George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Clinton, 25 November 1784

To George Clinton

Mount Vernon 25th Novr 1784

Dear Sir,

A few days ago I had the pleasure to receive your favor of the 12th Instt. Altho’ I felt pain from your Silence, I should have imputed it to any cause rather than a diminution of friendship. The warmth of which I feel too sensibly for you, to harbour a suspicion of the want of it in you, without being conscious of having given cause for the change—having ever flatterd myself that our regards were reciprocal.1

It gives me great pleasure to learn from yourself, that the State over which you preside is tranquil. Would to God it may ever remain so, and that all others would follow the example. Internal dissentions, and jarring with our Neighbours, are not only productive of mischievous consequences, as it respects ourselves, but has a tendency to lessen our national character, & importance in the eyes of European powers. If any thing can, this will expose us to their intrieguing politics, & may shake the Union.

It has been my avowed & uniform opinion, ever since the interview between Baron de Steuben & Genl Haldimand last year, that whilst a pretext could be found, the Western Posts would be withheld from us; and I do not think I should hazard a false prediction, were I to add, that they never will come into our hands in the condition they now are. When pretexts can no longer put on a decent garb, a season may be named for the surrender, in which it would be impracticable for us to plant a garrison, or transport provisions & stores. an interregnum would then follow, during which the Indians by innuendos, may reduce them to ashes. I wish it may be otherwise, but these are my opinions.

I am sorry we have been disappointed in our expectation of the Mineral Spring at Saratoga—and of the purchase of that part of the Oeriskeny tract on which Fort Schuyler stands; but I am glad you have succeeded upon such advantageous terms in the purchase of 6,000 acres adjoining—for you certainly have obtained it amazingly cheap. Be so good, my dear Sir, along with the other information you have kindly promised me, to signify whether you have any prospect of borrowing (on interest) money for the payment of my moiety (as was talked of between us) or whether I am to provide it in any other manner; that I may take measures accordingly.2 The time is also come for the payment of interest due on the old score—and I shall do it with as little delay as possible.3

It gave great pain to Mrs Washington and myself, to hear of Mrs Clintons indisposition, and of the sickness and accidents with which your little flock have been afflicted—our best, and sincere wishes are offered for them; and we hope, shortly, to hear of their perfect restoration; for we have a most affectionate regard for them all, & feel ourselves interested in every thing which concerns them.

Give me leave now, my dear Sir, to thank you for your recollection, and attention to the small articles which I begged you to provide for me. Whenever you conceive the season is proper, and an oppertunity offers, I shall hope to receive the Balsam trees; or any others which you may think curious, and exoticks with us; as I am endeavouring to improve the grounds about my house in this way.4 If perchance the Sloop Pilgrim is not yet Sailed from your Port, you would add to the favor you mean to confer on me, by causing a number of grape vines sent me by an Uncle of the Chevr de la Luzernes—brought over by Captn Williamos—and deposited by him in the Garden of a Mr Beakman near the City, to be forwarded by that Vessel. They consist of a variety of the most valuable eating grapes of France—a list of the kinds, & distinction of them, no doubt accompanied the Sets. I pray you to take some of each sort for your own use, & request Mr Beakman to do the same—with my thanks for his care of them.5

I thank you for the interest you take in the welfare of my Nephew, and for his letter which you were so obliging as to send me—Poor young fellow! his pursuit after health is, I fear, altogether fruitless. Ever since the Month of May he has been traversing the Seas, from Island to Island, to very little purpose—When he last wrote he was about to Sail for Charleston, where he proposed to spend the Winter; and if no salutary effects resulted from it, to come hither & resign himself to his fate, in the Spring.6 Mrs Washington unites with me in every kind & affectionate regard for you, Mrs Clinton & family—and with sentiments of warmest friendship and respect I am My dear Sir Yr most obedt & obliged

Go: Washington

P.S. Tell Walker that Mrs Washington & I not only congratulate him on his matrimonial connexion, but wish him all the joy & comfort which is to be derived from a good wife.

ALS, NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers; LB, DLC:GW.

1Clinton’s letter of 12 Nov. has not been found, but it was written apparently in response to a missing letter from GW. See note 4. No letter from GW in response to Clinton’s letter of 27 Feb. 1784 has been found, but see GW’s letter to Clinton’s secretary, Benjamin Walker, 24 Mar. 1784, and Walker’s responses of 3 and 6 April.

2In a statement of GW’s account with George Clinton, there is this undated notation in Benjamin Walker’s hand: “To the amount of one half of 6071 Acres of Land in the Townships of Coxeborough & Carolana in Montgomery Co. State of New York purchased of Mar[inu]s Willet Esqre @ 7/ ⅌ acre payable in Depreciation Certificates—1062.5” (N). In 1793, GW wrote in his account with Clinton in Ledger C description begins General Ledger C, 1790–1799. Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends : “To my moiety of 6053 Acres of Land purchased in partnership with him on the Mohawk River in Coxburgh. Which said land he was empowerd to sell as a joint concern, & part thereof actually hath been sold as will appear by his letter of 18th Deer 1793—accompanied by an acct, of which the following is an exact copy—viz.” (f. 2). Clinton’s letter of 18 Dec. 1793 with the enclosed account has not been found, but GW lists in his ledger the lots sold, giving the dates they were sold, the acreage, the name of the purchasers, and the price of the lots in New York currency. Between 1 May 1788 and 9 Oct. 1793, Clinton sold seventeen lots totaling 4,034 acres for a total price of £3,400.2, New York currency. GW also lists in the ledger the cash that Clinton had actually received by 1793 for each tract sold, all but one at six dollars an acre; and, finally, he lists the nine unsold lots with a total acreage of 2,019. In his will, GW lists “abt.” 1,000 acres on the Mohawk River in New York, as his “moiety” of the unsold portion of the land that he and Clinton bought together from Marinus Willett (Fitzpatrick, Washington’s Will, description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Last Will and Testament of George Washington and Schedule of his Property, to which is appended the Last Will and Testament of Martha Washington. 3d ed. Mount Vernon, Va., 1960. description ends 46). GW was not able to pay for his half of the Mohawk Valley land until 1787 (see GW to Clinton, 5 Nov. 1786, 9 June 1787, and notes). Clinton sent a copy of the deed to the property in a letter to GW of 26 Dec. 1784, which is missing (see Clinton to GW, 5 Mar. 1785).

3For GW’s debt to Clinton incurred in December 1782, see Clinton to GW, 27 Feb. 1784, source note. GW paid most of what he owed on this earlier debt at the beginning of 1785 (see GW to Clinton, 5 and 20 April 1785, and notes).

4GW at some point asked Clinton to give him plants for the “walks, groves, & Wildernesses” that he was creating at Mount Vernon (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:75), and Clinton must have promised in his missing letter of 12 Nov. to provide them. Benjamin Walker wrote GW on 20 Dec. that he had sent to Norfolk “Pease ... a Tierce of Nuts & a small bundle of Trees” from Clinton for GW. Clinton confirmed this in his missing letter of 26 Dec. (see Clinton to GW, 5 Mar. 1785), and on 18 Feb. 1785 GW recorded in his diary planting “four Lime or Linden Trees, sent me by Govr. Clinton of New York, which must have been out of the ground since the middle of Novr. without any dirt about the Roots” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:92). On 20 April 1785 GW acknowledged receipt of the trees, saying that he did not expect any of them to live.

5The vines were sent in the spring of 1784 by Chrétien-Guillaume Lamoignon de Malesherbes (1721–1794), one of the luminaries of the French Enlightenment who was among other things a distinguished naturaliste. On 6 April 1784 Benjamin Walker wrote GW that Charles Williamos had arrived in New York with the grape cuttings for him. GW also was sent by someone a letter from Malesherbes in Paris to François Barbé de Marbois in America, dated 7 Jan. 1784, which David Stuart translated for him. The translation includes this passage: “We will now speak of the vine plants for General Washington—I understood by one of your preceding letters, that the General only wishes for such vines as produce a good grape for eating; and in consequence of this I addressed myself to the Abbé Nolin, who has made the most complete assortment of such that it is possible to have. We have been happy in meeting with Mr Williamos an old Colonist, who is on his return to America. & he will take charge of these plants and deliver you & the Chevalier my letters—He is himself a cultivator of the vine, and of course can take better care of the plants, than any one; a circumstance very necessary in a long passage.”

Malesherbes went on to say: “At present, you tell me the General would wish to have both for him & for a friend, some of the vine plants, that are most proper for making wine—Here is my answer to that.” There follows a long disquisition on the need to send across the Atlantic plants rather than cuttings and on the efforts he intended to make to get GW plants from the various regions of France. He ends by asking Marbois to tell GW not to “be surprised at the arrival of a box of plants, with a letter of advice from a Frenchman [M. Dupré] he knows nothing of” (DLC:GW).

Clinton wrote GW on 5 Mar. 1785 that after receiving GW’s letter he had inquired of James Beekman (1732–1807) about the grapevines only to learn that they had all died.

6GW undoubtedly is referring to George Augustine Washington’s letter of 9 Nov. 1784, which is missing. See GW to William Washington, 25 Nov. 1784.

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