George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Smith & Douglass, 4 March 1786

From Smith & Douglass

Alexandria March 4th 1786

Sir

We acknowledge your Excelencys goodness in the Indulgence we have had in makeing our remittencess for the last year and also Return you thanks for your kind offer on tuesday Last but have Since thought proper to decline for this year.

We have in your fish house A number of Hhds we wish to dispose of they possibly may answer your purpose if So we wait your Answer to detirmine us concerning them.1 With every Sentiment of respect we are your Excelencys Most Obt & Humble Servts

Smith & Douglass

LS, DLC:GW.

1The preceding spring, on 6 April 1785, GW has this entry in his diary: “Sent my Shad Sein and Hands to the Ferry to commen⟨ce⟩ Fishing for Mssrs. Douglas & Smith who had engaged to take all the Shad & Herring I can catch in the Season—the first at 15/. a hundred, and the other at 4/. a thousand” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:114). After receiving this letter from Smith & Douglass, GW wrote the Alexandria firm of John Murray & Co. on 6 Mar. about buying his fish but on 8 Mar. rejected Murray’s offer to take “two or three hundred” barrels of herring (John Murray & Co. to GW, 6 Mar.; GW to John Murray & Co., 8 Mar.). On 10 Mar. another merchant in Alexandria, George Gilpin, wrote GW that having learned that Smith & Douglass had “declined fishing this season,” he was offering to supply GW with as many as 150 fish barrels. Also on 10 Mar., both John Murray & Co. and Smith & Douglass wrote GW from Alexandria, the first noting that on that day GW had agreed to take 200 fish barrels from the company and the other stating: “We shall give ourselves no further trouble about the casks but request it of you to have them counted the half casks to be half price” (DLC:GW). After all of this to-do, GW reported on 7 April that George Augustine Washington “went to Alexandria and engaged 100,000 Herrings to Smith and Douglas (if caught) at 5/ pr. thousand” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:305). The account with Smith & Douglass in Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 225, shows that they purchased from GW on 10 May 118,280 herrings at five shillings per thousand for £29.11.4 and 1,342 shad at twenty shillings per hundred for £13.8.9. It also shows the company in return supplying GW on 6 May with 84 hogsheads, 1 pipe, 16 half pipes, and 2 tierces and, on 15 May, paying him in cash £19.9.1, the balance due on the total value of the fish (£43.0.1). There is nothing in GW’s ledger to indicate that GW bought fish barrels in 1786 from either John Murray & Co. or George Gilpin. The partnership of Smith & Douglass was dissolved later in the year.

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