George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 2 July 1785]

Saturday 2d. Mercury at 76 in the Morning—80 at Noon and 84 at Night.

A little wind from the Westward in the forepart of the day & from the Southward in the Afternoon.

Doctr. Stuart, Wife & Sister, and Patcy & Nelly Custis came here to Dinner—As did Mr. McCrae & a Mr. Shaw whom Mr. Montgomerie recommended to me as a Clerk or Secretary.

All of these stayed the Night.

Robert McCrea (c.1765–c.1840), a native of Scotland, became a partner in the Alexandria firm of McCrea & Mease (POWELL description begins Mary G. Powell. The History of Old Alexandria, Virginia: From July 13, 1749 to May 24, 1861. Richmond, 1928. description ends , 310–11).

GW had asked various friends to be on the lookout for someone to live at Mount Vernon and help him with the voluminous correspondence and bookkeeping which made increasing demands on his time. Thomas Montgomerie recommended William Shaw, newly arrived in the United States from Canada. Although Montgomerie knew Shaw only slightly, he knew his family, and the young man came with strong recommendations from Montgomerie’s friends (Montgomerie to GW, 21 June 1785, DLC:GW). GW wrote Montgomerie on 25 June that besides writing letters and keeping books, Shaw would be required to “methodize my papers (which from hasty removals into the interior country [during the Revolution], are in great disorder); ride, at my expence, to do such business as I may have in different parts of this, or the other States . . . ; & occasionally to devote a small portion of time to inetiate two little children (a Girl of six, & a boy of four years of age, descendants of the decd. Mr. Custis who live with me . . .) in the first rudiments of Education” (DLC:GW). Shaw would not agree to a definite term of service and demanded the large sum of £50 sterling per year, in addition to bed, board, and washing (Shaw to GW, 4 July 1785, DLC:GW). GW agreed to these terms, and Shaw returned to Mount Vernon to begin his services on 26 July. He stayed only 13 months, leaving GW’s service in Aug. 1786. GW was doubtless happy to see the last of Shaw, for the young man obviously spent too much time away from his duties. The diaries for the last months of 1785 and 1786 abound with the general’s unhappy references to Shaw’s absences from Mount Vernon.

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