George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Pettit, 9 February 1781

From Charles Pettit

Philadelphia 9th February 1781


I was honored with the receipt of Your Excellency’s letter of the 2d instant some days ago,1 and immediatly put forward the business recommended, which I am informed will be completed today, and the express-rider who has it in charge will return with all possible dispatch. By him you will also receive the spurs, hair-powder and blacking ball, of which I shall inclose a bill.

As Your Excellency was pleased to mention fashionable spurs, I took some pains to enquire, amongst the Gentlemen of fashion, for the reigning taste of the day, but with less success than I expected, as I could not find any standard for it, nor that their ideas agreed with each other. I found, however, that the late prevailing mode, of connecting the strap & spur by a chain, was generally rejected; and that a plain spur was most generally approved; I therefore sought for the best plain pattern I could find ready made, the time not admitting of getting a pair made by a new direction. The price fixed was 1100 dollars old money or an equivalent in new emissions at 75, which is the established exchange,2 but in silver I found ten dollars would be accepted, I therefore paid it in silver, as the difference exceeded the received opinion of the real depreciation of paper money, which is about 100 of old money for one in silver, or 100 in new money for 75 in specie; but as the law now stands actual purchases of specie cannot be made without loss of reputation. Bills of exchange now sell at 75 old or one dollar new money for 5 livres; or 5/6 to 6/. specie for 5 livres 5 sous.3 I take the liberty of mentioning these particulars for Your Excellency’s information as to the real state of paper money.

The money arising from the Bills of exchange Your Excellency was pleased to send to me in February last year was actually appropriated to the public use in March, and I urged it as an argument for obtaining certificates of equal date, but could not prevail to obtain them of an earlier date than the time of applying at the Office in Virginia.4 I have the honor to be, with the most perfect respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient & most humble servant

Cha. Pettit

Cash advanced by C. Pettit.5

The Express desires me to mention the time I recd Your Excellency’s letter by him; which was on sunday the 4th instant, & as well as I remember rather before noon.

ALS, DLC:GW; ADf, sold by Heritage Auction Galleries, October 2007 (sale no. 9675, lot no. 61107). The draft has Pettit’s initials rather than his full signature and lacks the final paragraph of the postscript.

Pettit probably enclosed a bill from Philadelphia tailor John Cottringer (see GW’s reply to Pettit, 19 Feb.). A transcription of the bill, dated 7 Feb., shows that Cottringer charged £4 for “making a regimental Suit of Cloaths”; £10 for “2 yards Superfine buff cloth”; £9.11.3 for “2⅓ yard blue” cloth; £3 for “4 yards Rattinett”; £1.14 for “4 yards Linnen”; £2.12.6 for “3½ dozen best gilt Buttons”; 18 shillings 9 pence for “2½ dozen Small” buttons; £2 for “Silk Twist & other Trimmings”; £1.10 for “making Marseilles Quilting Waistcoats”; £6.18 for “3 yards Quilting”; 12 shillings 9 pence for “1½ yard Linnen”; £1 for “Thread and Button Molds”; and 7 shillings 6 pence for “1 yard Linnen for packing.” A note on the bill read: “Received the above Forty four pounds four shillings and nine pence in full, by the hands of Charles Pettit, February 24, 1781” (American Art Association catalogue for 22 Jan. 1926, item 227).

1GW’s letter to Pettit of 2 Feb. has not been found.

2For the new emission of money, see Philip Schuyler to GW, 12 March 1780, and notes 3 and 4 to that document.

3A sou is “A French coin, formerly the twentieth part of a livre, now used to designate the five-centime piece” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray et al., eds. The Oxford English Dictionary: Being a Corrected Re-Issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 12 vols. 1933. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1970. description ends ).

5Pettit then listed “Mr Mayer’s Bill for 6 lb. of supr fine hair powder” at £0.18.0 and “10 balls of blacking” at £1.0.0 for a total of £1.18.0 in “New emissions of paper.” The “one pair of spurs” for “10 dollars in silver” apparently had a value of £3.15.

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