George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Jonathan Boucher, 5 May 1772

To Jonathan Boucher

Mount Vernon May 5th 1772.

Dear Sir,

As I wrote to you yesterday, I should scarcely have found any thing to have said today, had not Mr Ballendine’s desire of laying before Govr Eden & the Gentlemen of Annapolis, a Scheme which he has been encouraged to adopt, of visiting the Duke of Bridgewaters Works, & other things of the kind in England, with a view of bringing himself better acquainted with the true principles of that sort of knowledge, laid me under a kind of necessity of giving him a line to Govr Eden &ca (not that I would mean to recommend, either the Man, or his Measures further than they deserve) whilst I was doing this, it occurd to me from an advertisement of a desired meeting of the Clergy in Annapolis, that you might possibly be there; & therefore I recommended it to Mr Ballendine to shew you the Plan also; as he has met with pretty considerable incouragement on this side the Potomack, and has got Letters (as he says) from Lord Dunmore to Mr Brinley, & other’s, from whom he expects the Insight necessary to enable him to be instrumental in carrying into execution the present attempt of extending the Navigation of Potomack from Tidewater upwards, as far as Fort Cumberland1—At the sametime that I acknowledge that, Mr Ballendine has a natural genius to thing’s of this sort, which if properly encouraged may tend much to publick utility, I cannot help adding, that, his Principles have been loose; whether from a natural depravity, or distressd circumstances, I shall not undertake to determine; how far therefore a Man of this cast is entitled to encouragement every one must judge for themselves, for my part I think if he applies the Money Subscribd, to the end proposed, the Publick will derive great advantages from it; on this acct it is, alone, I wish to see him encouraged, and on this principle it is, I have taken the liberty of mentioning of him to Govr Eden, Colo. Sharpe, Majr Jenifer and yourself;2 because, I think the opening of the Potomack will at once fix the Trade of the Western Country (at least till it may be conductd through the Mississipi, by New Orleans) through that Channel; and end, in amazing advantages to these two Colonies—I shall not trouble you further on this Subject—Mr Ballendine says he must be at Annapolis this Night, I am therefore detaining him—I am very sincerely Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, CSmH. The letter is addressed to Boucher “now in Annapolis.”

1For a summary of GW’s activities in the early 1770s to promote the opening of the upper Potomac to navigation, see the source note in Thomas Johnson to GW, 18 June 1770. GW had recently secured the passage by the Virginia assembly of an act for creating a company to achieve this purpose, but he was shortly to learn from Thomas Johnson, on 10 May 1772, that the Maryland legislature was unlikely to follow the Virginia example, which proved to be the case. John Ballendine, who had recently been released after being jailed for debt in Alexandria, arrived at Mount Vernon on 4 May shortly after John Parke Custis had left for Annapolis with GW’s letter of that date to Boucher. Ballendine’s plan was to view the canals of the duke of Bridgewater who “has been called the founder of British inland navigation” (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds. The Dictionary of National Biography: From the Earliest Times to 1900. 22 vols. 1885–1901. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1973. description ends , 6:570). Francis Egerton, third and last duke of Bridgewater (1736–1803), in the 1760s financed the building, under the direction of the engineer James Brindley (1716–1772), of a canal several miles long from Worsley to Manchester, the first such waterway independent of any natural stream. At this time the duke and Brindley were at the point of opening a much larger canal connecting Manchester and Liverpool. Ballendine returned from England in the summer of 1774, and in the fall of 1774 GW became the trustee of a company organized to carry out Ballendine’s plans for the opening of the Potomac to navigation at the lower falls (see Maryland Gazette [Annapolis], 8 Sept. 1774). See also Thomas Johnson to GW, 24 Jan. 1775, n.1.

2In 1760 GW accused Ballendine of cheating him in the sale of iron and entered a suit against Ballendine. At the time, GW’s lawyer, George Johnston, wrote GW that Ballendine, a “Lurking Scoundrel,” had “lost all sourse of honesty & Virtue” (Johnston to GW, 8 Jan. 1760).

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