George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George William Fairfax, 23 January 1786

From George William Fairfax

Bath 23d Jany 1786.

My Dear Sir

Being but just now informed that a Vessell is to Sail in a very few days from Bristol for Baltimore Town, I have only time to say, that I have received your favor dated the 30th of June last, and that I immediately applyed to Mr Rack, the Secretary to the Bath Agriculture Society (who corresponds with most of the Societys in this Kingdom) for his friendly assistance in makeing the enquiry for such Farmers as you describe, upon which he was so good as to write to several Gentn upon the subject, particularly to Arthur Young Esqr. who lives in that part of the Island, where it’s agreed that Agriculture is brought to the greatest protection, to which you’l receive that Gentns answer.1 And that I in the mean time have lost no opportunity in prosecuting the same enquiry, and have had some offers, not altogether answering your description, or my approbation. But the bearer James Bloxham (being determined at all Events to go with his Wife and family to America to try their fortune) tho not Competent to all you want, yet he is so strongly recommended by one of our best Gentn Farmers, with whom he has lived 15 years, that I have taken the liberty to direct Bloxham to wait upon you in the first instance, that you may talk to him upon the subject, and be at Liberty to agree or not as you may then think proper. Mr Peacey thinks he will answer any Persons purpose, as a hard working Servant, capable of Ploughing, Sowing, Hedging, Ditching, Shearing, Mulling and Brewing for a family, particularly attentive to Stock, and not inferior to any Man he knows in Thatching of Houses and Barns. in a word, he is in his degree the best I have heard of. insomuch (and in hopes he may be a usefull Member of the community) that I have wrote to Mr Muse to let him have any vacant Lot of mine in Case he should not be employed by you, untill he can look about him, for it seems by his Industry & Care, he has saved upwards of three hundred pounds Sterling, part of which must go for their Passage and the remainder will be lodged in Mr Peaceys hand, to answer his drafts.2 We shall be still dilligent in our enquiries, and shall from time to time communicate our success, or not, that you may determine how to direct. I have applyed and wrote to several Gentn to make enquiry for a skilful Engineer of practical knowledge in inland Navigation. I have also spared no pains to procure You a Male and Female Deer of the best kind, and have the promise of such from two places, not so convenient for Shiping as I could wish. the surest way of conveying them would be from Bristol, directed to the Care of my friend Mr Benj. Pollard at Norfolk, but I should prefer the Potomack Planter, or any Ship from London going to Alexandria or George Town and not improbable, but Mr T: Fairfax may return in the same, who I dare say would pay some attention to them, and I will endeavour to Plan accordingly.3

Mrs Fairfax joins me in most Affectionate regards and every good wish for you and good Mrs Washington, and am with much truth My Dear Sir, Your most Obedt and Obliged humble Servant

Go: Wm: Fairfax

Pray let me know by the very first Opportunitys the utmost Wages you are willing to give for a ski[ll]ful Farmer, and to find him Bed & Board, for We know that its impossible for such a one to supply himself in our Country as they can here.

Having this Evening allowed me, I cannot let this Letter go without saying how much I am vexed, that I should have wrote so unintelligibly in regard to Tom Corbin, nothing being further from my intention than imposing any of that Family upon you. As I did not explain my meaning, give me leave, my Dear Sir, to say that Mr Athawes and the Sollicitor that was employed in the Corbin Cause, before whom all the prooffs came, assured me that Dick had vexed his Brother in the crudest and most unjust manner, and that Toms character was very unjustly aspersed in those transactions. Mr Athawes, my particular Friend urged, and even insisted that I should write to you upon the subject, least it should get to your Ear, supposing it would be a great point gained if you was informed of matters of fact, and would only say a word in defence of the greatly opprest, and misrep-resented, if the subject should be broached in your presence. In vain did I refuse troubling you upon that affair. Athawes & Corbin came from London to my House to obtain that Letter. nor would they take a denial, or quit me without it. three days I possitively refused, but being convinced of the truth of what I wrote, I was prevailed upon, and beg Pardon for taking the liberty. You must blame yourself, for having made your Character so conspicuously great and good. you can hardly suppose how many inconveniences, having the honor of being known to you, draw me into by applications for Letters of introduction. my refusal has already given great offence to the Parties and their friends. One would actually suppose that a Letter to You was to make the Fortune of all that go to any part of America by their importuning.4

At present there Exists the most extraordinary Contest upon the above point. The Son of a very worthy Gentn of this City is shortly to be sent by the Commissioners for distributing the Money given by Parliament for the Refugees, to enquire into the legality of their very Exorbitant Claims. One of the Commissioners, Captain Robert Mackenzie who you must remember, applyed to me in behalf of the young Gentn (who by the way bears an excellent Character) for a Letter to you.5 I possitively refused, tho’ assured that He had Letters from Mr Adams our Ambassador at this Court, to Congress, Dr Franklin &ca. The young Gentn came the next day, his Father and at length his amiable Mother to intreat my Wife, but I was steady, feeling myself quite Sore upon the subject of introduction. Could you believe, that after all, they sent Colo. Hunter, our old Friend & acquaintance, who has been our very obliging Neighbour ever since we lived here, and He made it such a Point of friendship, that I could not be off without a quarrel, or at least an affront. therefore this is preparative to your receiving a few lines by the hand of Mr Ansty himself, but do assure you I will not repeat it, when it is possible to decline it. Before I quit this head, it may not be amiss to inform, that the Father of Mr Anstey is a Man of Fortune with a numerous family of Children, but more Conspicuous for Science in the Literal Circle. He is a steady friend to the Liberties of Mankind, and always execrated the American War. The old Gentn also assures me, that his Sons business is entirely divested of all Political matter, and only wishes to make himself as agreable to the States as possible in the private capacity. I have my good Sir been thus Elaborate, that it may be clear to your judgment, and you’l treat the Letter I am compeled to give as you think proper.6 Adieu my Dear Sir. God bless and preserve you in health, with every enjoyment of life. Yours Go: Wm Fx


1Edmund Rack (c.1735–1787), the son of a Quaker weaver, became a man of letters and in about 1775 settled in Bath where he participated in the founding of both an agricultural and a philosophical society. On 3 Oct. 1785, in Bath, Rack wrote Fairfax: “I am sorry I was not at home when thou didst me the favour of calling on Saturday last; but I that Morning Accompanied the Earl of Winchelsea [George Finch, 9th earl of Winchilsea] to Dine & spend the day at our Friend Billingsleys. In reply to thy Application on behalf of General Washington I do not at present know of any person that I could safely recommend to fill either of the stations he describes. I have however written this day to Arthur Young, & a Gentleman in Essex on that business; And flatter my Self One of them will be likely to succeed on these Enquiries; as I wish to procure persons from the East rather than the West, as Agriculture is Carried on there in a manner much superior to what it is with us. As soon as I hear from either of them I will inform thee” (ALS, DLC:GW).

Rack wrote to Fairfax again on 16 Oct. enclosing this letter to himself from Arthur Young at Bradfield Hall, dated 12 Oct. 1785: “Dear Sir[,] I should have acknowledgd your favour before but was prevented by the misfortune of the death of a mother I tenderly loved—and at present I am little able to do more than tell yo. I recd it.

“I should think I might find a proper bailiff for General Washington, but without knowing the salary & other circumstances that will be given, it will be very difficult & uncertain[.] You should advise his friend to write for instructions. I conceive that a proper Suffolk one will demand (for going so far) 50 Guineas a year, a house[,] fuel, a garden and a hog & a Cow kept, if he has no board but if he has board & washing found 35 Guineas.

“It will be the generals best way to have a bailiff Simply, & then by degrees make him a steward[.] If hired for a steward at first then an idea of being at his table he will ask exorbitantly, & soon prove good for nothing. I am very glad to find the General is a farmer—a pro pos, will you favour me with the direction to some proper person to whom I can send a parcel for General Washington as I will desire his acceptance of a set of my Annals.

“I will certainly Send you a memoir for the next Vol. Being with great Truth & esteem Yr obedt & Devoted St A. Young

“Unavoidable business postponed my Tour till another summer” (DLC:GW).

A third letter from Rack to Fairfax, dated 27 Dec. 1785, covered this letter of 24 Dec. to Rack from William Peacey (Peacy) at Northleach recommending James Bloxham: “The bearer is James Bloxham whome I recomend to Sarve Genal Washington. he is come for his recomendation from The Honbl. G. Fairfax Esqr. Plase to reade Genrl Washington Letter to him, he can plow and Sow rape and Mow Make Ricks and Thatch both Ricks and Bildings. make Malt, hedg & Ditch. Plant hedges, he is an Exceeding good Judge in bying and Seling of Cattle. he is a good Judg in the maniageing of all kinds of Stock from thair Breeding up to the Slaughter. I cannot Say to much of his abilaties in the above Bisness. I never yet knew one to Equal him, he have Sarvd me fiveteene years Faithfolly. he is a Indostrioues man & have Aquiered the Sum of £400 by his Indostry” (ALS, DLC:GW).

All of these letters were enclosed in Fairfax’s letter to GW, all are now in DLC:GW, and all appear in CD-ROM:GW.

2James Bloxham arrived at Mount Vernon from England on 21 April 1786 to become GW’s “Farmer and Manager” at a salary of fifty guineas a year (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:315; Articles of Agreement with James Bloxham, 31 May 1786). Fairfax’s letter to Battaile Muse of this date about Bloxham is in ViHi. See also GW to Fairfax, 30 June 1785.

3For GW’s inquiries about securing an English engineer for the Potowmack Company and English deer for Mount Vernon, see his letter to Fairfax of 27 Feb. 1785. Thomas Fairfax (1762–1846), Bryan Fairfax’s oldest son, wrote to GW on 30 June 1786 after his return from England, and he spent the night of 21 July at Mount Vernon.

4For the affair of the Corbin brothers, see Fairfax to GW, 19 Mar. 1785, and GW to Fairfax, 30 June 1785, 25 June 1786.

5GW and Robert McKenzie, who served as a captain in GW’s Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War, had an interesting exchange of letters when McKenzie was an officer in the British forces occupying Boston in 1774 (McKenzie to GW, 13 Sept. 1774, GW to McKenzie, 9 Oct. 1774).

6Fairfax’s letter introducing John Anstey is dated 25 January. Colonel Hunter is probably Col. John Hunter with whom GW and Fairfax had particular dealings when GW was colonel of the Virginia Regiment in the 1750s (see George Mason to GW, 21 Aug. 1755, n.1). Literal as opposed to numerical “Science” is the performing of mathematical notation and computation by means of letters rather than numbers, i.e., algebra.

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