George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Tench Tilghman, 17 August 1785

To Tench Tilghman

Mount Vernon 17th Augt 1785

Dear Sir,

The Baltimore Advertiser of the 12th Instt announces the arrival of a Ship at that Port, immediately from China—and by an advertisement in the same Paper, I perceive that the Cargo is to be sold by public vendue, on the first of Octr next.1

At what prices the enumerated Articles will sell—or the terms proposed—can only be known from the experiment; but if the quantity at Market is great, and they should sell as goods have sold by vendue, bargains may be expected. I therefore take the liberty of requesting the favor of you, in that case, to purchase the several things contained in the inclosed list.2

You will readily perceive, My dear Sir my purchasing, or not, depends entirely upon the prices. If great bargains are to be had, I would supply myself agreeably to the list. If the prices do not fall below a cheap retail Sale, I would decline them altogether, or take such articles only (if cheaper than common) as are marked in the Margin of the Invoice.

Before October, if none of these Goods are previously sold, and if they are the matter will be ascertained thereby, you will be able to form a judgment of the prices they will command by vendue. Upon information of which, I will deposit the money in your hands to comply with the terms of the Sale.

Since I began this letter, I have been informed that good India Nankeens are selling (at Dumfries not far from me) at 7/6 a ps. this Curry—But if my memory has not failed me, I used to import them before the war for about 5/ Sterlg. If so, though 50 prCt is a small advance upon India Goods, through a British Channel, (with the duties & accumulated charges thereon) yet, quære, would not 7/6 be a high price for Nankeens brought immediately from India, exempted from such duties & Charges? If this is a conjecture founded in fairness, it will give my ideas of the prices of other Articles from that Country; & be a government for your conduct therein, at, or before the day appointed for the public vendue.3 with the highest esteem and regard I am—Dr Sir Yr Affecte friend and Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Dreer Collection; LB, DLC:GW.

1The Baltimore paper reported on 12 Aug. the arrival on 9 Aug. directly from China of the ship Pallas, Captain O’Donnell, with “an extensive variety of teas, china, silks, satins, nankeens, &c. &c.” (Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser, 18 Aug.).

2The enclosed list reads: “Invoice of Goods to be purchased, by Tench Tilghman Esqr. on Acct of George Washington, agreeably to the letter accompanying this, of equal date.

  • A Sett of the best Nankin Table China
  • Ditto—best Evening China Cups & Saucers
  • ✻A Set of large blue & White China
  • Dishes—say half a dozn—more or less
  • ✻1 Dozn small bowls—blue & White.
  • ✻6 Wash hand Guglets & Basons
  • 6 large Mugs—or 3 Mugs & 3 Jugs.
  • A Quartr Chest, best Hyson Tea.
  • A Leagure [Leaguer] of Battavia Arrack if a Leagure is not large
  • ✻About 13 yds of good bla: Paduasoy
  • ✻A ps. of fine Muslin—plain
  • ✻1 ps. of Silk Handkerchiefs
  • 12 ps. of the best Nankeens.
  • 18 ps. of the Second quality—or
  • coursest kind—for Servants. Go: Washington.”

In the margin opposite the first six entries listing items of china, GW wrote “with the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati—if to be had.” For his later purchase of a set of china with the badge of the society, see Henry Lee, Jr., to GW, 3 July 1786.

3In the end, Tilghman bought nothing for GW. See Tilghman to GW, 25 Aug., 13 Oct., GW to Tilghman, 29 Aug., 14 Sept. 1785.

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