George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Reuben Harvey, 25 May 1784

From Reuben Harvey

Cork [Ireland] 25th May 1784

Respected Friend

I cannot sufficiently express the deep Sense I entertain of thy condescending marks of friendship for me, evinced by such peculiar marks as are contain’d in thy much esteemed letters, & in the Resolution of Congress which thou wert so kind as to obtain & forward to me; entirely unexpected & above any little Services that I had, in conjunction with a few other Friends to America, render’d to those poor People who experienc’d the effects of illiberal & unjust Persecution.1 Our Nation is far from being a happy one, being under the power of a Parliament entirely sway’d by English Councils, which prevents salutary Laws from being pass’d that would materially advantage the Commerce of Ireland & America, particularly respecting Tobacco, Wheat, & Flour, Corn was never more wanted here than at this time, & Wheat can now be imported from any place, the price being much above 30/ ⅌ barrel of 280 pounds, which is the standard price for it’s admission from America & other Countrys, tho’ it may be imported from Britain when the price is only 27/ the barrel; Thus doth our unwise Park make such a difference in this Article ’twixt American & English Wheat to the manifest injury of our numerous poor Inhabitants, who are emigrating from every Corner of the Island to your Land of Liberty having no employment & but little Food, even of the meanest Sort; Flour from America is rated at so high a Duty that it amounts to a prohibition, tho’ from England it pays but 12d. ⅌Ct. Tobacco pays 11d. ⅌Ct duty, which is too high for importing any poor ordinary Tobaccos, however the Virginia very well affords this Tax, being worth 20d. to 22d. ⅌ pound; It may seem improper for me to enlarge so much on Trade to thee but I flatter myself that a little information in that line won’t displease, & it will probably serve for the knowledge of some Friends in thy part of the Country who are Planters & Farmers; Should any of such Gentlemen think of trying Cork with some James River or other Tobacco of good quality, & address it to me I shall use every endeavour to give them satisfaction And will chearfully honour their Bills for nearly the Amount of Tobacco, Wheat & other Articles when they ship them, And also will remit the proceeds of their Goods according to Orders & with dispatch.2 Please to excuse this liberty, & believe me to be with the most grateful feelings Thy sincere Friend

Reuben Harvey


Reuben Harvey was a Quaker merchant in Cork. He, along with several other men of the place, strenuously protested the mistreatment of the Americans, mostly seamen, who were held for several years during the Revolutionary War in the French prison at nearby Kinsale. He also extended aid to them.

1Harvey first wrote GW on 12 Feb. 1783 when he enclosed copies of a number of letters “all relating to the poor Americans who were confined at Kinsale.” In acknowledging Harvey’s letter on 23 June 1783, GW expressed his appreciation for Harvey’s aid to the American prisoners and informed Harvey that he had sent Harvey’s letter with its enclosures to Congress. On 10 Aug. 1783 GW wrote again, to transmit the following resolution of Congress, dated 18 July 1783: “That his Excellency the Commander in Chief, be requested to transmit the thanks of Congress to Mr Reuben Harvey, merchant in Cork, in the kingdom of Ireland, and express the just sense Congress entertain of the services he has rendered during the late war, to American prisoners” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 24:440). Congress substituted “just sense” for “high sense” and deleted the rest of the original resolution: “by supplying them with clothing money and other necessaries, by promoting an inquiry into the treatment of those confined at Kingsale and in affording them every relief in his power. And to assure Mr Harvey that his exemplary conduct and liberality of sentiment has given him a distinguishing claim to the gratitude of his country”(ibid.).

2Harvey also wrote GW a note from Cork, dated 24 May: “Reuben Harvey’s respectful Compts wait on George Washington Esqr., Hopes he’l not be displeased at the liberty he has taken in sending for Family Use, a barrel of Cork Mess Beef, such as is cured for the West India Planters, & a ferkin of Ox tongues with Roots.

“They are on board the Ship Washington Enoch Stickney M[aste]r for Alexandria” (DLC:GW). Captain Stickney and his ship arrived in Alexandria on 29 July “with Redemptioners and Servants” (Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser, 5 Aug. 1784).

On 25 Aug. GW acknowledged receipt by the captain of the mess beef and the firkin of ox tongues and of Harvey’s letter of 25 May.

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