George Washington Papers

William Jackson to Clement Biddle, 7 December 1789

William Jackson to Clement Biddle

New York, December 7th 1789.

Dear Sir,

The letter for Mr Holker, which encloses one for the Person, applying to be Steward of the Household, is, by the Presidents desire, committed to your care for conveyance.

Be so good as to give it an early transmission.

I shall take the liberty to write to you on my own account within a few days.

The President and Mrs Washington are in perfect good health. I am, very respectfully, Dear Sir, Your most obedient Servant

W. Jackson.

LB, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence.

The letter mentioned has not been found. In December GW began seeking a replacement for Samuel “Black Sam” Fraunces, who entered his employment in May as household steward and chef at $25 per month. Fraunces, landlord of the Queen’s Head (Fraunces’ Tavern) on Broad Street, from which GW bid farewell to his officers in 1783, had been rewarded by Congress and the state of New York for his help in alleviating the suffering of American prisoners during the Revolution. Ever present and “resplendently dressed in wig and small-clothes,” Fraunces especially prided himself on ensuring proper decorum at the presidential table by making certain the meals were always “bountiful and elegant.” Ignoring GW’s frequent remonstrances against extravagance, Fraunces is quoted as having said, “Well, he may discharge me, he may kill me if he will, but while he is President of the United States, and I have the honor to be his Steward, his establishment shall be supplied with the very best of everything that the whole country can afford.” Although not popular with underservants, Fraunces earned GW’s approval, and the president gave him a bonus when he quit in February 1790 to help his wife run their tavern (Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends 15, 19, 51, 116). Fraunces was replaced by John Hyde, who in the fall of 1790 accompanied the president to Philadelphia. To GW’s chagrin, his new steward actually spent more money than his predecessor to feed roughly the same number of people. Hyde evidently exercised less control over the other servants. He suddenly gave one month’s notice in March 1791 and in 1793 became the proprietor of the Tontine Coffee House at the corner of Water and Wall streets in New York, which was a center for Republican sympathizers with the French Revolution. Fraunces returned to the presidential household in Philadelphia in November 1791 and remained with the family until June 1794 (ibid., 116).

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