George Washington Papers
Note: this document has content that may require expanded/print view for best results (icons above right)

From George Washington to William Pearce, 12 January 1794

To William Pearce

Philadelphia Jany 12th 1794

Mr Pearce,

Taking it for granted that you have arrived at Mount Vernon, before this, I shall direct this letter to you at that place, & shall mention such things as have occurred to me, proper for your notice & government.1

From a review of the plan of rotation which has been already communicated to you,2 it appears (if it can be carried into affect this year) that you will want the following seeds, and at the following farms, &ca viz.

  Oats bushls B. Wht bushls Potato bushls Clover lbs. Timothy pint Orchd grass pints
Mansion house  10    64  80   40
Union farm 120  75  40 100    
D: Run farm 150  73 120 800 250  
Muddy hole Farm  60  95  40      
River farm   120        
Total 340 363 2843 980 250  40

I have put none of these articles down to the River farm except Buck Wheat, because I do not know what you may find necessary to put into the ground between No. 6 at that place and the lane by the Barn; nor in any of the lots in front the latter; where, possibly, the Clover may be worn out and wanting to be renewed; Consequently if Oats, Potatoes, Clover or other grass seeds are required at this farm they will be in addition to the quantities of each, mentioned on the other side.

To explain the uses of the foregoing articles at each place, it is necessary to observe if it has not been done so already, (in some former letters) that the ground at Mansion house (which was in Potatoes last year) I want to sow with Oats (thin) and clover, mixed with Orchard grass or Timothy this year; the size of the inclosure I guess to be about 10 Acres—and it is my wish to plant Potatoes in the other enclosure, (at the same place) which was in Oats last year; provided it shall, upon examination, be found to be too thinly taken with clover, with which it was sown last Spring. The part allotted for Clover at Union farm, has already been marked in the sketch which accompanied my letter of the 23d of December, numbered 1 & 2.4 The Potatoes (if any are planted there; the propriety of which you may be the judge) may be in the upper Meadow, adjoining to; but above the lane leading from the Mill road to the Barn where Corn grew as part of it wants cultivation to reclaim & fit it for the reception of grass. At Dogue run farm—the 5 acre lot by the New Barn5 will require about 40 B: of Pots., and the Corn ground in No. 4, every other row with Potatoes, will take as I calculate, about 80 Bushels more (allowing two Potatoes to a hill)—The field No. 4, for these two Crops, is to be prepared, and listed as if for Corn only; four feet a part each way; but, to be planted alternately through the whole of it with each; letting the Rows run No. and South, or as nearly so as the back fence near the Swamp does. No. 3d at this place will receive clover alone, & about eight pints to an Acre; the other Corn ground there will be sown with clover & timothy mixed, at the rate of about five pints each to the Acre, which will take according to my calculation, the quantity before mentioned, that is-–800 lbs. or pints of the first, and 250 pints of the latter. To plant the South west lot of grass at Muddy hole, will require about 40 bushels of Potatoes, there being five acres of it. I have said nothing respecting the disposal of the Oats & Buck Wheat at the different farms, at this time, because it is mentioned in the Plans of rotation. But that I may know how to provide for your want of ⟨any⟩ of these articles, it is necessary for one to be informed, with precision, ⟨the⟩ quantity on hand of each, & without delay.6

From a Gentleman at Leesburg (Colo. Ball) you are to look for Buck wht; and he has assured me I shall not be disappointed. It is to be sent to Mount Vernon as soon as the roads will permit.7 On yourself, I hope you may depend nearly, if not altogether, for Oats: It will be hard I think if the ⟨Stack⟩ at Dogue run does not yield 1⟨5⟩0 bushels—Stuart,8 If I recollect rightly, told me he had ⟨got out⟩ 30; but what to expect from the M⟨a⟩nsion house I know not. By the Weekly reports, already come to my hands, there had been 53 days spent in threshing them out ⟨of⟩ the straw;9 but I shall confess I am not able to form any conclusive ideas of ⟨illegible⟩ from hence, as my people will take a week to do what others would accomplish in a day or two, & Butler had not spirit, or authority enough to effect a change of this conduct.10 I am anxious therefore to know what quantity has come out of the stack at the Mansion house, and what quantity Stuart has; those at Dog. run can only be guessed at from the size of the Stack, & the ground on which they grew. The quantity of Clover seed, Timothy seed, & Orchard grass seed on hand you can ascertain exactly, and I ought to be informed of it immediately, that the dificiency may be got & sent round by the first vessel, as opportunities of doing it may not present at the moment of sowing.11 The Meadows at Union farm or that at Dogue run, should be well examined (as mentioned in a former letter) to see whether any, and what quantity of Seed may be required to make good the defects of the last sowing which was done greatly too late in the Season, and if more than I have enumerated is wanting for purposes which may occur to you though it has escaped me, let me know it and it shall be sent. Of Potatoes I presume (if care be taken to overhaul and keep them from injury) there will be a sufficiency as, by the report to me,12 there were 418½ Bushels put into the Cellar.

If, after taking a full view of the several farms—the situation they are thrown into by the insufferable management of my Overseers, and considering the advanced season compared with the plowings necessary for my rotations, & the means to effect it, you should be of opinion that it cannot be adopted this year; suggest, as soon as you are able to make up your mind upon the Subject, some other plan for the present; keeping in mind what my ⟨intentions⟩ are—namely—to pursue the rotat⟨ion plan⟩ laid down as soon as possible, as my great object is to recover, & preserve my fields in good condition. At any rate howevr the plan for Dogue run farm, must be strictly adhered to this year, although it is accomplished at the expence of the other farms.

Although I have called several times on Mr Lewis for the exact quantity of Corn made at the different farms, & how it has been disposed of; yet to this moment, I remain in ignorance, unless the reports, which in some weeks says so much has been measured, in others none, and added altogether make but 576 barrls, forms the sum total, which, surely, cannot be the whole produce of 666 Acres; which (at the different places) I had in Corn last year. If, however, this is all the Overseers mean to account for, I shall, in the first place, have very little doubt of their villainy; because, from the most reasonable Calculation I could make, after the fodder was gathered, and after repeated examinations of the respective fields, I had no doubt of making between one thousand & 1200 barrls at the least; and in the next place, because it will fall far short of my consumption of this article; which, as you will perceive by my calculations already forwarded to you, 1008 Bar⟨ls⟩ (including what the Mill will receive) is required for my annual supplies. If the case be, as I have here stated it, it will be necessary for you to substitute every article you can by way of help; & to ease me, as much as possible from the purchase of so much Corn. And this may be accomplished, in a degree at least, by the cultivation (at each farm) of Potatoes, Pease, Pumpkins, and such like things in the fields that were intended for Oats & Buckwheat, which will not interfere with the rotation System another year.

You will perceive by the articles of agreement entered into with Thomas Green the quantity of Meat he is entitled to: let him have that, and no more. He will draw, if permitted, double that quantity, & when you come to settle with him either deny having ordered it, or dispute the price. and, as from appearances, I shall be obliged to buy Corn myself, let none of the Overseers have more of this article than they are entitled to by their agreements.13

As you have not your family with you, and will now eat my provisions, let there be as much Cooked every day as will serve the Gardeners &ca, after you have done with it, as the case used to be when I was at home.14

Let there be a piece of ground prepared in what is called the Vineyard Inclosure for about 40 lbs. of French furse seed (for hedging) which I shall send you by the first vessel from this place to Alexandria15—And I would have the thorn berries, Cedar berries, honey locust seed and such other things as may be intended for hedges raised first in nurseries, that, when transplanted they may receive due ⟨culti⟩vation. As the case has been, they are sowed, or planted along the ditches and for want of attention afterwards are smothered & entirely destroyed by the Weeds. Do not neglect planting cuttings of the Willow & Lombardy poplars however, along these ditches, at such times as the Gardener may think best; especially on the ditches across the Mill swamp—But let the ground be well prepared by the Spade, or hoe, before the cuttings are put in. In a word, let whatever you do, be well done. Much labour & much time is saved by this means. both of which has been lost in the manner this business has been conducted: that is by putting in the plants, the cuttings or the Seeds and thinking no more of them afterwards.

I would recommend it to you to read my letters & instructions over often, that you may understand & have them impressed upon your mind. I give this advice because I expect to have them complied with, or reasons assigned for not doing it; and here, as in your agreement, I leave you at full liberty at all times, to propose plans of your own⟨,⟩ or alterations in mine, which in your own judgment, on a nearer view of matters before you than I have, you may think is for the best; for you will in all things find me open to conviction.

The Advertisements herewi⟨th⟩ enclosed, I found necessary some years ago to set up. It may be so still, and for that reason I send the remaining of what I happened to have by me, that they may be used, or not, as occasion shall require.16

Since I began this letter, yours of the 7th Instt and Mr Lewis’s of the 6th enclosing the Weekly reports have been recd.17

The man who supplies Butlers place ought to be stout, active & spirited, yet cool & steady; for I expect there will be some difficulty to encounter before my people can be brought into good habits, & a regular discharge of their duty; so long is it since they have been under any controul in my absence.18

With respect to the Seins, I wd have you, immediately upon the receipt of this letter, send for the man who usually does this work for me, to see if he will, at the accustomed prices, agree positively, to nett them in time. If so, let him chuse his twine (if it is to be had in Alexandria) & set about them immediately. If he will not do this, or if the twine (of good quality) is not to be had there, let me know it, that I may see in time what can be done here, in this matter. When he is at Mount Vernon let him examine the Seins thoroughly, and see how far they are capable of repairs—parts of them to the best of my recollection were new last Spring, if so there must have been abominable mismanagement of them to be unfit for use now—but this indeed I do not wonder at—for less care of things I believe was never used on any estate, than has been on mine of late years.19

I beg your particular attention to the Porke, and making it into Bacon; as, ever since I left home ⟨much⟩⟨illegible⟩ has been sustained in it; some ⟨sayg⟩ because it was not sufficiently salted; and others because fires instead of smoak was made under the Bacon. Send me a list of the numbers & weight ⟨of your Hogs from⟩ each farm, ⟨&⟩ from the list⟨, how many⟩ have been disposed off.20

Having Wheat to ⟨gather at⟩ this time (by horses) is among ⟨illegible⟩serable conduct of my Overseers ⟨espe⟩cially as the horses were not ⟨employed⟩ in plowing as I had ordered. When you look into these things you may be able to discover the causes—At this distance I am unable to do it upon any ground that does not merit punishm⟨en⟩t.

Let me know what remains to be done to the New Barn & sheds at Dogue run. The conduct of that Rascal Green is beyond all forbearance, and it is my repeated request, that if he does not proceed in such a manner as to give you satisfaction, that he may be discarded without hesitation or ceremony.21 I wish you to examine the flax that was ⟨made⟩ at Dogue run; knowing when it was put out to rot, & comparing it with the time it was taken up, I should conceive that it is entirely ruined; if so, I will make McKoy pay for it; because I not only charged him myself to wat⟨ch⟩ it, but wrote about it once or twice after I ⟨left home⟩ to see that it did not re⟨main⟩ out too long.22

The house in Alexandria must be repaired, & in order for Mrs Washington to go into in April, as I have promised this. When it is got in order, & made perfectly clean, I shall send paper from hence for the rooms.23

Charlotte at the Mansion house has been reported sick for several weeks—Mrs Washington desires you will examine her case, and if it appears necessary to request Doctor Craik to attend, & prescribe for her.24 A fellow Sam also, who under prete⟨nse⟩ (for I believe this is the greatest part of his complaint) of an Asthmatical complaint never could be got to work more than half his time, has not done a days work since I left Mount Vernon in October. examine his case also, but not by the Doctor, for he has had Doctors enough already, of all colours & sexes, and to no effect. Laziness Is I believe his principal ailment.25

I am in hope & expectation that after you have had time to examine & pry well into matters you will be able to give me your opinion fully upon the state of things. In the meanwhile let me know how the Wheat, which was too thin in the beginning, stands these open frosts; & see that there ⟨are⟩⟨illegible⟩ furrows to prevent injury from ⟨illegible⟩ standing on it.26 I am Your friend & Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW.

1Pearce’s financial records indicate that he arrived at Mount Vernon no later than 6 Jan. (Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–1797 description begins Manuscript Mount Vernon Accounts, 6 Jan. 1794-19 Jan. 1797. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers. description ends ).

2For GW’s plan of rotation, see GW to Pearce, 18 Dec. 1793, and enclosure.

3The correct total is 264.

4The sketch has not been identified.

5On the barn recently constructed on Dogue Run farm, see GW to Anthony Whitting, 28 Oct. 1792, and enclosure.

6GW added the previous three words to the letterpress copy and presumably to the letter sent.

7On Burgess Ball’s promise to acquire buckwheat seed for GW, see Ball to GW, 17 Dec. 1793. On the receipt of this seed, which arrived at Mount Vernon in several shipments that extended from late January until early April, see Pearce to GW, 4 Feb.; Ball to GW, 13 Feb. and 5 April; and GW to Ball, 23 March.

8William Stuart was the overseer of the River farm.

9For the previous extant farm reports, sent by temporary manager Howell Lewis, see those for 22–28 Dec. 1793 (DLC:GW). No farm reports for September through early December 1793 have been found.

10James Butler was the overseer of the Mansion House farm.

11On the shipment of clover seed to Mount Vernon, see GW to Pearce, 16–17, 23 March.

12This report has not been found.

13According to GW’s agreement of 25 Oct. 1793 with Thomas Green, the overseer of carpenters, Green was entitled to receive “four hundred pounds of Fresh pork & one hundred pounds of fresh beef at killing time” (ViMtvL). According to an agreement that Henry McCoy, the overseer of Dogue Run farm, made with Anthony Whitting, the former manager of Mount Vernon, on 17 Dec. 1792, he received 300 lbs. of pork and 200 lbs. of beef (GW to Whitting, 9 Dec. 1792, n.9). An earlier agreement made by former manager George Augustine Washington with Hiland Crow, the overseer of Union farm, provided Crow with 400 lbs. of pork and 100 lbs. of beef (Articles of Agreement, 15 Sept. 1790, DLC:GW). Written agreements with Stuart and Butler have not been found, nor has any been found for the dower slave Davy, the overseer of Muddy Hole farm.

14John Christian Ehlers was assisted by John Gottleib Richler in attending to GW’s gardens. Ehlers’ wife, Catherine, helped to supervise the spinners at Mount Vernon.

15The vineyard enclosure consisted of four acres and was located south of the stables. It was used as an orchard and a garden nursery, where new plants were nurtured before being transplanted to other portions of the estate. For the shipment of the French furze seed, see GW to Pearce, 16–17 March.

16The enclosed advertisements have not been identified.

17The letter of 7 Jan. from Pearce and that of 6 Jan. from Howell Lewis and its enclosure have not been found.

18GW notified Butler in late August 1794 that his contract would not be renewed (GW to Pearce, 17 and 24 Aug. 1794, ALS, ViMtvL; ALS [letterpress copy], DLC:GW). Near the end of the year, Pearce engaged John Allison (Allistone) to replace Butler as overseer of the Mansion House farm (GW to Pearce, 14 Dec. 1794, ALS, ViMtvL; ALS [letterpress copy], DLC:GW).

19On the cost of hiring Lawrence McGinnis to repair fishing nets in the spring of 1793, see Whitting to GW, 27 March 1793, and n.3 to that document. On 3 Feb. 1794, Pearce paid £22.15.00 to Alexandria merchant Robert Hamilton for 182 lbs of “Seine Twine @ 2/6 ⅌ lb.,” and on 1 April he paid McGinnis £13.09.04 for “kniting A new Seine & puting a piece in the Old Shad Seine” (Mount Vernon Accounts, 1794–1797 description begins Manuscript Mount Vernon Accounts, 6 Jan. 1794-19 Jan. 1797. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers. description ends ).

20No such list has been identified.

21Thomas Green left GW’s service in September (GW to Pearce, 21 Sept. 1794, ALS, ViMtvL; ALS [letterpress copy], DLC:GW).

22The only extant letter written to Henry McCoy prior to this date and after GW departed Mount Vernon on 28 Oct. 1793 is that of 23 Dec. 1793, but it does not mention flax.

23On plans for Frances Bassett Washington to live in GW’s townhouse at the corner of Pitt and Cameron streets in Alexandria, Va., see her letter to GW of 22 Nov. 1793. According to GW’s Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends for 28 May, he paid $22 for “paper hangings” sent to Virginia.

24The dower slave Charlotte, who was a seamstress on the Mansion House farm, was listed as sick for six days on the spinners report of 28 Dec. 1793 (DLC:GW). Physician James Craik, Sr., often attended to seriously ill slaves and overseers at Mount Vernon, as well as to members of the Washington family.

25Sam, who was owned by GW, was listed as a laborer in 1786 and as a cook on the Mansion House farm in 1799. At 40 years of age in 1799, he was judged “Passed Labour.” He was married to Al[i]ce, another of GW’s slaves, who was 38 years old in 1799 and worked as a laborer at Muddy Hole farm in 1786 and 1799 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:278, 282; Washington’s Slave List, June 1799). Sam was listed as sick for six days on the farm report for 22–28 Dec. 1793 (DLC:GW).

26Pearce’s reply has not been found.

Index Entries