George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Carlyle, 12 January 1756

From John Carlyle

Alexandria, Jany 12 1756

Dr Sir

I Wrote you the 9th Inst. Acquainting you of the Arrival of the Cloathing. They are landed at Malbrough In Maryland, & I have Sent Six Wagons to bring their Loads & Expect them on Saturday Evening.1 I thought it better to Land them their at this Season of the Year & Trust to Land rather than Watter Carrage & Yr Men Will be upon a Certainty of Getting Cloathed 14 days Sooner & phaps a Month if a Spell of bad Weather should Sett in—

£ shs. p
The Goods Contracted for Amounts to 3944. 17. 4
The Blankets Camp Kettles Canteens Spare Shoes & Stockins & Shirts ⅌ yr Second order Amounts to 997. 10. 6
£4942. 15. 10

Inclosed is a true Copy of the Invoyce of goods you desired might be Sent for in order to Supply the Officers &c. & As I then told you I woud referr the Profit to you I have Stated on the Other Side the real Cost & as I send You the Genuin Cost I am In hopes You’l Not think me Unreasonable to Expect 100 ⅌ Ct Cury on the Nt first Cost, & ready money or a few Months Credit, Remittances must be made & Must give As Little Credit As possable, I woud Not take Less than 125 In our own Store of any other Person for the Same Goods, they Are rely Cheap & Good of their Kind.2

I Expected before this Mr Lewis Woud Wrote Me he had purchased Negro’s for You At Col. Lomax Sale,3 but As he did Not, I Yesterday purchased Two Men & a Woman for You & a boy for Myself & yr Brothr John thought yours a Good Bargin at 86£ Sterling, to be paid the 1st of March Next In Bills of Exche or Pistoles at 16/6 Ster. or Pcs. of Eight at 4/6 it woud be Most for Your Advantage to gett the Latter but Where I Cannot Advise they Coud Not Take Our paper at any rate & I thought them So Good a bargin I did Not Care to Miss them, & took a Little time to pay it In I hope you’l have Good Luck with them.

You have Gott ten hogsheads of Tobacco on board Thompson & Two more to Inspect & Ship. She Will Go Away Soon & may be Ashured I will Send a Second Copy of your Invoice & Additions by her—Two hogsheads of yr Mt Vernon Crop is Come here, & Capt. Copythorne having a Sloop Loading to go round to a Ship in Rappahanock for Mr Knox at Bristol I have Lete him have those two hogsheads & Shall Send home Yr Bristol Invoice by that Ship & as yr Tobacco Comes In & We have Oppertunitys Shall Ship them As Directed.4

I am hourly Expecting orders What Goods to Send You Up first. & With My hearty Wishes for Your health &c. In which Mrs Carlyle Joyns & Compts to all the Officers I am Known too. I remain Yr Most Obedt Servant

John Carlyle


1Whenever GW spoke in his diary of Marlborough, Md., he meant Upper Marlboro, the county seat of Prince George’s on the West Branch of the Patuxent River and the site of well-attended horse races. On the road to both Annapolis and Baltimore and no more than a half day’s horseback ride away from Alexandria, Upper Marlboro was a thriving market town from which hogsheads of tobacco were floated down the shallow West Branch for loading in ships in the Patuxent. In this instance, however, Carlyle may have been referring to Lower Marlboro, in Calvert County, some miles downriver and on the opposite bank. Lower Marlboro was a port for seagoing vessels; it was also at a greater distance from Alexandria, perhaps accounting for Carlyle’s expectation that the wagons would not be back with the goods before late on 17 Jan. Carlyle’s letter of 9 Jan. has not been found.

2Carlyle’s “true Copy of the Invoyce of goods” bought—presumably in England—for the Virginia Regiment has not been found, but in putting “on the Other Side” of the invoice “the real Cost,” Carlyle must have indicated the cost to him, stated in sterling, of the initial purchase of the goods. “Genuin Cost” may also include transportation charges. In asking GW for 100 percent currency on the “first Cost,” Carlyle was asking to be paid £200 in Virginia currency for every £100 in sterling that he had obligated himself to pay in England for the goods that had been put ashore in Maryland. As Carlyle’s notation appearing below his signature in this letter demonstrates, the rate of exchange between the Virginia currency he would receive and the sterling he would pay plus the actual charges in the transaction beyond the first cost of the goods would reduce his apparent profits from 100 percent to barely 25 percent, with the overhead costs yet to be deducted. The rate of exchange in 1755 was 30 percent and in 1756 35 percent. All of this made even 125 percent, in Carlyle’s eyes, a not “Unreasonable” charge and prompted him to ask that he be paid in “ready money” or, at worst, within “a few Months.”

3Lunsford Lomax (1705–1772), one of the great landholders in Virginia, sat as a burgess for Caroline County from 1742 to 1755. In June 1752 he was one of the three commissioners appointed by Dinwiddie to attend the Logstown conference with the chiefs from the Ohio tribes. Later that year he became a member of the Ohio Company after buying Lawrence Washington’s shares from the executors of his estate. Whether owing to the mismanagement of his affairs, to a series of short crops, to the extravagance of his tastes, or to a combination of the three as seems to be the case, Lomax was by this time in deep financial trouble and remained so for the rest of his life.

4John Carlyle and Fielding Lewis seem to have handled the shipping and sale of GW’s tobacco for him in 1756 while he was busy fighting the French and Indians. The Thompson that Carlyle refers to here was probably the captain of the Integrity in which some of GW’s tobacco was shipped the next year as well. Copythorne was John Copythorne, captain of the Nugent Only. Knox was the British merchant Thomas Knox. In 1757, 14 more hogsheads of GW’s tobacco went to Knox in Bristol aboard Copythorne’s Nugent Only.

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