George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 20 May 1785]

Friday 20th. Mercury at 61 in the Morning—68 at Noon and 72 at Night.

Brisk Southerly Wind until Noon when it became calm till the Evening—then the Wind sprung up again from the same point. Day warm and clear.

Rid to my Mill, and to Morris’s.

Planted in boxes No. 10 & 11 in the garden, adjoining to the other boxes 48 seeds of the Mahogany tree brot. by Mr. G. A. Washington from the West Indies.

A Mr. Noah Webster came here in the Afternoon & stayed all Night. As did one Richd. Boulton a House joiner and Undertaker recommended to me by Colo. Wm. Fitzhugh of Maryld.

Upon enquiry, found that my overseer at the ferry had begun to plant Corn on the 12th. and Morris at Dogue run on the 18th.

mahogany tree: Swietenia mahogani.

Noah Webster (1758–1843), of Massachusetts, had a short time before this published his Grammatical Institute of the English Language. The failure of Congress to enact copyright laws had led him to spend several years traveling through the states in an effort to encourage local legislation. During this year he had also published Sketches of American Policy, a plea for a strong federal government. He probably brought a copy to GW during this visit or during a return visit in November, for in December he wrote GW from Alexandria, asking to borrow his pamphlet long enough to have excerpts printed in the newspaper (16 Dec. 1785, PHi: Gratz Collection).

Richard Boulton of Charles County, Md., signed an agreement with GW on 21 May 1785 in which he agreed to finish the New Room “in a plain and elegant manner; either of Stucco, Wainscot, or partly of both.” He was also, among other things, to make repairs to the roof of the mansion, wainscot the new piazza which had gone up under Lund Washington’s supervision, and “do the necessary work of a Green House” (DLC:GW). In employing a joiner to finish the New Room, GW was contradicting his earlier assertion to Samuel Vaughan on 14 Jan. 1784 (DLC:GW): “I found my new room, towards the completion of which you kindly offered your house-joiner, so far advanced in the wooden part of it, the Doors, Windows, & floors being done, as to render it unnecessary to remove your workman with his Tools (the distance being great) to finish the other parts; especially as I incline to do it in stucco, (which, if I understood you right, is the present taste in England).” Despite his contract with GW, Boulton reneged on his promise to come to Mount Vernon, and so the finishing work on the New Room was delayed for another year (Boulton to GW, 4 June 1785, GW to Boulton, 24 June 1785, GW to William Fitzhugh, 14 July 1785, DLC:GW).

my overseer at the ferry: Hezekiah Fairfax, overseer at the Ferry plantation for several years, was a son of William Fairfax (d. 1793), of Maryland and Occoquan, by his first wife, and thus a half brother to John Fairfax, GW’s Home House overseer. Hezekiah married Margaret Calvert and lived in Prince William County.

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