George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Patterson, 5 August 1790

From William Patterson

Baltimore 5th August 1790


By the arrival of a Vessel of Mine a few Days since from Havre d’Grace, I received the enclosed letter1 together with Bill of Lading for a Case2 for your Excellency, forwarded by Messrs Havd Le Mesurier & Co. from the Count d’Estaing at Paris, with directions to hold it subject to your Orders.

As I know not what the Case may contain it is necessary the Invoice be forwarded here to obtain permission at our Custom House to send it forward where you may think proper to direct, any Instructions you are pleased to give respecting it will be particularly attended to,3 there is no charge whatever to be paid on this package. I am very respectfully yr Excellencys Most Hble Servt

Wm Patterson


Baltimore merchant William Patterson (1752–1835) emigrated to Philadelphia from county Donegal, Ireland, in 1766. During the Revolutionary War he trafficked in powder and other munitions for the Continental Army, sailing to France and trading at St. Eustatius and Martinique before settling in Baltimore in July 1778 and investing his fortune in real estate and supplies for the Yorktown campaign. Patterson also served at Yorktown in the 1st Baltimore Cavalry. In 1790 he became the first president of the Bank of Maryland. His daughter Elizabeth married Jerome Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon, in Baltimore in December 1803.

1The enclosure was a letter from Louis-Philippe de Rigaud, marquis de Vaudreuil (see Vaudreuil to GW, 23 January 1790).

2The case contained an unglazed biscuit-porcelain bust of Jacques Necker and engravings of Necker and Lafayette sent to GW by Charles-Hector, comte d’Estaing (see d’Estaing to GW, 20 Mar. 1790 and note 2).

On his way home to Mount Vernon, GW may have opened the case while at Baltimore from 8 to 10 Sept. 1790 and probably transferred it from Patterson’s possession to that of Robert Purviance, naval officer of the port. He also made arrangements with Purviance for its delivery to Virginia, for on 16 Sept. 1790 Purviance wrote the president that on 11 Sept. 1790 according to GW’s instructions, he had put on board the schooner Free Mason, Lawrence Lazar, Master, the Havre de Grace parcel that had come in on the brig Edward. He also noted that he had written to Charles Lee, collector of the port of Alexandria, requesting him to receive it when it arrived and deliver it to GW’s agent when called for (Purviance to GW, 16 Sept. 1790, DLC:GW).

The case probably reached its final destination of Mount Vernon before 3 Oct. 1790, for on that date GW wrote to Lear in New York asking him about d’Estaing’s most recent letter and requesting “a transcript of what he says, ⟨or⟩ whether anything, of a Bust he has sent me of Mr Necker, together with a number of prints of that Gentleman and the Marquis de la Fayette which are come to my hands in a package from Baltimore” (see GW to Lear, 3 Oct. 1790, and Lear to GW, 24 Oct. 1790).

3Lear replied to Patterson for GW on 11 Aug. 1790 acknowledging receipt of his letter, thanking him for his attention to its subject matter, and requesting him to retain the case in his hands until further notice (NHi: Naval History Society Collection).

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