George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Adam, 13 January 1774

From Robert Adam

[c.13 January 1774]

Dear Sir

I am favoured with yours, as Also for Mr Young which I have delivered him;1 he seems Satissfyed with your proposal and senceable that he will save more than he Could in Such a place as Bladensburgh from the Wages he had there, And now waits upon you himself2—I have Dropt two lines to the Doctr desereing to let me know if there was any particular reason for his leaveing his Employ when I receive an Answer I shall Comunicate it to you.

In regard to the duty if it was petitioned for to be local Im doutfull some dificulty would Arise in transporting Rum from on[e] district to another by which it might Injure the trade of the Other Rivers in the Same way we are Situated with Maryland it is Coustoomary to transport Rum from One District to Another with a permitte, that, it has been Legally entered & paid the duty Suppose this District was exempted from duty & that sum made good in the manner proposed, Any Rum transported from this River to any other the permitte could Only express that it had been entered but no duty paid, it must therefore be Subject to the duty if carryed to any other district, or be Runn in to these Rivers in the same manner it is from Maryland here, And this Im Affraid would be too much the Case, but were there no inconveniences of this kind Im Certain the Mode proposed would Raise a larger Sum than is at present Colected at the Office, and was it possible to have the Tax made Generall Im Confident it would Raise more than is at present Colected from all the Offices but this might be better Acertained upon a further enquiry Should the Plan proposed not take it might be the means of introduceing some other wc. might answer the same purpose I wish some thing Effectuall could be done, its both a pity & a Shame that this River & Countray Around Should be so Eftually debared from Carrying on a Trade that must benifite allmost every Individual and its Natural Channel should be from the West Indies here, and not the Round about way from Philadelphia here at Second hand, I am in hopes some plan may be falln on for our Relief And I hope you will Interest your self in our behalf till we may be perseverence perhaps gain some Relief.3 I am Sir Your Most Humb: Servant

Robert Adam


1GW’s letters to Adam and to George Young have not been found.

2The salary of £25 which GW offered was slightly less than the twenty-five guineas that George Young was receiving from Dr. David Ross. See Adam to GW, 9 Jan., n.2, and Adam to GW, 12 January.

3The “Act for reducing the several acts made for laying a duty upon Liquors, into one act” of 1759, which had been renewed several times, provided that the duty paid on rum and other liquors not shipped from Great Britain could be allowed or credited to the importer if he shipped it out of the province again within six months. This credit, however, was not allowed if he shipped it to other districts within the province (7 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 265–73). The duty on rum was circumvented largely by the importing of large quantities from outside the colony. An unsigned letter dated 16 May 1774, concerning the repeal of the duty on rum, estimates that “9/10 ths of the Rum consum’d in the Northern Neck is imported from Pensylvania and Maryland without paying any Duty at all” (William Ramsay, Robert Adam, and Carlyle & Dalton to GW, 16 May 1774, n.4).

On 21 May 1774 petitions from “several Farmers and other Inhabitants” of Berkeley, Loudoun, and Fairfax counties “Were severally presented to the House and read; setting forth, that the Inhabitants of Maryland are allowed, by the Laws of that Province, to import Rum, in their own Vessels, without being obliged to pay any duty for the same, whereby they have considerable advantages, in the West India Trade, over the Inhabitants of this Colony; and therefore praying, that the Act imposing a duty of four pence per Gallon on Rum imported may be repealed, and that some other mode for raising a Revenue equal to what that duty produces may be substituted in place thereof.” The petitions were referred to the committee of trade, but nothing further came of them; five days later Lord Dunmore dissolved the House of Burgesses (JHB, 1773–76 description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 19–20, 132).

For further correspondence on this attempt to ease the duty on rum, see Robert Carter Nicholas to GW, 9 April; William Ramsay, Robert Adam, and Carlyle & Dalton to GW and John West, 16 May; and Adam to GW, 17 May.

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