George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hoomes, 16 August 1790

From John Hoomes

Virginia Bo[w]ling Green Augt 16th 1790


Impressed with the highest Sense of the Obligations that lays on me, faithfully to discharge the trust reposed in me by the Post Master General in transporting the Public Mail through this State in my line of Stages; & conscious that it has been as well done as could be reasonably expected, & to my own Knowledge, it has not been better, or more regularly done any where to the Southward of Newyork, I confess that I felt myself extreamly hurt when I was informed on Monday last by letters from Mr Osgood1 & Mr Burral that a memorial2 had been Sent to you Signed by about 40 respectable Inhabitants of the City of Richmond complaining of the irregularity of the mail that came to that place, & desiring my particular attention thereto.

As this was the first information I had you will readily Suppose I lost no time in going to Richmond to examine into the Cause of the Complaint, for the Postmaster there, nor any where else in my rout had ever informed me that there was any Complaint Whatever.

I am not unacquainted with the great regularity & method that your Excellency has always done business, & did not in the least doubt but you would require it to be done in the Same manner by every one who undertook for the Public, this alone would have been a Sufficient Spur to me, if I had no regard for my Character & reputation.

I well Know that the Northern Mail has Several times failed to come on, the days it was expected, but my line of Stages going no farther North than Alexandria, I could not Possibly bring a mail when none was brought to me, & I do declare that I do not recollect that the Stages have lost one Single trip in the Course of the Year tho the water in Pamunkey caused it once to get into Richmond in the Morning when it ought to have been in the Evening before, but still the three trips were made good in the week.3

I have inclosed you an instrument4 of writing Signed by the Gentlemen who Sent you the Memorial, also Several other Certificates5 from the different Postmasters that were convenient to get to in this Short time; & from the Clerks & Taverns where the Stage Stops, & if required can get them from all the Gentlemen in this Country that is acquainted with the Stage: which I hope will convince your Excellency that I have done my duty, & that altho their might (as far as I Know) have been cause for the Memorial, still that I am not to blame, Perhaps it proceeded in some degree fron the great Speculation, that seemed to rage in an uncommon manner about that time in this State.6

I beg leave to mention that I carry the mail as far each day as it is carried any where on this Continent & in one instance farther, it is carried from Richmond to Hampton (a distance of near one hundred miles) & it generally arrives about Sunset, an accident happened twice to the Stage that Kept them out untill near 11 OClock (but those were unavoidable), & the Instances are frequent of the mails arriving so early at Hampton that it gets to Norfolk that night by dark 18 miles farther by water, which circumstances Colo. Parker I believe is accquainted with, there has been some irregularity about the mails crossing from Hampton to Norfolk, tho That I cannot help as I am by Contract to deliver it in Hampton, should I contract again, (or the Postmaster General should direct me now) I will engage for its regular delivery in Norfolk so as to give Satisfaction, which is not the case at present altho the P.M. General pays the ferryman Sufficiently for attending to it I am Sir with the highest Esteem yr excellencys Mo. Obt Hble Sevt

Jno. Hoomes

N.B. I have & shall still be unhappy untill I Know that I have cleared up this matter to the Satisfaction of yr Excellency. J. H.7

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

Caroline County planter John Hoomes (d. 1805), son of Joseph and Susannah Hoomes, descended from one of the original patentees of the upper Mattaponi Valley and was an important social and political leader of New Hope, or Bowling Green, the county seat. In 1774 he was awarded a tavern license, and in 1776 he was appointed a justice of the peace. Hoomes was also a member of the vestry of the newly established St. Asaph parish in 1780 and a trustee of the company formed in December 1788 to improve the navigation of the Mattaponi River (Enquirer [Richmond, Va.], 27 Dec. 1805; 12 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 698; 13 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 287; Ralph Emmett Fall, People, Postoffices, and Communities in Caroline County, 1727–1969 [Roswell, Ga., 1989], 19, 36; Thomas Elliot Campbell, Colonial Caroline: A History of Caroline County, Virginia [Richmond, 1954], 14, 219, 284, 348, 413, 417, 419).

In 1781 Hoomes established a line of stagecoaches that ran from Richmond to Hampton by way of Petersburg, for which the state granted him a three-year monopoly in October 1784. The Virginia legislature also awarded him the exclusive privilege of running a stage line between Alexandria and Fredericksburg and from Fredericksburg to Richmond and Hampton from 1787 to 1795 (11 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 467–68; 12 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 618–19; 13 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 108, 622). Hoomes’s passion for thoroughbreds contributed to Caroline County’s eighteenth-century reputation as the cradle of Virginia horse racing. Although he briefly considered moving to greener pastures in Kentucky in 1789, Hoomes remained postmaster at Bowling Green from June 1790 to 1796 and served in the Virginia house of delegates from 1791 to 1795 and in the state senate from 1796 to 1803 (Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 12:312–13).

1On 30 July 1790 Postmaster General Samuel Osgood wrote to Hoomes informing him of the memorial received by the president and requesting his particular attention to it. Osgood’s letter reads: “between the first of April and the first of July there have been two failures—on the 19th of April by the rise of the Waters of the Pamunky and on the 30th June two mails were delivered at the same time at Richmond, owing to a detention of the mail north of Alexandria occasioned by very heavy Rains.

“I have no doubt you have done and will continue to do all you can to prevent such complaints, which are unpleasant in any view, but more especially so, if well founded.

“Mr Davis has published the Schedule of the time of your arrival, and of the closing of the mail at Richmond—By the Way Bills it appears that the Mail sometimes arrives punctually, sometimes half an hour & an hour after the time” (DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836).

2For the memorial of the merchants of Richmond to GW, see Samuel Osgood to GW, 29 July 1790, source note.

3Hoomes also enclosed a list of the “Dates of the Post bills recd at Richmond, and time of arrival,” which reads:

Mails arrived April 27th 1790

Mails arrived April 27th 1790
New York 15th & 18th Apl One of these Mails should have arrived the 24th Apl
Elizabeth Town 16 & 19st do
Philadelphia 19 & 21st do
Arrived the 11th June
New York 2d & 4th do One of these mails should have arrived the 9th June
Philadelphia 4th & 7th do
Baltimore 6 & 8th do
Alexandria 7 & 9th do
Dumfries 8 & 10th do
Arrived the 30th June
Boston 15th & 17th do The first of these should have arrived the 28th June
New York 21 & 23d do
Philadelphia 23 & 25th do
Baltimore 24 & 27th do
Geo. Town 25 & 28 do
Arrived the 23d July
New York 14 & 16th do The first of these should have arrived the 21st July.
Philadelphia 16 & 19th do
Baltimore 18 & 20. do

(DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

4The enclosed instrument was signed by Benjamin Harrison, Jr., and John Groves, “Who have examined the Post Office Books,” and thirty-two Richmond merchants, including William Austin and Moses Austin & Co., who “were not present at the examination of the Post Office Books; but have no doubt it was properly done—and readily subscribe to every other part of the above.” The document they signed reads: “We the Subscribers, Inhabitants of the City of Richmond, who have signed a Memorial to the President of the United States, representing the detention of the public Mail—at the request of Colo. John Hoomes, have examined the Post Office Books at this place, and find that all the Detentions have been to the North ward of Alexandria (except one) and that happened at Fredericksburg, owing to the Postmaster’s unfortunately putting the bag that contained the Northern Letters for Richmond into the Portmanteau with the Southern letters for Alexandria, which detained them only one Stage, as the mistake was discovered at the first Post Office from Fredericksburg, and stopped. Whenever a detention has happened to the Northern Mail, we think it but just and right to say, that the Stage has always arrived in good Time and brought a Mail from Alexandria and Fredericksburg—and that we have good reason to believe that it has never lost a single Trip, (tho’ once it did not get in until the next morning, when it should have been in the evening before) owing to the height of the Waters in the Pamunkey—and that we are perfectly satisfied with the Conduct of the said Hoomes in the carriage of the public Mail, as also with Mr Davis, the Postmaster at this place. . . . N.B. The other Gentlemen who signed the memorial were out of Town, & no one else was applyed to but those who did sign memorial” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

5Richmond postmaster Augustine Davis wrote on 11 Aug. 1790: “I do hereby Certify that there is the greatest regularity in the Arrival of the Stages that come to this Office, and the Instances are very few that they exceed the hour fixed for their Arrival—and whenever the Northern Mail has failed to come on, there has always been one from Alexandria & Fredericksburg” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Eight other similar certificates in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters accompanied Hoomes’s letter and appear on CD-ROM:GW.

6In a 30 July 1790 letter to Augustine Davis, in which he extracted his letter to GW of 29 July 1790 and requested Davis’s opinion of the origins of the complaint of the Richmond memorialists, Samuel Osgood provided a clue to the speculation that raged in Virginia at the end of June: “The Mail that ought to have arrived at Richmond on the 28th probably conveyed Intelligence that the Senate were about striking the Indents out of the funding bill—Perhaps the uneasiness may have arisen from some source of this kind at that particular moment” (DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836).

7Tobias Lear acknowledged on 25 Aug. 1790 the receipt of Hoomes’s 16 Aug. letter to GW, noting “in obedience to his commands, I have the honor to inform you that he directed your letter & certificates to be laid before the Post Master General, who, in consequence thereof, wrote the enclosed letter to the President highly favourable to you & very pleasing to the President” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

A letter-book copy of the enclosed letter of Postmaster General Samuel Osgood to GW of [2]5 Aug. 1790 reads: “I have been honored with the Perusal of Mr Hoomes’s Letter of the 16th of August accompanied with sundry Vouchers relative to the Regularity & good Order of the Transportation of the public Mail by Mr Hoomes.

“I can with great Satisfaction remark, in Behalf of that Gentleman, that I am fully perswaded the Testimonials are well founded; & that by his Integrity & constant Attention to the regular Performance of his Contract, he merits the Confidence of the public. (The failures north of Alexandria have in sundry Instances Occasioned the irregular Arrival of the Mail at Richmond. Four Instances of failure are mentioned in the Certificate to have happened since the first of April) that of the 11th June was probably occasioned by the Mistake of the Postmaster at Fredericksburg; I did not discover till after I had wrote my Letter of the 29th July that the Way Bill which ought to have informed me of this Error was missing—I wrote for it immediately but have not as yet obtained it.

“I did not notice the failure of the 27 April & by again recurring to the Way Bills of the 20 & 22d of April I find no Note on them by the Postmaster at Richmond of any Irregularity.

“But his quarterly Accounts show that two Mails were received at the sametime from the north of Baltimore & on the 26th April at half past 7. P.M.—Of the four Instances of failure One happened by the Error of the Postmaster at Fredericksburg—I have Certificates that two were occasioned by heavy Rains and that on the 20th of April the Mail did not arrive in season at Baltimore from the northward & consequently remained at Baltimore till the 22d of April when two Mails left that Place for Richmond. In all these Instances Mr Hoomes stands fully acquitted” (DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836).

The postmaster general concluded the affair when he wrote to Hoomes the following month: “I duly received your Letter accompanied with sundry Vouchers relative to the regularity of the arrival of the Mail at Richmond.

“I am persuaded that if it is possible to have the Mail regularly conveyed it will be done so long as you are the Contractor.

“The failure which I suppose occasioned the uneasiness in June last at Richmond, happened north of Alexandria, and was undoubtedely an unavoidable event. But notwithstanding this, the Contractors between Philadelphia & Alexandria from the best information I can get have been very remiss.

“In March last I received a short letter from the Merchants in Richmond advising me of irregularities. Having just before received sundry of the same nature, and being well ascertained that the irregularities happened between Philadelphia and Alexandria—I had taken all the Means in my power to remedy the matter.

“I herewith enclose you an advertisement for proposals for New Contracts. It would give me great pleasure if you could find it convenient to make proposals for the whole distance from Alexandria to Savannah, including all the Cross Roads & water carriage” (Osgood to Hoomes, 21 Sept. 1790, DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836).

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