George Washington Papers

Agreement with William Pearce, 23 September 1793

Agreement with William Pearce

[Mount Vernon, 23 September 1793]

Articles of Agreement made and entered into this twenty third day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & ninety three, by & between George Washington, President of the United States, on one part; and William Pearce of Kent County in the State of Maryland, on the other part—Witness, that for and in consideration of the wages and allowances herein after mentioned, the said William Pearce doth promise and agree to superintend, and manage to the best of his skill and judgment, the interest of the said George Washington at Mount Vernon and it’s Dependencies, comprehending the several farms, Mill, Fishery, Tradesmen of different kinds, Ditchers, Spinners, the person who has charge of the Jacks, Stud horse, mules &ca; and will enter upon the duties thereof on or before the first day of January next ensuing, and remain therein until the first day of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety five; during which period he will, in all things, to the utmost of his abilities, discharge the trust reposed in him with diligence and integrity, following the plans that are, or shall be adopted, and such directions as he shall receive; & where these are not clear and definite, then to pursue the dictates of his own judgment in the premises; and even in cases where they may happen to be explicit, if repugnant to the ideas of the said William Pearce, the said George Washington will always, & with pleasure listen to any suggested alterations which may be offered by him with a view to the advancement of the Crops, increase of the Stocks, and for the general improvement of the Estate: the great objects of the said George Washington being to crop the Land in such a manner (by judicious rotations) as to keep it in an improving instead of a declining state;1 to make permanent meadows of wet or sunken lands capable of being reclaimed; to introduce Clover & other Grasses as far, and as fast as it can be done in tillable fields that are in condition to bear it, but avoiding at the same time too great an expense in the purchase of Seed; to substitute live in place of dead fences where it is practicable; and this with as much facility as the seasons and the nature of the case will admit, as the Inclosures are numerous, timber becoming scarce, & the common materials for fencing, in most instances, far to remove. These with regular weekly reports from each Farm & class of people—due attention to the Stocks on the several farms—to the tools & implements of husbandry thereon, taking an exact list thereof, & making the overseers accountable, not only for their forthcoming, but for the preservation of them from the weather; and in a word, to keep as regular accounts with each Farm, & with every seperate branch of business—debiting and crediting the same with every thing that goes to, or comes from them, as if they were the property of another person, thereby ascertaining the profit and loss—correcting, by a strict & close inspection into matters, the many abuses which there is too much reason to fear has crept into every branch of my business, from the little personal attention I have been able to bestow on it for many years last past; and lastly keeping all the Overseers and subordinate characters who are or may be placed under your management, strictly to their respective duties, will (together with clothing the people, providing for, & disposing of things belonging to the Estate on the best terms, & rendering regular accounts thereof) constitute the great out-lines of the trust which I have reposed in you. To go more into detail would be as tedious as it is unnecessary to a person competent to the superintendence of such a Concern as mine. for to tell a farmer that his fences ought to be in good order; his fields secured against trespassers of every kind; his grounds well ploughed; his Crop kept clear of grass & weeds; his seeds put in in good order & in due season; his Grain & hay cut at a proper time, & well stacked, & the former got out of the straw as soon after harvest as circumstances will permit, & that without Waste or loss of grain or straw; making butter & selling all that can be spared, as also such stock of different kinds as will by being culled out, render the remainder healthy & thriving; that his Cattle &ca ought to be regularly penned in summer & secured from bad weather in winter; and the utmost attention paid to the making of manure for the improvement of his fields at both seasons; that his work horses & oxen should be well attended to and kept in good & fit condition, thereby enabling them to perform the labour which they must undergo: to remind him of those things would, I say, be only observing what every Farmer must be thoroughly sensible his duty enjoins—but it may not be amiss to repeat that one of the most effectual steps to accomplish all these ends, is to see that the Overseers of the Farms & the Superintendants of other business are constantly at their posts; for it may be received as a maxim that if they are away or entertaining company at home, that the concerns entrusted to them will be neglected, & certainly go wrong: and it is not less certain that relaxation on his part will serve only to beget liberties on their’s; therefore strictness with justice is the sure means of having the business well conducted.

In consideration of these Services well & truly performed on the part of the said William Pearce, the said George Washington doth hereby promise to pay him the said Pearce, the Sum of one hundred Guineas per annum, and in that proportion for a greater or lesser time actually employed in the said Washington’s service; and will allow him over and above, twelve hundred pounds of Pork; about five hundred pounds of beef, to be received at different times as it may happen to be killed for the use of the Mansion House or for market, and some fresh meat from what may be occasionally killed for like purposes, together with bread sufficient for his family; he is also to be allowed the use of Three Cows for the purpose of affording milk & butter therefor, and to raise poultry for the same, but not for sale. And if he brings Horses (not exceeding two) he is to be allowed Grain, & fodder or hay, for them; in which case he is not to use any horse or horses belonging to the Estate. The said George Washington doth moreover agree to allow the said William Pearce the use of a negro woman to wash & cook for his family—and a boy & girl to aid & attend in the House & garden; the first not to exceed fourteen or fifteen years of age, & the other twelve; and will put the House now occupied by Mr Hyland Crow, with the Kitchen adjoining, in decent repair and fitness for the purpose intended. And lastly, in order that the said William Pearce may have the entire controul over the Overseers of the different Farms, & others, hired as overlookers of any other business, he is hereby vested with full power and authority to engage such as he may have confidence in, & discharge those who do not conduct themselves well. Witness our hands & Seals the day & year first above written.

Go: Washington

William Pearce

Teste Bw Dandridge.


1For some of GW’s ideas about crop rotation at this time, see the crop rotations for Mount Vernon farms enclosed with GW to Pearce, 18 Dec., and Rotations of Crops for Dogue Run, 1793.

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