George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Earl of Buchan, 27 March 1790

From the Earl of Buchan

Dryburgh Abbey Scotland March 27. 1790


I have the honour to reccomend to your Excellency’s Countenance a Periodical work about to be circulated in the States by Dr James Anderson, whose view of it will be handed along with this Letter for your perusal.1

I have long wished for a publication of this kind that should be neither a Booksellers jobb nor a stalking Horse for party and such from my confidence in Dr Anderson I expect his Journal to be and if so of great importance to literature and to usefull information wherever it may be circulated.2 I have the Honour to be with high Esteem & Respect Sir! yr Excellencys most Humble and Obedient Servant



David Erskine, eleventh earl of Buchan (1742–1829) was a Scottish lord, literary patron, and writer. A prominent antiquarian, Buchan founded the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1780 and wrote several essays on historical subjects for British periodicals. In 1787 he retired to Dryburgh Abbey, which he sought to make a center of Scottish culture. An indefatigable letter writer, he maintained correspondence with members of the British royal family, Horace Walpole, and many others and exchanged at least eighteen letters with GW between 1790 and 1798. A distant relative of the Fairfax family, Buchan was pleased to call GW his “kinsman” (Buchan to GW, 17 July 1798).

1Enclosed with the letter was a prospectus of The Bee, or Universal Literary Intelligencer, now in the collection of the Boston Athenæum (Griffin, Boston Athenceum Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 10). The prospectus was the work of James Anderson (1739–1808), a Scottish economist and promoter of commercial and agricultural reform. A farmer by background, Anderson began publishing works on trade and agriculture in 1771 and after moving to Edinburgh in 1783 became one of the leading proponents of agricultural reform in Scotland. He launched the Bee in December 1790 and continued it until 1794, when he stopped publication after eighteen volumes because of the “extreme tardiness” of payments from subscribers (James Anderson to GW, 6 Dec. 1794). The Bee included articles on literature, history, agriculture, and commerce as well as poetry and excerpts from contemporary books; the earl of Buchan was a frequent contributor. Anderson first wrote to GW on 28 Sept. 1791, initiating a correspondence on agricultural subjects that continued until GW’s death. Largely at GW’s suggestion, Anderson was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society (see GW to Buchan, 22 April 1793, Buchan to GW, 22 Oct. 1793, GW to Thomas Jefferson, 31 Dec. 1793). GW owned copies of at least three of Anderson’s works on agriculture at the time of his death: Essays Relating to Agriculture and Rural Affairs (3 vols., Edinburgh, 1784–96), A Practical Treatise on Peat Moss (Edinburgh, 1794), and A Practical Treatise on Draining Bogs and Swampy Grounds (London, 1797), inscribed to GW by Anderson. GW also owned two volumes of Anderson’s later periodical, Recreations in Agriculture, Natural History, Arts, and Miscellaneous Literature (Griffin, Boston Anthenæum Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 9–10).

2At GW’s request a notice announcing the publication of the Bee was printed in the Gazette of the United States (New York) on 14 July 1790 (see GW to Buchan, 30 June 1790). Although he did not ask to be enrolled as a subscriber, GW received the first six volumes of the Bee from Anderson on 10 June 1792 and wrote to him on 20 June asking “to be informed to whom, or in what manner I shall cause payment to be made for it.” Anderson sent GW volumes 7 through 11 on 3 Nov. 1792. After insisting that he be regarded as a regular subscriber and repeated efforts to find out whom he should pay for the volumes, GW sent Anderson six guineas for the fifteen volumes he had received (GW to Anderson, 26 May 1794). Anderson responded that he had intended GW accept the volumes as a gift (Anderson to GW, 6 Dec. 1794). The inventory of GW’s books made at his death indicates that he owned all eighteen volumes. GW’s copies of the Bee were dispersed in the nineteenth century; volume 7 is now (1994) at Mount Vernon.

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