George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Anthony Whitting, 9 December 1792

To Anthony Whitting

Philadelphia Decr 9th 1792

Mr Whiting,

Your letter of the 28th of Novr, which ought to have been here the first day of this month, did not arrive until the 4th; that of the 5th came yesterday, at the usual time.1

I thought I had, in a former letter, desired that all the large Cedars in the Lucern lot might be left standing; as they could, at any time, be thinned after I had seen them, free from other things. This is the footing I would have them remain on, at present; the young one’s, as has been mentioned to you are to be taken up so soon as they can be removed with a large block of frozen Earth; and planted from the stile downwards, thick, so as to make a formidable hedge.2 Let all the trees, large or small (unless very large indeed) that are taken out of either the lucern, or old clover lots, be grubbed up by the roots. It will, I am sensible, render this clearing more tedious; but it will be the means of saving much labour hereafter; besides giving a more agreeable appearance to the ground in the first instance. I will endeavor to procure seeds from the honey locust, & send you, but I question whether I shall get many, if any, as there are very few pods on the trees in the neighbourhood of this City, this year. I entirely approve, as I have mentioned to you in one or two letters lately, of establishing large Nurseries of every kind of plant that is fit for hedges; but then, I would do it (of the common plants) more for the purpose of repairing, than for raising hedges by transplanting the plants in the first instance, from these Nurseries.3 For, as you know many thousands of the honey locust were transplanted from the Vineyard to the Ferry & French’s, under the care of Mr Bloxham; whom, one would have thought, would have known how to manage them: but where are they now?4 Indeed this question might be asked with respect to the Honey locust seeds which were planted there & elsewhere; and both be answered, justly perhaps, by saying that the ground was not properly prepared for either, nor the plants attended to after they were removed, or had come up from the Seeds. Indeed I am so anxious to get these hedges razed as soon as possible, that I would spare no expence of labour, or pains to facilitate the measure by trying both methods, with every thing you can devise as fit for it.

By the time this letter will have got to your hands, I expect 655 lbs. of Clover Seed at 1/5 pr lb., will be in Alexandria (from New York) for me, consigned to Mr Porter; to whom, if you should not do it to the Captn, the freight (not more I suppose than 8/ or 10/) must be paid. The Seed, as it is furnished by a person who is careful in the choice, I hope will prove good: the distribution of it, together with that which you have, I shall leave to yourself; but request, if harrowed at all, it may be done with nothing heavier than a light bush, as I am well persuaded that the thinness of my clover proceeds, as much as any thing, from the Seeds being buried too deep.5

Have you made any use of the Plough I sent from this place, & with three horses?6 I hope both the old Clover lot, & the Brick yard lot will be well prepared for the Crops, & Seeds which are to be put into them. And if you could get some of the true Plaster of Paris or Gypsum, and sow the Lawns on both sides of the Mansion house, it would be of Service; as they begin to want dressing: about 5 or 6 bushels to the Acre is the usual allowance.7 Put long litter against the Cellar Windows; Frank knows how, & should be made to do it, as well as other things; otherwise he will be ruined by idleness. And can Lucy find sufficient employment in the Kitchen? It was expected her leizure hours, of which I conceive she must have very many from Cooking would be employed in Knitting—of which both Peter & Sarah do too little. I expected Sinah was one of those who would have been sent to one of the Plantations: whether she remains at the Mansion house, or not, it is my desire that when Kitty is unable to attend the Dairy alone, that Anna may be the assistant.8 The other, besides idling away half the day under that pretence, never failed, I am well convinced, to take a pretty ample toll of both Milk & butter.

I hope the Overseer you have got from Boggess[’]s will answer your expectations, but I have no opinion of any recommendation from that person; and besides, a stayed, elderly man for such an important plantation as Dogue run would have been to be preferred to a young one, although the latter should be a married man. but I am sensible any one would be better than Jones, and that the Season was too far advanced to look for many to chuse from.9 When do you expect the successor of Garner? If he does not come over before Christmas, he may not be able to do it before Spring, on account of Interruption by Ice.10

As soon as your Corn is all measured, and the Grain all threshed, give me an Acct of the whole Crop in one view; and what each field has produced of the several species; viz.—Corn, Wheat, Buckwheat, Oats, Potatoes, &ca—and as your apprehensions of a short Crop of Corn seems to be great, I beg that every possible œconomy may be attended to in the use of it; and to prevent waste & embezzlement; as the same Spirits which attack my Wheat, Hogs, & Sheep, will not spare the Corn, if means can be found to get at it; and this is often given by the Overseers entrusting the Keys of the Corn houses to those who want grain for their work horses, &ca—Do not bestow too much Corn on your fatting Hogs, unless it can be applied to no other use; I mean that which is soft, for it will not keep long without turning bitter, yellow, & becoming rotten: and if laid in bulk, will (I know from experience) be utterly ruined. For every purpose therefore to which soft Corn can be applied usefully, & œconomically, let it be & be the first consumed. I do not, by calling for this general return of all the Crops, mean that the individual ones, or parts of them, should go unreported as usual. My object is, that I may have the whole in one view, without resorting to the weekly ones.

I do not know what quantity of Wheat is yet to go to the Mill, but wish it may not fall short of your expectation of 5000 bushels in the whole, for market. It appears to me that the Miller must have been very inattentive to his duty, to have manufactured only 102 Barrls of flour besides 15 barls of midlings & 19 of Ship stuff out of 2387½ bushls of Wheat which has been delivered into the Mill.11 I wish he may not have forgot what is usual for all Millers to do & what I am sure he must have done himself—and that is, to grind of Nights, as well as days when the water, & seasons will admit—a little time more & the frosts will stop the Mill—and in a little time after the frosts are over, the droughts will stop it, & my grain will remain unground. He has, it must be acknowledged, a fine time of it. Whether he works at night, or not, I hope particular charge will be given him respecting fire. The loss of the Mill, & its contents, would be too heavy for me to support; and I find the accident of fires is already begun. The loss sustained by which, & how it happened at the Hound Kennels ought to have been more particularly detailed than by the simple mention of it in the report, as if it was a thing of course.12

I did not expect that Buck Wheat could be had short of Loudoun. I wished to know whether it could be had from thence, & at what price, delivered in Alexandria; that I might be enabled to determine (if more than you have should be required) whether it would be best to buy there, or send it from here. For this reason it is, I have asked once or twice what you have made; as soon as the quantity is ascertained, let me know it—what ground you propose to sow with it & how much seed (more than you have) is wanting.

If it is the Hessian fly that has injured your Wheat, the insect will be found between the blade & the stem, at the lower joint. The Clumps, as marked by the Gardener are very well designed but if there had been more trees in them, they wd not have been the worse for it.

I presume Davis has painted the Windows & Cornice of the Green house & New Quarters white. I directed him so to do—Let me know what painting he has yet to do, & the quantity of paints on hand. What does the Gardeners wife in her report mean by Trowsers? She is not making them longer than common breeches I presume. This wd be a great consumptn of Cloth.13

If you will send me the size, & length of the well rope, I will endeavor to have a proper one made, & sent to you.14

You ask directions from me, respecting your conduct in the building of my poor Nephew, Major Geo: A. Washington’s House. From every Acct we receive, his disorder is at a crisis, and must so (if that is not the case already) change for the better, or terminate in his speedy dissolution & as the latter is most likely to happen, I think you had better not (until further orders) procure any more scantling; especially such as must be cut to waste. It may be proper for Gunner to continue throwing up Brick earth; & for the Majors two men to be preparing plank for the floors; because these (especially the latter) cannot be lost. A very few weeks (before the end of the ensuing hollidays) will enable him or his friends to decide more accurately on the measures necessary to be pursued.15 I am your well wisher & friend

Go: Washington

P.S. In the Reports, let the quantity of Super fine flour be distinguished from the fine, that the quantity of every kind may be known, & seen at one view.


1For the schedule of postal deliveries from Alexandria, Va., see the postscript to GW’s letter to Whitting of 2 December. Neither of Whitting’s letters has been found.

2See GW’s instructions regarding the cedars in his letter to Whitting of 18 November.

3In his letter to Whitting of 25 Nov., GW directed that part of the vineyard enclosure be used to raise plants “fit for hedging, or to repair hedges.”

4James Bloxham came from England in 1786 to serve as GW’s farm manager, but four years later he returned to his native country.

5At GW’s request, Tobias Lear wrote the New York City merchant firm of William Shotwell & Co. on 17 Nov. 1792 asking for the price of clover seed. In a reply dated 22 Nov., William Shotwell informed Lear that clover seed “may be purchased @ 1/6 ⅌ lb. of a Superior quality—Inferior @ 1/3 & down to 1/—Are uncertain how long it will continue at this price the demand being considerable.” Lear placed an order with Shotwell & Co. on 3 Dec.: “If there should be a Vessel to sail from Nw York to Alexandria by the middle of the present month—or at any time when she may probably reach that place before the river is closed, the President wishes you to put on board 600 wt of the best Clover seed, unless in your opinion that of the 2d or 3d quality would be better according to the prices. If you should ship the above Seed to Alexandria, let it be directed to Thomas Porter Esquire of that place, and your Accot be sent to me when it shall either be paid here, or the amount remitted to you, as you may wish. You will be so good as to let me know in the course of the present week, whether there is a prospect of sending the Seed from Nw York to Alexa. or not; for if there should not be a prospect of it’s being sent from Nw York, we must procure it here & send it on, as a part of it will be wanted to sow on the snow early in the Spring, probably before the river opens to admit of it’s being sent then.” Shotwell informed Lear on 5 Dec. that “there is a Brig sails tomorrow for Alexandria & having purchased 600 wt good red Clover seed, propose shipping it by her.” The next day Shotwell wrote Lear that the seed was being sent on the Peggy under Captain Starbuck, but that the “Casks happening to hold just 655 lb. We thought best to have them filled tho’ it is a small deviation fro⟨m⟩ the quantity desired.” On 10 Dec., Lear sent William Shotwell & Co. “four thirty dollar bills of the Bank of the United States, and one quarter of a dollar in silver—amounting to £48.2.0.,” receipt of which Shotwell acknowledged on 12 Dec. (all the Lear-Shotwell correspondence is in DLC:GW). For Whitting’s estimate of the amount of clover seed required, see Whitting to GW, 31 Oct., n.5.

6For the Dutch plow that GW had sent from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon in May, see Enoch Edwards to GW, 1 May, and note 1. An entry in Cash Memorandum Book H description begins Cash Memorandum Book H. Manuscript in Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven. description ends recorded payments of 1s. 6d. on 15 May for “drayage of a plough to the river” and £3.15.10 on 12 June “for a plough for the Presidt sent to Mt Vernon.”

7See GW’s letter to Whitting of 16 Dec. in which he wrote that he was sending plaster of Paris from Philadelphia.

8For earlier mentions of the work assignments for these slaves, see GW to Whitting, 14 Oct., and note 17, and 28 Oct., and note 3.

9Henry McCoy (McKay) replaced Henry Jones as the overseer of the Dogue Run farm. McCoy’s agreement with Whitting, signed on 17 Dec. 1792, indicates that he was to be employed from 1 Jan. 1793 to 1 Jan. 1794 for an annual salary of £30 Virginia currency, 300 lbs. of pork, 200 lbs. of beef, 5 barrels of corn, 150 lbs. of middling flour, a milch cow, and permission to keep fowls for his own use (DLC:GW). Robert Boggess’s letter of recommendation of 27 Nov. 1792, which probably was addressed to Whitting, is filed with McCoy’s employment contract. Although Boggess wrote that McCoy was “very Capeble” and “very Industorous,” GW complained often about McCoy’s lack of energy and failure to obey instructions (see GW to McCoy, 23 Dec. 1793, and to William Pearce, 10 May 1795, AL, ViMtvL).

10William Garner was hired as an overseer at the River farm in December 1788 (see Agreement with William Garner, 10 Dec. 1788). For some reasons why GW dismissed Garner, see GW to Whitting, 13 Jan. 1793. William Stuart became the next overseer of the River farm.

11Middling flour was a coarse, middle-grade flour, containing some bran. Ship stuff was the lowest-quality flour, containing much bran.

12The kennels apparently were located a short distance south of the mansion, near the river (see GW to Whitting, 6 Jan. 1793). The report that mentioned the fire has not been found.

13Catherine Ehlers’s report has not been found. Trousers were ankle-length, while breeches came only to the bottom of the knee.

14The rope was probably for the well mentioned in GW’s letter to Whitting of 25 November.

15In a letter to George Augustine Washington of 25 Oct. 1786, GW had informed his nephew that he was planning to leave in his will his land on Clifton’s Neck, including the River farm, to George Augustine and his wife, Fanny, and GW encouraged the young couple to build a house on that property (see GW’s Last Will and Testament, 9 July 1799, and note 30). Gunner, a laborer belonging to GW at the Mansion House farm, was described in 1799 as “Passed Labour” at 90 years of age. He was married to Judy, another of GW’s slaves, at the River farm (see Washington’s Slave List, June 1799). The major’s two men were carpenters Gabriel and Reuben (see GW to Whitting, 3 Mar. 1793). After his nephew’s death from tuberculosis in February 1793, GW, with Fanny’s acquiescence, instructed Whitting to halt any further work on the house (see GW to Whitting, 24 Feb., 3 Mar. 1793).

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