George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 10 July 1790]

Saturday 10th. Having formed a Party, consisting of the Vice-President, his lady, Son & Miss Smith; the Secretaries of State, Treasury & War, and the ladies of the two latter; with all the Gentlemen of my family, Mrs. Lear & the two Children we visited the old position of Fort Washington and afterwards dined on a dinner provided by Mr. Mariner at the House lately Colo. Roger Morris but confiscated and in the occupation of a common Farmer. I requested the Vice-President & the Secretary at War as I had also in the Morning the Chief Justice, to turn their attention to the Communications of Majr. Beckwith; as I might in the course of a few days, call for their opinions on the important matter of it.

miss smith: probably Louisa Smith. See entry for 8 Oct. 1789. gentlemen of my family: GW’s secretaries, Tobias Lear, William Jackson, Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., David Humphreys, and Robert Lewis. Dandridge (d. 1802) was the son of Mrs. Washington’s brother Bartholomew Dandridge.

Mrs. Lear, Tobias Lear’s wife, was Mary (Polly) Long Lear of Portsmouth, N.H. The Lears were married in April 1790 in Portsmouth, and upon their return to New York they were invited to make their home with the Washingtons. Mrs. Washington in particular apparently became very fond of young Mrs. Lear, who made herself useful to the presidential household in a number of ways. The living arrangements continued after the household moved to Philadelphia. Polly Lear died, at the age of 23, in Philadelphia, 28 July 1793 (DECATUR 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 , 128–29). The two children were Mrs. Washington’s grandchildren George Washington Parke Custis and Eleanor Parke Custis.

Fort Washington, in the vicinity of present W. 183d Street in Manhattan, had fallen to the British in Nov. 1776. Later Fort Knyphausen had been constructed by the British on the site of the American works. The Morris Mansion (Jumel Mansion), constructed by Lt. Col. Roger Morris in 1765, was confiscated at the end of the Revolution as Loyalist property and was advertised in Mar. 1790 for sale at public auction: “A Farm at the 11 mile stone on New York Island late the property of Col. Roger Morris—the mansion house in point of elegance and spaciousness is equal to any in this state, and from its elevated position not only enjoys the most salubrious air, but affords a prospect extensively diversified and beautiful. The farm contains about 140 acres, the greatest part of which is mowing ground, and extends across the Island from the East to the North river. On the premises are a large coach house and barn, with a garden containing a variety of the best fruits” (Daily Adv. [New York], 12 Mar. 1790, cited in STOKES description begins I. N. Phelps Stokes. The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498–1909: Compiled from Original Sources and Illustrated by Photo-Intaglio Reproductions of Important Maps Plans Views and Documents in Public and Private Collections. 6 vols. New York, 1915–28. description ends , 5:1263). The house was to be sold on 3 May 1790.

Although there are no written communications from GW on the subject of Beckwith’s communications (see entry for 8 July 1790) to Adams or Knox, on 9 July Hamilton wrote Jay that “certain Circumstances of a delicate nature have occurred, concerning which The President would wish to consult you.” In view of the serious illness of Jay’s father-in-law, Gov. William Livingston of New Jersey, “I cannot say the President directly asks it, lest you should be embarrassed; but he has expressed a strong wish for it” (HAMILTON [2] description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 6:488).

On 12 July Jefferson wrote to GW that he “had a conference yesterday with Mr. Madison on the subject recommended by the President. He has the honor of inclosing him some considerations thereon, in all of which he believes Mr. Madison concurs” (DNA: RG 59, Misc. Letters). For the enclosure, “Jefferson’s Outline of Policy Contingent on War between England and Spain,” see JEFFERSON [1] description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 17:109–10.

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