From Elkanah Watson
Providence [R.I.] 22d March 1785
I have bore steadily in mind the circumstance of the dutch gardener, but Mr Brown cannot recommend him so fully as he could wish.1
This will be handed by Mr Howel a gentleman who is connected with Mr Brown & who intends doing himself the honour to pay his respects to your Excellency.2 The information you was so polite as to communicate to me, relative the plan of opening the Potowmack, the interior country &c.—I trust will not be fruitless as I took my notes, & have uniformly made it my standard of conversation along the Continent, & I cannot but hope with some success, as I find the Potowmack has now become an object of such magnitude as to draw the attention of our enterprizing genius’es to Alexandria which I am persuaded will shortly feel the effects.3
Mr Brown has it seriously in contemplation to lay the foundation of a new City between the first falls & Alexandria upon the Virginia side I am not authoriz’d by him to write your Excellency upon the subject, but I am so intimately connected with him that I am well persuaded If you thought the plan eligible, & he could obtain information respecting the debth of water near the falls that he would bend his Interest & efforts to this point which you are sensible would be an important acquisition in the infant state of your noble river.4
Permit me to tender my respectfull compliments to Lady Washington & to assure your Excellency of my profound veneration & hommage.
I should be highly flatter’d to receive your Excellencys commands in this quarter.
1. Watson, who had returned only in October to Providence from abroad, visited Mount Vernon on 19 and 20 Jan. 1785. In his memoirs written many years later, Watson devoted four printed pages to an account of his stay. Upon his arrival, Watson remembers that he found GW, “at table with Mrs. Washington and his private family, and was received in the native dignity and with that urbanity so peculiarly combined in the character of a soldier and eminent private gentleman. He soon put me at ease, by unbending, in a free and affable conversation.” That first evening the two men “sat a full hour at table by ourselves, without the least interruption, after the family had retired.” Watson had a bad cold and upon going to bed was wracked with coughing. “When some time had elapsed,” Watson recalled, “the door of my room was gently opened, and on drawing my bed-curtains, to my utter astonishment, I beheld Washington himself, standing at my bed-side, with a bowl of hot tea in his hand” (Watson, Men and Times of the Revolution, description begins Winslow C. Watson, ed. Men and Times of the Revolution; or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, Including His Journals of Travels in Europe and America, from the year 1777 to 1842, and His Correspondence with Public Men, and Reminiscences and Incidents of the American Revolution. New York, 1856. description ends 243–44). Watson’s description of GW is more specific than most of the other and relatively rare ones of this period: “I found him kind and benignant in the domestic circle, revered and beloved by all around him; agreeably social, without ostentation; delighting in anecdote and adventures, without assumption; his domestic arrangements harmonious and systematic. His servants seemed to watch his eye, and to anticipate his every wish; hence a look was equivalent to a command. His servant Billy, the faithful companion of his military career, was always at his side. Smiling content animated and beamed on every countenance in his presence” (ibid., 244). See also Nathanael Greene to GW, 2 Dec. 1784, n.1, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:78–79. The gardener that Watson’s former patron, the Providence merchant John Brown, could not recommend has not been identified.
2. GW does not record in his diary a visit from a Mr. Howel. Watson may be referring to David Howell (1747–1824), who had been a teacher in Rhode Island College before becoming a lawyer in Providence.
3. Watson wrote in his memoirs: “Much of his [GW’s] conversation had reference to the interior country, and to the opening of the navigation of the Potomac, by canals and locks, at the Seneca, the Great and Little Falls. His mind appeared to be deeply absorbed by that object, then in earnest contemplation.” Watson took “minutes” from GW’s “former journals on this subject” and found the scheme “worthy the comprehensive mind of Washington” (Watson, Men and Times of the Revolution, description begins Winslow C. Watson, ed. Men and Times of the Revolution; or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, Including His Journals of Travels in Europe and America, from the year 1777 to 1842, and His Correspondence with Public Men, and Reminiscences and Incidents of the American Revolution. New York, 1856. description ends 244–45).
4. According to Watson, GW pressed him “earnestly to settle on the banks of the Potomac,” and, “At his suggestion,” Watson “proceeded up the southern shore of the river” to the Great Falls (ibid., 246).