George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Frances Bassett Washington, 28–29 July 1793

To Frances Bassett Washington

Philadelphia July 28th[-29] 1793

My dear Fanny,

Your letter of the 21st came to hand on Thursday last and it does not appear that you have yet received my letter of the l0th of June, addressed to you in Berkeley—& probably never may, I now send you the press copy of it. This you will perceive is on one side only of the Paper, and dull; but where most so, is brightened with Ink.1

You, better than I, can answer the questions contained in your letter of the 21st—Because the necessity of the repairs pointed at by your Overseer will depend upon the mode of occupying the place next year.2 If the fence now on it, remain—then the Quarters, if they really require it, ought to receive such repairs as to make them comfortable to their Inhabitants. If it is reduced, then, a⟨nd⟩ in that case, the expence would be, unn⟨e⟩cessarily incurred. The same reasoning applies equally to the Corn House except as to repairing it; and at any rate, I think a new one would be attended with an expence which circumstances do not warrant—1st because he may (notwithstanding present appearances) fall considerably short of his expectation in the Corn Crop—2d because few people provide against possible contigencies—and 3d because when his own share is taken out and it ought not to be mixed the probability is, that the present Corn house will hold the remainder; if not, as it is an article in daily use, the overplus had better be temporarily secured while using or sold, than to build a house, for which hereafter, there may never be an occasion. With respect to a receptacle for the Wheat the expedient proposed will, I think, answer very well; and you or Mr Lewis, may order any plank which may be at Mount Vernon (after consulting Thos Green with respect to the kind) to be applied to this purpose.3 But even in this case, my advise to you would be, to engage it to some principal Wheat purchaser in Alexandria (who is known to be good pay) and deliver it by Boat Loads as fast as it can be got out. This mode you may be assured, will prevent a good deal of waste—probably embezzlement, and will avoid loss by fire, or damage by any other accidents. That there may be no difficulty about the price at so early a period agree to take whatever Mr Fitzhugh of Chatham receives for his Crop—or if this should be objected to on acct of its being large, & for that reason commanding always the highest price, take Mr Thompson Mason, Mr Lund Washington, or Mr Willm Triplet (all cautious men) as the standard for your price.4 This will ease you from the trouble of watching the markets, & produce the advantages before enumerated. Whenever you have occasion for your own Carpenters, always employ them. When they work for me I shall allow you the usual hire of such people, by the Month or year; and have directed Thomas Green (who has charge of the whole) to keep an exact account of all the time they work for my benefit;5 but it may not be amiss to caution you against the applications of an Overseer or your negroes—These kind of people are regardless of the expence they run an employer to, when no part of it falls on themselves; asking for many things which with a little contrivance, & tolerable attention, they might provide for themselves—It is so much easier, however, to have them thrown into their laps, that left to their demands, they will provide nothing; nor want any thing they can obtain for asking.

I am almost ashamed to send you a letter as much interlined & scrawled a⟨s⟩ this is. But the truth is, I am obliged to w⟨mutilated⟩ all my private letters in a hurry, and having no time to copy them myself, nor chusing to let others do it for me (where they are merely personal) I must either send them as first drawn or not at all—Your Aunt proposing to write to you, I shall only desire my love may be presented to Milly & the Children,6 & that you may be assured of the Affecte regard had for you all by Your sincere frd

Go: Washington

July 29th An unfortunate event, which took place in this family yesterday has prevented your Aunt from writing to you as I expected, and she intended. namely, the death of Mrs Lear. She was seized yesterday week in a violent manner with the Collick; this brought on a high fever, which put a period to her existence between 4 and 5 Oclock yesterday afternoon; to the grief of all the family, as she was an amiable, & inoffensive little woman.7

Your Aunt desires me to inform you, that among other things sent by Captn Ellwood, who Sailed from this Port yesterday, for Alexandria, is a piece of Linnen for the purpose of Baby clothes for the Negro Women. viz. 26 yards of Dowlas—Also a Barrl of brown Sugar—and a Bann box with a Cloak for Milly Washington which I desire her acceptance of.8

Go: W——n

ALS, PHi: Etting Papers.

1GW received Fanny’s letter of 21 July on Thursday, 25 July. Fanny was now at Mount Vernon, having apparently returned from a visit to Berkeley County, Virginia. For the enclosed letterpress copy, see GW to Frances B. Washington, 10 June.

2Mr. Taylor was the overseer of the estate on Clifton Neck. For GW’s gift of this farm to his nephew George Augustine Washington, see GW to George Augustine Washington, 25 Oct. 1786, and GW’s Last Will and Testament, 9 July 1799, and note 30.

3GW’s nephew Howell Lewis was serving as the temporary manager of Mount Vernon (GW to William Stuart, Hiland Crow, and Henry McCoy, 14 July, to Burgess Ball, 21 July 1793). Thomas Green was the overseer of carpenters at Mount Vernon.

4William Fitzhugh’s estate of Chatham was across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Thomson Mason’s estate at Hollin Hall was just north of GW’s River farm (see GW to Anthony Whitting, 9 June 1793, n.6). GW’s distant cousin Lund Washington lived at Hayfield, an estate south of Alexandria, Virginia. For the location of this estate and for GW’s gift of this land to Lund in 1785, see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 1:240–41, 293, 4:80–81. William Triplett’s lands were northwest of Dogue Run farm and bordered those of both GW and Lund Washington (see ibid., 1:240–41, 2:221, 4:90, 5:422).

5On GW’s use of Reuben and Gabriel, slave carpenters belonging to Fanny’s estate on Clifton Neck, see GW to Anthony Whitting, 3 Mar. 1793, and note 5. For accounts of work that these slaves performed at Mount Vernon, see the Farm Reports for 21–27 July and 28 July–4 Aug. 1793 (both DLC:GW).

6For Mildred Gregory Washington and for Fanny’s children, see note 7 of Frances B. Washington to GW, 21 July 1793.

7Mary (“Polly”) Long Lear was the wife of GW’s secretary Tobias Lear. GW had predicted her death in his letter to Robert Lewis of 26–28 July 1793. According to a letter from Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., to Frances B. Washington of 29 July: “The extreme distress into which every member of our family is plunged by the unexpected & truly to be lament⟨ed⟩ Death of the amiable & worthy wife of our friend Mr Lear, I will not undertake to describe. That afflicting event took place yesterday about four o’clock after an illness only of five or six days. Your Aunt will write you fully in a few days” (ALS, NNGL). For Martha Washington’s letter to Frances B. Washington of 4 Aug. 1793, in which Mary Lear’s death is also described, see 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 , 250–51.

8Capt. John Ellwood, Jr.’s schooner Nancy departed Philadelphia for Alexandria, Va., on 28 July (General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 29 July 1793). Entries for 22 July 1793 in GW’s Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends indicate that he paid $23 for “a sattin Cloak made for Miss Milly Washington” and $8.67 for “25 yds Dowlas,” a coarse type of linen fabric. A bandbox, or ban-box, is usually made of cardboard or thin wood covered with paper and is used primarily for hats, collars, and millinery. According to an entry for 25 July, GW paid 58 cents for “drayage of sund[rie]s to the Vessel to go to Virga,” and an entry for 26 July records that “a bbl sugar” cost $27.10. Another entry for that date indicates that GW paid $11.34 for “freight of sunds. & passage of Gardener to Mt Vernon.” The gardener was John Gottleib Richler, a German immigrant who was indentured for three years in return for GW’s payment of $59.80 for his passage to the United States. Other indentured servants obtained by GW at this time, from a ship “with Germans on board” that was docked at Mud Island, included “a German boy & two women—the former to serve 5 years & the two latter 3 years for their passage,” which totaled $185.16 (Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends , 20 July 1793). For the leather shipped at this same time, see GW to Howell Lewis, 4 Aug. 1793, and note 15.

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