George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Carmichael, 3 December 1784

From William Carmichael

Madrid 3d Decr 1784


In the course of the last month I reed a letter from Mr Richard Harrison established at Cadiz requesting me to use my endeavours to procure the permission to extract a Jack Ass of the best breed, which you wished to import into America.1 In consequence of this application, I mentioned in a Conversation with his Excy the Ct de Florida Blanca the Minister of State, my desire to render you this Little Service. The Abovementioned Minister seemed pleased to have this occasion of proving his esteem for a character which is not less dear to his Countrymen, than it is revered by Foreigners. Actuated by this Sentiment he wrote me the note of which I have now the honor to transmit you the Copy & the Translation.2 I must confess sincerely that I shall be uneasy until I have your Approbation. The glory that you have acquired needs not the attention of a Monarch to augment it. But you are now a Citizen of the United States and as such will interest yourself in the Smallest circumstance that can contribute to its prosperity. This Mark of Attention to the Late Cheif of the Union, considered in this point of view, will while it adds another proof to the Many you have recd of General approbation, evince the desire of the head of a Nation, of which we are the Neighbour, to cultivate their good will, by paying that attention, (which his own fellow Citizens accord) to the Person whose services rendered their Country Independant. I inclose this Letter to the Marquis de la Fayette[.] The Share that I had in making him known to you is a much better claim to interest a heart like yours in my favor, than any assurances that I can make you of the high respect & affection with which I have the honor to be Sir Your Most Obedt & Most Humble Sert 3

Wm Carmichael

ALS, DLC:GW. The original and an earlier copy of this letter from Carmichael, which were sent under cover to Lafayette who had sailed from New York for France before the letter arrived, have not been found. Carmichael later sent a second copy of the letter, the one printed here, with a long postscript dated 25 Mar. 1785. The postscript is a separate letter. GW wrote Carmichael on 10 June acknowledging the receipt of the 25 Mar. copy of this letter and saying that he had received neither the original nor the first copy of it sent to Lafayette.

William Carmichael (d. 1795), a native of Queen Anne’s County, Md., was the U.S. chargé d’affaires at the Spanish court at this time. He finally was recalled on 5 June 1794 but died on 9 Feb. 1795 before leaving Spain.

1GW had for long wished to have a Spanish jackass, thought to be the best in the world, to begin breeding mules in Virginia. He was convinced that mules would prove superior as draft animals to horses and oxen. It was at his behest that Robert Townsend Hooe wrote to his business partner Richard Harrison in Cadiz asking him to try to obtain one or more jacks for GW (see GW to Hooe and Hooe’s reply, both 18 July 1784). GW also spoke to Lafayette during Lafayette’s visit to Mount Vernon in November about his wish to have a jack. After GW learned from Harrison through Hooe how much a Spanish jack might cost, which in any case could be got only by permission of the king of Spain, GW told both Hooe and Lafayette to discontinue their efforts on his behalf (see GW to Lafayette, 15 Feb. 1785). When acknowledging on 10 June 1785 Carmichael’s “favour of the 25th of March covering a triplicate of your letter of 3d December” (see source note), GW expressed in elaborate terms his appreciation for the king’s intended gift of two jackasses. For the remainder of the summer and early fall he anxiously awaited the arrival of the animals (see GW to William Fitzhugh, 21 May 1785, and GW to Lafayette, 25 July, 1 Sept. 1785). GW finally heard from Thomas Cushing, the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, on 7 Oct. 1785, that one of the jacks was safely ashore in Boston. (The other one was lost at sea.) GW promptly sent John Fairfax, one of his overseers, to Boston to conduct the jack and his Spanish caretaker back to Mount Vernon (see GW to Cushing and GW to John Fairfax, both 26 Oct. 1785, and Cushing to GW, 6, 9, and 16 Nov. 1785). To GW’s satisfaction, Fairfax arrived safely with his charges on the evening of 5 Dec. 1785 (see GW to Carmichael, to Floridablanca, and to Francisco Rendon, all 19 Dec. 1785, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:244). For GW’s full description of the Spanish jack, which GW named Royal Gift, see GW’s newspaper advertisement, dated 23 Feb. 1786, offering the jack’s services. Unknown to GW, Lafayette also acquired in 1785 two jacks for GW, which also were shipped to America in two different ships. One of them again was lost at sea. For the arrival of Lafayette’s present, the Knight of Malta, in 1786, see Lafayette to GW, 16 April 1785, n.4.

2See enclosure.

3Carmichael’s letter to Lafayette is not listed in Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends volume 5. Carmichael as Silas Deane’s secretary helped arrange Lafayette’s departure for America in 1777 (see Carmichael to Richard Henry Lee, 17 Mar. 1777, n.2, ibid., 1:34–37).

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