at Dogue run with Clay; if I cannot make a composition as hard (or nearly so) as stone, I shall renew it with Plank; but no Sleepers will last long there, for want of Air beneath them.

It is not the low ground through wch the kill race passes, that occasions the waste of water, but the leaks on the hill sides, occasioned by the rotting of roots—Crawfish—or some other vermin that borough through; & make passages for the water. The new Race will avoid the worst part of the side land hill, & therefore is of high importance to complete.

Sein ropes, and every other preparation for fishing will, no doubt, be attended to in time. The Seins should be overhauled, & if necessary, repaired in time, & put out of the reach of mice, which often knaw holes in them. The Boats too should be put in proper order; for if any of these matters should be delayed until about the time they are wanted, you may meet difficulties which cannot be overcome in time.

Iron proper for Wheel bands, and such Smith’s Tools as are really necessary, you will provide.

Raising from three to five acres of Turnips at each of the Farms, if you can put so much ground in proper order for them will certainly be beneficial. I early recommended it to Mr Pearce to save a great deal of Seed, and of the best kind; particularly from the Swedish Turnip, which is descriped as a hardy sort, & will stand the Winter. I approve your plan for the lot by the Ice house, and will provide 15 (or more) bushels of the early Potatoes (if you desire it) for that, & other Spots.

There are three lots at the Mansion house which have usually been in the rotation of Potatoes, Oats, & Clover; the No. Wt one, was sowed with Oats & Clover last Spring, but the drought destroyed, as was supposed, the latter; and it was doubtful when I left home, whether that lot, or the one immediately fronting the house, should come into Potatoes this year. The last, in course ought to do it; but as the other did not take, in clover, it was supposed that it would be best to put this in Potatoes. Let me know what you have resolved to do in the matter.

With respect to the Dogue run system I am of opinion that if the Corn is well worked, and kept clean, that Potatoes in the intermediate rows neither injures it, nor the Wheat crop that follows; on the contrary, the fields that have been in these two crops have always produced more wheat than any other Corn ground—But in the state No. 6 was worked, & sowed last year, the wonder is that it should have yielded any thing, except grass; and therefore it affords no criterian by which an opinion is to be formed—My ideas are, & clearly, that a field of Corn planted 3 feet by 6 feet, with rows of Potatoes between, will yield as much of the former as the same field would do if planted 6 feet each way, without Potatoes; that in the first plan, as many bushels of Potatoes as of corn will be produced; that the latter will be clear profit; and that the crop of Wheat which follows the Corn & Potatoes, will be better than if it followed Corn alone. But then, the ground must be kept clean & well worked, otherwise it is impossible to put the Wheat in, in any tolerable order.

After having expressed these sentiments, I have no objection to your trying your method at that Farm, if you think it will be more productive, and not more oppressive to the land; but I repeat it again, that you are not to form your judgment of the present System, from the appearance of field no. 6 at that place. Mr Pearce was a very industrious man; active, zealous, and ambitious to make the most he could of the farms, but that ambitn (unless he could have commanded the rains, & sunshine as he pleased) always prompted him to attempt more than he could execute, properly; and then, the seasons were blam’d; that is—the grd was either so wet, or so dry, that it could not be worked: whereas a person should never undertake more than he can execute under any (except disasterous) circumstances. In that case, if the Seasons are favorable, he not only cultivates his ground well, but has labour to spare for the improving of it in many ways; and if not favorable, he will nevertheless, do justice to his Crops. Planting of early Corn in the manner you propose is certainly judicious.

I requested in my last, that you wd continue to replenish the Ice house with fresh Ice, [   ] to be got, and [   ] vacancy to receive it; but I must add by way of explanation, that it must be done with hard & firm Ice, or not at all, for I believe soft & spungy Ice would do more harm than good. There is nothing that, fills my mind with more apprehension when I am from home, than Fire. I request therefore that every charge, & every precaution against the bad effects of it, may be given, & used; during my absence, to guard against the danger of it.

With this, you will receive a box containing eggs of the Silk worm, and a paper of grape Seeds. which give to the Gardener. the latter he will plant; the other I suppose he will know how to manage. If Mr Pearce is still with you I heartily wish him better heal. I wish you well also & am Your friend

Go: Washington

P.S. Mrs Washington requests [that] you, or Mrs Anderson would pay particular attention to the [   ].


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