George Washington Papers

William Ramsay, Robert Adam and Carlyle & Dalton to GW and John West, 16 May 1774

William Ramsay, Robert Adam and Carlyle & Dalton to GW and John West

Alexandria May 16th 1774

Gentlemen

With this you will receive three petitions to be laid before your honorable House respecting the duty on Rum, an inlargement of our Town, draining the Marsh lots &c. the other is relative to the Herring fishery which you well know, is become very considerable and therefore worthy of Attention.1 Perhaps it may be only necessary to say something respecting the inlargement of our Town & the other matters contained therein. As this place is in a very thriving condition, many persons are very desirous to settle in it, the number of people from the northwd that daily resort in great numbers to view the place plainly evinces this—The duty on Rum, the want of houses and Lots for sale are a discouragement to the merchant, the want of houses and lots for sale a discouragement to the Mechanic—Could these things be obviated, our Town & Country about would flourish indeed, & the remotest part of the Colony would experience the happy effects—Not longer than a few days ago a Shop Joiner and Cabinet Maker, a Man well known to many in this place to be of reputiatn and wou’d have introduced three or four workmen to carry on his business, was obliged to return because he cou’d not get a house to fix in; this is a real loss to the comunity, this I only mention of many instances—There is the greatest encouragement for those that have Lots & Money to build, if ten & twelve percent be an incouragement, this interest they may certainly get.

I know how cautious the Gentlemen that form your honorable House are, of Appropriating Land even for the public use without the owners leave, We are sorry for Mr Alexanders unhappy indisposition & do declare, that we do not move for this at this juncture to take any advantage of his melancholy situation, but that we realy think and are fully satisfied, it will be of great use to this part of the Country in particular and to the Colony in general. The Trustees have always acted with great candour to the proprietors of Lands that were laid out for this Town, the last sales for Mr Alexanders part in the addition, amounted to near seven hundred pounds for about 18 or 20 Acres.2 The Trustees I hope will always act with candour as well from principal as to shew the public, that they have no sinester views of theire own—The Marsh Lots ought to be done something with, by making them wholesome, they may be made habitable or otherwise usefull. It is hard that when the foreign proprietors have been Applied to both by Letter and personaly, that they shou’d remain in an unwholesome state, and especialy as representatives of Infants are desirous that something to purpose may be done with them—It wou’d not be amiss that in the Act about Herrings that the Barrell contain thirty one gallons & a half, that the staves be of seasoned White Oak & that there be at least twelve good Hoops on each barrell & a penalty of 5/ and a forfeiture of the Herring and Barrells, one half to the informer, the other to the Parish for the use of the poor, from every person that sold or offered to sell any barrelled Herrings without inspection, or in any way not in conformity to the Act of Assembly—It wou’d be of great use, was a culler of staves and a sworn measurer put into the Herring Bill to be presented to House for their Approbation, to be appointed by the County Court. Those will be real advantages & we doubt not but that they will meet with your incouragement and support.

You will also receive a petition for a more effectual method to prevent the raising of Hogs and suffering them to run at large also Goats and Geese they are a most abominable nusance. a fine per head instead of killing of them wou’d be a more effectual way—20/ per head on Hogs the same on Goats 5/ on Geese wou’d prevent the most obstinate from offending the Laws, and injuring their neighbors3 Please to excuse this imperfect Scrawle. We hope that you may pick out our meaning. We are with particular esteem Gentn your Most Humble Servants

Wm Ramsay

Robert Adam

Carlyle & Dalton4

LS, in William Ramsay’s hand, DLC:GW. The letter was addressed to GW and West “in Williamsburge.”

1A petition from inhabitants of Alexandria requesting an enlargement of the town was introduced on 21 May in the House of Burgesses; the same day three petitions from inhabitants of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Berkeley counties were presented requesting that the duty on rum imported into the colony be repealed. On 23 May a petition of “several Persons of the County of Fairfax” was read requesting regulations on the curing and sale of fish (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 , 119–20, 123). For earlier correspondence regarding the duty on rum, see Robert Adam to GW, c.13 Jan. 1774, and note 3 of that document.

2“An Act of enlarging the town of Alexandria, in the County of Fairfax” was passed in 1762 (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 604–7). John Alexander, Jr., had owned a large part of the lands laid out in the town at that time, and GW himself had purchased two lots in Alexander’s section (see GW to Carlyle & Adam, 15 Feb. 1767, n.8).

3On 23 May a petition of Alexandria inhabitants was presented, declaring that an earlier act (6 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 59) for controlling the raising and running at large of hogs in the town was ineffective and calling for taxes or fines to be “imposed upon the Offenders against the said Act, and that Goats and Geese may not be raised, nor suffered to go at large in the said Town” (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 , 123). The House of Burgesses was dissolved suddenly on 26 May, before any of the measures discussed in this letter could be passed.

4With this letter in DLC:GW is a memorandum headed “Hints on the Inspection Law of Fish.” The memo reads: “All Barrels to be made of good white Oak Staves to contain not less than Thirty Two Gallons. All Casks for exportation to be full bound; those for Inland Consumption to have Twelve Hoops at least and sufficiently naild. The Fish to be regurally hand pack’d with Coarse Salt and Branded with the Curers name; That none shall be offer’d for Sale or Shipp’d uninspected under penalty of [ ] per Barrl & forfeiture of the Fish to be recoverable before one Majistrate—Inspector to Stamp or Brand his Name & Year at Large on the Head of each Barrell & receive 3d. per Cask for his Fee; shall look at every Barrel at the Expence of the Owner if required. All Barrels found faulty to be pick’d & repack’d in presence of the Inspector who may have liberty to depute one or more Persons for that purpose who shall be upon Oath. No Vessel to be cleard out with Fish without producing a Certificate from the Inspector.”

Another letter of this date, in DLC:GW without address or signature, is almost certainly addressed to GW and West by the citizens of Alexandria. The letter, written from Alexandria, reads: “Inclosed you will find the Petition of Fairfax County for a Repeal of the Duty on Rum, along with it 90% ’tis hop’d ’twill not be impertinent to hint a plan, on which, a fund may be raised fully to supply the place of that accrueing on this Article without doing an Injury to or obstructing an immediate Trade to the West Indies; so far as the Sense of the Community can be collected, it is presum’d that if every importer of Rum either from the West Indies or any of the Neighbouring Colonies was to pay the Sum of £5 Annually for a Licence to be granted by the Clerk of the County, also every retailer to be subjected to the like, a Sum might be raisd this way far exceeding the amount of what the Collector on Potowmac has paid into the Treasury for this some Years past; every person Trading witht Such Licences either in the capacity of an Importer or a Retailer, for which, seperate Permits are proposed to be granted; to be subjected to a Penalty of [ ] for each offence recoverable by the judgement of two Majestrates reserving to the Aggressor Liberty of appealing with Security to next County Court before an Execution issues against his Goods & Effects. Ordinary Licenses rais’d from 55/ to £5 and a Tax upon Billiard Tables of £5 Annually would assist the Fund⟨.⟩ These Taxes upon a moderate Computation would far surmount the Sums which have been annually rais’d in the different Districts by the Duty on Rum. And it may be asserted that 9/10ths of the Rum consum’d in the Northern Neck is imported from Pensylvania and Maryland &c. without paying any Duty at all.” This letter is docketed on the back: “Letters to the Representes of Fairfax CtY resptg the Town of Alexa. Herring Fishery—Flour &ca 16th May 1774.”

Also in DLC:GW is a letter dated 19 May from Alexandria, and written by John Luke to Capt. John West, Jr., in Williamsburg, enclosing a petition by Pearson Chapman regarding the breaking of an entail on land in Fairfax County. At the bottom of the letter Luke has written: “In case Capt. Jno. West shou’d have left Williamsbg before this gets there—Mr Luke presents his most respectful compliments to John West & George Washington Esqrs. and begs the favour of them to present the inclosed Petition to the House.” See also Robert Adam to GW, 17 May for more on the petitions.

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