George Washington Papers
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[Diary entry: 19 January 1785]

Wednesday 19th. Mercury at 48 in the Morning—the same at Noon and at Night.

Day clear & fine. The Wind at No. West & Cool.

Employed until dinner in laying out my Serpentine road & Shrubberies adjoining.

Just as we had done dinner a Mr. Watson—late of the House of Watson & Cossoul of Nantes—and a Mr. Swift Merchant in Alexandria came in, and stayed all Night.

Elkanah Watson (1758–1842), born in Massachusetts, was apprenticed just before the Revolution to John Brown, of Providence, a merchant who became active in importing gunpowder and other supplies for the army. In 1779 Watson went to France as agent for Brown and others. He opened a mercantile business in Nantes in partnership first with Benjamin Franklin’s grandnephew, Jonathan Williams, and later with Francis Cossoul (Cassoul). The business failed in 1783 and Watson returned to the United States in 1784 (HEDGES description begins James B. Hedges. The Browns of Providence Plantations: The Colonial Years. Providence, 1968. description ends , 245–54). While he was abroad, Watson sent GW some Masonic ornaments from France (GW to Watson & Cossoul, 10 Aug. 1782, DLC:GW). Watson was greatly interested in both agriculture and canals and, in later life, founded the Berkshire (Mass.) Agricultural Society and endeavored to raise capital for building canals. He came to Mount Vernon bearing a gift for GW from Granville Sharp, the British philanthropist and founder of the colony of Sierra Leone in Africa. Sharp had entrusted to Watson two bundles of books for GW, “embracing his entire publications on emancipation and other congenial topics” (WATSON [2] description begins Winslow C. Watson, ed. Men and Times of the Revolution; or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, Including His Journals of Travels in Europe and America, from the year 1777 to 1842, and His Correspondence with Public Men, and Reminiscences and Incidents of the American Revolution. New York, 1856. description ends , 233). During his visit to Mount Vernon, Watson and GW discussed canals at great length, and particularly the Potowmack Company and its plans for navigation of that river (WATSON [2] description begins Winslow C. Watson, ed. Men and Times of the Revolution; or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, Including His Journals of Travels in Europe and America, from the year 1777 to 1842, and His Correspondence with Public Men, and Reminiscences and Incidents of the American Revolution. New York, 1856. description ends , 244–45).

Jonathan Swift (d. 1824) was a merchant who had moved to Alexandria from New England sometime before 1785. In September of this year, he married Ann Roberdeau, daughter of Brig. Gen. Daniel Roberdeau. In his later years, Swift served as a consular agent for several European countries (BUCHANAN [2] description begins Roberdeau Buchanan. Genealogy of the Roberdeau Family, Including a Biography of General Daniel Roberdeau of the Revolutionary Army, and the Continental Congress; and Signer of the Articles of Confederation. Washington, D.C., 1876. description ends , 122–23).

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