George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 5 June 1791

From Tobias Lear

Philadelphia June 5th 1791


Since I had the honor of writing to you on the 29 of last month, the two Platteaux, which Mr G. Morris sent from France, have arrived. One of them has received a slight fracture in the corner; but it has injured it very little.1

In my letter of the 22d of may I mentioned that Hercules was to go on to Mount Vernon a few days after that. When he was about to go, somebody, I presume, insinuated to him that the motive for sending him home so long before you was expected there, was to prevent his taking the advantage of a six months residence in this place. When he was possessed of this idea he appeared to be extremely unhappy—and altho’ he made not the least objection to going; yet, he said he was mortified to the last degree to think that a suspicion could be entertained of his fidelity or attachment to you. and so much did the poor fellow’s feelings appear to be touched that it left no doubt of his sincerity—and to shew him that there were no apprehensions of that kind entertained of him, Mrs Washington told him he should not go at that time; but might remain ’till the expiration of six months and then go home—to prepare for your arrival there. He has accordingly continued here ’till this time, and tomorrow takes his departure for Virginia.2

The Gentleman to whom you sold your Kanawa Lands is now in this place, and told me yesterday that he had purchased a Seat called Springsbury situated between Bush Hill & Mr Morris’ farm—and from another quarter I was informed he was to give eight thousand pounds for it with about 65 acres of land. This looks as if there was some confidence placed in him, and is a virtual contradiction of some accounts which I had the honor to transmit to you. He tells me it is his intention to build pretty extensively upon that place, in order to receive & accommodate such French Gentlemen as may come over here with their families to settle in the Western County (of whom he says he expects a considerable number this summer) until the Gentlemen can go out into that Country with their settlers & make such accommodations for their Ladies & children as will prevent those severe inconveniencies which have already been felt by some who have carried their families into the wilderness without having any previous accommodations made for them. He further says that for several years hence he shall find it necessary for him to be nearly half the time in this part of the Country in order to fecilitate the arrangements which he shall make for his settlements, and that this is another cause for becoming a purchaser here. I hope too many plans may not prove injurious to him.3

In a vessel which arrived from Havre de Grace last week was a quantity of wine which Mr Jefferson had ordered for your use & his own. But as he is still out of town it cannot be divided till his return which is expected the latter part of this week.4

We have lately experienced a spell of excessive hot weather for the season. The Thermomiter stood for 5 days between 87 & 90 degrees. Since that time we have been favored with abundant & refreshing showers which have cheered the heart of the farmer and braced up the relaxed frame of the citizen. The prospect of Crops is very pleasing hereabouts. In Jersey the Hessian fly is said again to have made its ravages in the wheat.

On the 1st Instant, at the request of the Secretary of the Treasury, I delivered to him Commissions filled up with the following persons-—viz.

Drury Ragsdale, as Inspector of the Revenue for Survey No. 1 in the district of Virginia.

Edward Stevans, as ditto for Survey No. 2. in do.

Mayo Carrington, as ditto for Survey No. 3. in do.

Thomas Newton, as ditto for Survey No. 4. in do.

Edward Smith, as ditto for Survey No. 5. in do.

James Brackenridge, as Inspector for Survey No. 6 in ditto.5

As the Secretary of State was absent when the seal of the United States was affixed to these Commissions they were not countersigned by him as is customary. This, however, does not make them less valid.

Mrs Lear Joins me in sentiments of respect & gratitude for you & sincere prayers for the preservation of your health—and a continuation of your happiness.

Mr Dandridge arrived here yesterday and is this day to be inoculated for the small pox, as a person who has not had it would be unsafe in this City for a single day.6 With the highest respect & most sincere attachment I have the honor to be Sir, Your obliged & grateful servt

Tobias Lear.

ALS, DLC:GW; ALS (letterpress copy), PWacD.

1Gouverneur Morris purchased the two plated table furnishings for GW in Paris and sent them to Robert Morris on 19 Nov. 1790 for delivery (see GW to Gouverneur Morris, 1 Mar., 15 April 1790, and Gouverneur Morris to GW, 22 Nov. 1790, n.1). Tobias Lear paid the duty of $2.66 on them on 30 May 1791 (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 238).

2Lear purchased two new shirts for Herculas on 3 June and gave him at least $7.20 the next day to cover the costs of his stage ride from Philadelphia to Baltimore, his passage from Baltimore to Alexandria, and any other expenses he might incur before reaching Mount Vernon (ibid., 239).

3John Joseph de Barth, to whom GW sold his Kanawha lands (see GW to George Clendinen, 21 Mar. 1791), also purchased Springsbury (Springettsbury) near the Schuylkill River just northwest of Philadelphia to house temporarily French settlers for the Scioto company (see Louis Le Bègue de Presle Duportail to GW, 10 Feb., source note). One of the Penn family’s original manors, it was subdivided and sold in the early 1700s, except for the main portion retained by Thomas Penn until the mid-eighteenth century, when he sold off most of it. After the manor house, which was the temporary country home of Robert Morris in 1779 and 1780, burned in 1784, its overgrown gardens and ruins were a popular setting for pastoral outings of the elite, including GW (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:172, and Watson, Annals of Philadelphia, description begins John F. Watson. Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time; Being a Collection of Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Incidents of the City and Its Inhabitants, and of the Earliest Settlements of the Inland Part of Pennsylvania, from the Days of the Founders. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1850. description ends 2:478–80). De Barth and GW agreed to void their Kanawha deal in 1793, and GW later leased the land to James Welch of Greenbrier County (see GW to de Barth, 30 April 1793, Welch to GW, 24, 29 Nov., 9 Dec. 1797, GW to Welch, 1, 7 Dec. 1797, and to James Keith, 10 Dec. 1797).

4In mid–1790, after GW discussed with Thomas Jefferson the possibility of acquiring French wines for the presidential household, that noted connoisseur arranged through William Short to purchase the wine from the best French vineyards (see Jefferson to Short, 12 Aug., 6 Sept., and to Joseph Fenwick, 6 Sept. 1790, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 17:342, 493–94, 496–97) and have it transported and safely stored before the heat of summer. On 16 June Jefferson’s secretary informed him that four unopened baskets and four boxes had arrived from France, and, presuming that they contained the wine, he placed them in Jefferson’s cellar. Henry Remsen, Jr., also wrote in the same letter that Lear had taken charge of the president’s wine and that fourteen more cases had arrived from Charleston (ibid., 20:555–56). For further correspondence about GW’s wine, see Lear to GW, 12, 23 June.

5After receiving instructions from GW and information from Virginia district supervisor Edward Carrington, Alexander Hamilton requested Lear on 1 June to fill out these commissions and send them to the Treasury Department “as speedily as may be.” Lear complied the same day (Hamilton to Lear, 1 June, and Lear to Hamilton, 1 June, DLC:GW).

6Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr. (c.1772–1802), was the son of Martha Washington’s brother, who had died in 1785. Upon his arrival at Philadelphia, probably from his mother’s in New Kent County, Va., his aunt commented, “Batt Dandridge arrived hear yesterday he is as yellow as a mulato,—he is inoculated this day for the small pox” (Martha Washington to Fanny Bassett Washington, 5 June, Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, description begins Joseph E. Fields, ed. “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington. Westport, Conn., and London, 1994. description ends 231–32). The following autumn his older brother wrote Martha: “Bart is very well pleased with his situation I find by his letters, & I hope he will endeavor to please every body he acts for—I trust you will exercise your authority as a relation as well as your advisor to inforce on him a proper sense of his Duty, & to guard him from being led astray by the temptation to idleness & extravagance which surround him” (John Dandridge to Martha Washington, 6 Sept., ibid., 234–35). It is unknown exactly when Dandridge joined GW’s household. Lear wrote David Humphreys on 8 April 1793: “Major Jackson left the family about 11 months ago—since which a Nephew of Mrs Washington’s (Mr Bartholomew Dandridge). . .joined us . . . [he] is a young Gentleman of an excellent mind—strong natural parts, tho’ but little acquainted with the world—his education has been very limited, but his talent for improvement is great and his industry equal to it—he will make a valuable & useful man—he is about 21 years of age” (PPRF). Dandridge did much of the Philadelphia household’s shopping, acted as GW’s traveling secretary during his return to Mount Vernon in September and October 1791, apparently replaced William Jackson, and eventually filled Lear’s shoes after Lear left the president’s service in 1793 (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 241, 253). After GW’s retirement Dandridge became secretary to William Vans Murray, American minister to the Hague, served as secretary to the legation at the Court of St. James under Rufus King, and ended his life and career as an American consul in Saint Domingue (see ibid., 326–27, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:236n).

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