George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Pearce, 16 February 1794

To William Pearce

Philadelphia 16th of Feby 1794

Mr Pearce,

Your letter of the 11th instant, covering the reports of the preceeding week, came regularly to hand and gave me concern to hear of the death of Mr Stuarts daughter. What was her complaint?

My intention, with respect to the repairs of my house in Alexandria, and inclosing the lot, was, that every particle of the work, except putting it together, should be prepared at Mount Vernon, & carried thither by Water; for sure I am, if the whole was to be executed in Town that four faithful workmen would do more there in one week than any four of mine would do in a month. I expected that Green, or some one that was a judge of work, would examine critically what was to be done, that the whole might be carried on in the manner I have just mentioned.1 This as far as the dwelling house is concerned, has been done already; but not I believe with the accuracy that is necessary to prevent mistakes. In truth, the man who lives in it, ought, by his agreement, to have kept the house &ca in perfect repair; for that is the only compensation he proposed (I believe) to make me for the use of it and when I saw him last, in October, he told me that he had made a new door, or doors, and some Sashes; and was going on with the work.2 It might be well therefore, the first time you go to town, to examine minutely into the matter—see what he has done—what he talks of doing—on what terms—and how far he may be depended upon for what he engages; remembering always that the house must be in order by the time you have been informed of. Whether this man (that is the tenant) is a joiner or house Carpenter himself, or not, I am unable to say: If the former, and he is to be Depended upon, all you can get out of him, in time, by way of compensation for Rent, will be so much saved to me; but nothing that is essential to the two houses, must be left to uncertainties. Inclosing the lot in time is not quite so material; but let it be done in a very substantial manner when ever it is set about; with such Posts & Rails (close enough together) as will compleatly secure a garden, whenever it is converted to that use, and not easily pulled down for firing. You might—in order to know what the work can be accomplished for, by hiring—get a respectable workman of Alexandria to examine the two houses carefully, set down every thing wanting to them—and the lowest he will do it for. I could, after receiving this, with your opinion thereupon, be better able to decide whether to hire or employ my own people. This may also be done with respect to enclosing the lot; though I conceive there would be more propriety in doing the latter than the former, with my own Carpenters. If large & stout Cedar Posts, & chestnut or Cyprus Rails could be bought reasonably it would be better than to get them of Oak, from my own land, & let the estimate of the workman, you may consult, be made on the supposition of their being so—In wch case, it might be better to employ him: for otherwise they would, more than probably be to be brought from Alexandria to Mount Vernon & then to go back again, or my Carpenters must go there to dress—mortise—& tenant them; which, as I have observed before, I am sure would afford them the opportunity of being idle.

I am so well satisfied of Thomas Greens unfitness to look after my Carpenters, that nothing but the helpless situation in which you find his family, has prevailed on me to retain him ’till this time: but if you perceive more & more, as your opportunities encrease, that he is not to be entrusted, you had better be looking out in time to supply his place another year if there should not be cause to turn him sooner off.3

When he has compleated the New Barn at Dogue run, let it be well cleaned out, & a good lock put upon the lower door—the Key of which either keep yourself, or order McKoy never to let it be out of his own locked Chest. Then try how the treading floor will answer the purpose for which it was constructed.4

I perceive my Overseers are beginning to report the increase of Lambs this year as they did last; by which I never know what they lose. Let them know it is my expectation, that, every lamb that falls, and every one that dies in the week, and what are actually in being at the time, is to be precisely set down. It is from hence only I can form a judgment of their care and attention to them. According to their mode of rendering the Account, I may, if an hundred Lambs fall in a week, and fifty of them die, have an increase of 50 only in the report; and although this is true in fact, it is by no means a fair—or a satisfactory state of the case. The missing report of Mr Stuart ought yet to come forward, otherwise there will be a gap, or break in them.5

Whenever you shall have received the amount of Mr Lewis’s order on Mr Ross, let me be informed of it; because I shall then pay the money here.6

Under cover with this letter you will receive, and I hope in good order, the White bent grass seeds mentioned in my last letter; half an ear of very early ripening corn; the Garden seeds written for by Ehler; and 4 kinds of seeds sent me by a Gentlemen in England; some (or I believe all) of which came from the East Indias.7 In my last I gave directions concerning the Bent grass, and therefore shall say nothing about it here: If the Corn is not planted where it can be protected, it will all be eaten in its green state. The Gardener will see by the prices annexed to the Seeds he sent for, how necessary it is for him to save his own Seeds, which I hope he will do hereafter; and I desire he will take particular care of the other four sorts of foreign seeds; two of which he will perceive must be sown in moist ground, or kept moist after it is sown. Let him number the papers which contain these Seeds, and drive stakes with corrisponding numbers by each kind, when sown, that he may be at no loss to know them: Putting the papers as is usual, in a split stick by them, is apt to be lost; or so defaced by the weather as to become, after a while, unintelligable; and then the name will be forgotten: by the method I have proposed this cannot happen; On the papers too may be noted the places where they are sown. I remain Your friend &ca

Go: Washington

ALS, ViMtvL; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW. The ALS at ViMtvL is docketed as letter “#11.”

1For GW’s instructions to have his house and stable at the corner of Pitt and Cameron streets in Alexandria, Va., ready for occupancy in April by Frances Bassett Washington, see his letter to Pearce of 12 January. Thomas Green was overseer of the slave carpenters at Mount Vernon.

2On GW’s tenant, a Mr. Jackson, see John Fitzgerald to GW, 3 Aug. 1793, and n.1 to that document. Fleeing the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, GW and Martha Washington returned to Mount Vernon in September 1793. GW remained at Mount Vernon until 28 Oct. and Martha until December (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 239, 241; Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends , 4 and 11 Dec. 1793).

3Despite an unfavorable opinion of Green, GW was reluctant to fire him because of sympathy for Green’s wife, Sarah, who was the daughter of GW’s former valet Thomas Bishop (see GW to Green, 31 March 1789, and source note). Green left GW’s employment later this year (GW to Pearce, 21 Sept. 1794).

4For the design of the new treading barn at Dogue Run farm, of which Henry McCoy was the overseer, see GW to Anthony Whitting, 28 Oct. 1792, and enclosure.

5On the manner in which the overseers reported on the increase and decrease of lambs and other livestock, see Farm Reports, 2–8 Feb. 1794 (DLC:GW). A subsequent report for the River farm from William Stuart, which was not included with the weekly reports because of the death of his daughter, has not been found.

6On the payment of Howell Lewis’s draft on Horatio Ross, see n.3 of GW to Pearce, 3 February.

7GW mentioned the white bent grass seeds in his letter to Pearce of 9 February. The seeds requested by John Christian Ehlers, in a letter to GW that has not been found, probably were those “sundry Garden seeds” whose purchase was posted on 24 Feb. 1794 in GW’s Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends as costing $4.87. For the seeds from Eastern Europe and Asia that Scottish agriculturalist James Anderson sent, see his letter to GW of 15 Aug. 1793.

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