George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Newton, Jr., 3 September 1785

To Thomas Newton, Jr.

Mount Vernon 3d Sept. 1785.


I am now about to inform you of the reason why I have suffered your letter of the 27th of April, with its enclosures, to remain so long unacknowledged.

In an absence of almost nine years from home, my private concerns had got so much deranged, and my accounts & papers, by the frequent hasty removal of the latter to get them out of the reach of the enemy when their shipping appeared, had got into such a jumble & confusion that it was next to impossibility for me, without spending much time, to adjust the former: I still hoped however that after a while I should have been able to accomplish it, & that long ’ere this I should have sent you a statement of the account as it stands between us. But reckoning without my host, I have been obliged to hire a Clerk to settle all my accounts, & to take this business off my hands; as from a variety of circumstances I found it impracticable for me to attend to it myself.1

Inclosed is his statement of the account between you & me, made out from my books & your return of Sales. The balance from his accot differs widely from yours; arising first, from the charge of Jacob Williams’s payment of £178.9.8. to James Hill; whereas £50—only of that sum, according to Lund Washington’s accot (who superintended my business) was received from Williams. Secondly, from £123.7.4½ charged me, as paid by Mr Wm Holt, of which I have no account. Thirdly, between £174, charged me as paid to Colo. Lewis, & my credit of £170 only which was received from him; & lastly, from the Debts yet due; amounting pr your List to £175.16.2. The three first of these you will please to enquire into; & the last, to use the most speedy, and which to you may seem the most effectual means of obtaining them.2

The sum which is in your hands, I could wish to have remitted, or an order given me on some Gentleman in Alexandria: Or, which in part would answer my purpose equally, I wou’d take one hundred pair of large, strong & well made Negro Shoes, provided I could have them at a reasonable price & by the 20th of October; formerly I know these were to be had at Norfolk readily; & it is essential for me to know immediately, whether, I may depend upon you for them or not.3

The Drought has been so severe in these parts, that my Mill was entirely stopped: the rain which has fallen within these ten days, has done no more than to enable her to grind for my own consumption—when I begin to manufacture I will consign you a parcel of superfine flour, as well to try the Norfolk Market, as to prove a new Miller whom I have lately got, & who comes well recommended to me from some of the best Judges in Pennsylvania.

If you should be able at any time to put me in a way of securing the Debt due to me from Balfour & Baraud, it would be rendering me a very acceptable service: without this, or unless some proof could be had (as I believe the fact undoubtedly is) of the partnership of these Gentlemen or connexion in this business with Messrs Hanburys of London, I must loose upwards of £2000 by my sale of Flour to them.4 With great esteem & regard I am Dr Sir &c.

G: Washington


1Neither Newton’s letter of 27 April nor its enclosures have been found, but GW indicates in this letter that one of the enclosures was Newton’s account with GW. With the expiration of his agreement with Carlyle & Adam for its purchase of his wheat, GW in early 1773 began milling wheat to make flour on a large scale. Thomas Newton, Jr., a merchant in Norfolk, Va., became agent for GW to sell his flour and herring, usually in Norfolk and the West Indies. See Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 85, and the correspondence between GW and Newton beginning 11 Jan. 1773 and through 12 April 1775.

2No copy of the account that GW sent Newton has been found. The ledger entry of £50 paid to GW on behalf of Newton by Jacob Williams is dated 12 Aug. 1778, and the payment of £170 by Fielding Lewis on behalf of Newton is dated 6 Aug. 1774 (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 85). At the bottom of the contra side of GW’s account with Newton, GW’s clerk has written “1789 March 18th—Note, there appears by this Acct to be a considerable balance in favor of Mr Newton but this is erronious for he was credited for the Cash recd from time to time for the sale of flour but not charged with all the flour sent him to sell—And it will appear by his Letters that there is a balance due G.W. for flour sold by him.” The “Letters” that GW refers to here have not been identified.

3GW received two payments in the 1780s on Newton’s behalf, one for £60 on 25 Feb. 1786, one for £70 in May 1787 (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 85).

4GW’s account with Balfour & Barraud shows charges of £1,748.17 against the firm for 1,000 barrels of flour sold to it in 1775 (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 136). The account is carried over to Ledger C description begins General Ledger C, 1790–1799. Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 3, in 1793. On 26 April 1786 GW wrote in his diary: “Meeting with Mr. Thos. Newton of Norfolk, he informed me that Mr. Neil Jameeson late of that place, now a merchant in New York, was Executor of Jno. Shaw (also of Norfolk) who was possessed of the Books of Messrs. Balfour & Barraud & to whom he advised me to apply, thinking it probable that I might obtain, a list of the Ballances due to that House and thereby recover what was due to me therefrom” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:317–18). On 20 May 1786 GW wrote Neil Jamieson, who before the Revolution was a partner in Norfolk of the Glasgow firm of John Glassford & Co., about the money owed him by Balfour & Barraud, and in the absence of Jamieson from New York, Colt MacGregor responded to GW’s inquiries on 29 May 1786, telling him that the books of Balfour & Barraud had passed from hand to hand and were then in the possession of “a Mr John Clapham, lately from England.” James Balfour and Daniel Barraud, both of whom were now dead, had been merchants in Norfolk.

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