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Alexander Macomb to Tobias Lear, 31 January 1790

Alexander Macomb to Tobias Lear

Sunday Jany 31. 1790.

Mr Macomb presents Mr Lear with his respects he has receiv’d his note of this morning and informs him that he will take pleasure in affording any assistance in his power to effect the accomplishment of the Wishes of The President of the United States.

If Mr Lear chuses, Mr M— will propose an immediate exchange of Houses there can be no impropriety in such negociation, and he ⟨mutilated⟩ from Mr Ottos1 obliging disposition the Transaction might succeed. At the same he could speak for any part of the furniture that might be wanted.2 Mr Macomb will See Mr Lear with great pleasure at his house this evening; or if it is any ways inconvenient for Mr Lear to visit Mr M. he will with equal cheerfulness wait upon Him.3

AL, ViMtvL.

On 30 Jan. GW agreed to pay $1,000 to lease from 1 May 1790 to 30 April 1791 the choice mansion at 39–41 Broadway that Alexander Macomb had built in 1786–87 and that the comte de Moustier, French minister to the United States, had occupied until his recall in October 1789 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:26).

1Louis Guillaume Otto (1754–1817), chargé d’affaires of the French embassy from 1784 to 1792 and later the comte de Mosloy, agreed to give up the lease to the French legation two and a half months early in order to accommodate GW (GW to Rochambeau, 13 Oct. 1789, n.1; Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends 118).

2GW evidently had admired Moustier’s furnishings during visits to the French legation, and on 3 Feb. he noted in his diary that he had “fixed on some furniture of the Ministers (which was to be sold & was well adapted to particular public rooms)” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:27–28). A 4 Mar. invoice lists the articles that GW purchased from Moustier’s agent, a M. Le Prince:

2 large Looking Glasses @ £46 92. 0.0
12 damask arm chairs 77. 0.0
6 do—small chairs with covers. 24. 0.0
1 Sopha with Cushions 30. 0.0
4 Green silk windw Curtains wh appts 78. 0.0
1 Lustre Cord with Tassels 2. 0.0
1 Chair & Stool called the Shepherdess 9. 0.0
3 Chimney Boards 4. 0.0
An Awning for the Gallery 40. 0.0 £356. 0. 0
2 Mah[ogan]y Buffets in the dining Room 9.10.0
2 Presses in the House keeper’s room 12. 0.0
2 do in do small 1. 0.0
1 Larder in the Cellar 9. 0.0
1 Canvas door in the Cellar 1. 0.0
Apartmt & bottle rack in the Steward’s room 8. 0.0
A dinner bell 4. 0.0
A large fire screen for the Green Room 3. 0.0
2 Franklin fireplaces 9. 0.0
1 Stove in Majr Jacksons Room 7. 0.0
2 Clothes presses in do 8. 0.0
1 Do—in Mr Lewis’s Room 4. 0.0
1 Do—in the Children’s Room 6. 0.0
1 Stove in Mr Lear’s room 10. 0.0
1 Do—in Mr Hyde’s chamber 8. 0.0
A Leaden weight and pully for the door leadg into the middle passage  6.18.0 52.18. 0
 
2 Stoves in the Coach House 4. 0.0
Flowers for the Table 4.10.0
2 Lamps & Glasses 3.12.0
5 do common do 2. 5.0
16 Green Moroco Skins @ 13/6 10.16.0
1 writing desk for Mrs Washington 18. 0.0
1 Drissing table for the Presidt 19. 0.0
93 Glass flower pots of dift sizes 5. 5.6
6 Iron millegible for stew Holes 0.18.0
1 Bidet 2. 0.0
1 Chair for a model  3. 0.0 73. 6. 6
Amount carrid up 529.14. 6

Save [Sèvres] China
2 Iceries compleat 4.12.0
1 Porringer & Cover 2. 4.0
2 Sallad dishes 1.16.0
4 square stew dishes 3.12.0
4 Shells 4.12.0
15 Round dishes 10. 3.0
4 Saucers 4.10.0
4 butter boats 4.12.0
4 Confection dishes 5. 4.0
4 mustard pots 4.10.0
4 Sugar dishes 4.12.1
12 Ice plates 9. 1.0
36 Ice pots 9. 0.0
23 Pla[tters] 9. 0.0
21 Egg dishes 4. 6.0
8 Cocottes 1.12.0
20 small pots 6. 0.0
12 Chocolate cups & saucers 3.12.0
15 Coffee—do & do 4.10.0
17 Tea—do & do 4.19.0
3 Sugar dishes  3. 4.0 105.11.1
2 Cream Pots 1. 7.0
2 flower Pots 2. 5.0
7½ dozn plates 27. 0.0
  30.12. 0
£665.14. 6

(ViMtvL; see also Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:26, 27, 28; Detweiler, George Washington’s Chinaware, description begins Susan Gray Detweiler. George Washington’s Chinaware. New York, 1982. description ends 119, 123, 126; Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends 123).

GW apparently encountered difficulties in carpeting his new quarters. On 10 Feb. Lear wrote to Clement Biddle in Philadelphia: “The President wishes to get a Carpet of the best kind, for a Room 32 feet by 22. A Pea-Green ground with white or light flowers or spots would suit the furniture of the Room—and Carpeting would perhaps answer better than a Carpet—as the former would be made to fit the Room exactly, when it would be difficult to find one of the latter of the precise size. The length of the Room, 32 feet, is its full extent, but at each end there is a fire-place which projects into the Room perhaps 3½ or 4 feet including the Hearths. We can get no Carpet in New York to suit the Room—nor Carpeting of the best kind—Scotch Carpeting is almost the only kind to be found here. If you will be so good as to inform me if anything of the above description can be had in Philada you will oblige me. The price is also necessary to be known” (PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence).

Biddle replied two weeks later: “I have made Diligent Enquiry after Carpeting and can find none in the City that is near your Description—Indeed I never found that Article so scarce.” By early March Lear was able to report that they had found a carpet for the drawing room (Biddle to Lear, 23 Feb. 1790, PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book; Lear to Biddle, 5 Mar. 1790, ViMtvL). More difficulty, however, was had in carpeting the drawing room, and Lear wrote to GW on 30 Sept. 1790, as he was preparing to move the president’s furnishings to Philadelphia: “A few days ago Messrs Berry & Rogers sent the Carpeting which you had ordered out last spring in addition to the Carpet bought of them for the large drawing Room. I refused to receive it, as it did not come so soon as they had given reason to expect, and as, in all probability, it will now be useless, it being intended to fit the large drawing Room of this House. But they urged it upon the ground of its having been particularly ordered, and it was of that quality and kind as to render it altogether unsaleable; and that it had (which was the fact) arrived in Captn Bunyun, the first fall ship which had been sent from London to New York, which was as soon as circumstances would admit of its coming; it having been manufactured for the purpose after the order had reached England.

“Upon inquiry of persons acquainted with things of this kind I found that it would be considered, in a mercantile light, as having arrived in a reasonable time; and shd a matter of this nature be contested it would certainly be decided in favor of them (Berry & Rogers). I, therefore⟨,⟩ thought it would be better to take it than have any dispute upon the subject; and accordingly kept it. The amount is £22.16 with duties & charges included” (DLC:GW).

3GW sent Lear on 1 Feb. “to examine the rooms to see how my furniture cd. be adapted to the respective Apartments.” Two days later GW himself “Viewed the Apartments in the Ho. of Mr. Macombe—made a disposition of the Rooms” and “directed additional Stables to be built” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:26, 27–28).

On 4 Feb. Lear wrote to Macomb: “I have received your polite favor of to day. Your not waiting yesterday needs no apology—the circumstance sufficiently excuses it.

“The President thinks that a Stable 30 ft square, erected at the end of the brick Stable, would extend too far into the yard and obstruct the passage between the Coach House and the Stable—or, at any rate, would destroy the regularity of the buildings: however he will say nothing decisive upon the subject until the ground is again examined, which, if the weather permits, will be tomorrow about 10 o’clock when I shall be down at the House—and it is very probable that the President may walk there at the same time if he is not then particularly engaged, and if the Carpenter is at hand he can be called upon & the matter fixed” (PWacD: Feinstone Collection, on deposit at PPAmP).

GW did not visit the house again until 6 Feb. when he wrote, “Walked to my newly engaged lodgings to fix on a spot for a New Stable which I was about to build. Agreed with [James Robinson] to erect one 30 feet sqr., 16 feet pitch, to contain 12 single stalls; a hay loft, Racks, mangers &ca.—Planked floor and underpinned with Stone with Windows between each stall for 65£.” GW also hired the services of mason John Stagg, who was repaving Broadway at the time, to do the stable’s stonework (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:28; Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends 121, 125, 127).

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