To Robert Townsend Hooe
Mount Vernon 18th July 1784.
Hearing that you have a Vessel bound to some port in Spain, I am induced to ask if it is safe & practicable to bring from thence a good Jack Ass, to breed from—The late Don Juan de Miralles, resident from the Court of Spain at Philadelphia, promised to procure one for me; but in his death I met a disappointment. Another Gentleman of his nation, not long since, has also given me a promise—but it is not yet fulfilled 1—& as I am convinced that a good Jack would be a public benefit to this part of the country, as well as private convenience to myself, I am desireous of having more strings than one to my bow. I do not mean however to involve any person, or thing, in difficulty, to accomplish this end.2
Under this express declaration if you or your Partner Mr Harrison, could openly, fairly & upon easy terms, serve me, I should acknowledge the favor.3 An ordinary Jack I do not desire; I will describe therefore such an one as I must have, if I get any—He must be at least fifteen hands high; well formed; in his prime; & one whose abilities for getting Colts can be ensured; for I have been informed, that except those which are designed to breed from; & more especially such as are suffered to be exported; they very frequently have their generative parts so injured by squeezing, as to render them as unfit for the purpose of begetting Colts, as castration would—when from a superficial view no imperfection appears. Whether the latter is founded in truth, or mere report, I do not vouch for; but as I would have a good Jack or none, I am induced to mention the circumstance. I am Sir &c.
LB, DLC:GW. For the problem with the dating of this letter to the Alexandria merchant, see Hooe’s letter printed immediately below.
1. Don Juan de Miralles, the Cuban merchant and slave trader who acted as an agent of the king of Spain in the United States, was visiting GW at his headquarters in Morristown, N.J., when he died at noon on 28 April 1780. The other Spanish “Gentleman” has not been identified.
3. Richard Harrison, who later married Dr. James Craik’s daughter Nancy, was a partner in the commercial firm of Harrison & Hooe in Alexandria. From 1780 to 1786 he acted as consul for the United States in Cadiz. See also Harrison to GW, 8 May 1789, n.1. Harrison asked for the help of the chargé d’affaires for the United States in Madrid, William Carmichael, who wrote GW on 3 Dec. about acquiring Spanish jacks for him.