George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Pearce, 5 July 1795

To William Pearce

Philadelphia 5th July 1795

Mr Pearce

Your letter of the 28th, with the enclosed reports, was duly received.1

I think it very likely that I shall commence my journey for Mount Vernon about the middle of this month—but as business may detain me a few days longer than I expect, I will not speak positively at this time. In my next, I shall, I hope, be able to name the day I shall leave the city.2 But let not this prevent your writing as usual, as I shall meet the letter on the road, if it does not arrive here, before I set out.

If the dormant windows are not put in, on each side of the Pediment, front side of the stable, I could wish (if it does not interfere with the more important work of Donaldson) that it might be set about; it would not only add to the look of the building, but the grain & hay both, would derive benefit from the air it wd receive from those windows; As would the Stables, if the back dormant windows could be compleated on the range with those already in, and of the same size, & appearance.3

Davy’s lost lambs, carry with them a very suspicious appearance; and it will be to be regretted, if he betakes himself to Rogueries of that sort; for in that case, no thing will escape, if he can avoid detection; & grain will be less liable to it than animals. If the lambs had been poisoned, or had died a natural death, or their deaths had been occasioned by any accident, their bones would have been forth coming, and his not being able to produce them, is an argument both of his guilt, and of his not expecting to be called upon for that evidence of the truth of his assertion, & fair dealing. This circumstance will make it necessary to watch him a little closer. He has some very sly, cunning & roguish negroes under him; among whom none has a greater disposition to be so, or who he can make a more useful agent of, than Nathan; his mother and father.4

How, when the Manufacturing Season is over, or the water is scarce, is Ben at the Mill employed? Surely the Miller (who ought himself under these circumstances5 to be employed in Coopering) does not keep him in the Mill merely to save himself the trouble of taking off, & pulling on a few bags of grist, in the week—I have often intended to enquire into this matter; but always, at the time of writing, forgot to do it.

What is the matter with Ruth & Ben, (not the Ben that cut himself) at River Farm, that week after week they are returned Sick? The first of them, Ruth, has been aiming, for sometime to get herself excused from work.6 More than they are able to do in reason, I do not expect; but I have no idea of their being totally exempted, whilst work proportioned, and adapted to their strength & situation, can be found for them. The example is bad, and will be too readily (as is the case at present with several more of them) attempted; if, under the plea of pains, &ca &ca they find they can carry their point.

I am sorry to hear you are indisposed, and that Groves is ill—I hope this letter will find you both recovered. I am Your friend & well wisher

Go: Washington

ALS, ViMtvL; AL[S] (incomplete letterpress copy), DLC:GW.

1Neither Pearce’s letter of 28 June nor the reports have been found.

2GW and Martha Washington and their family left Philadelphia for Mount Vernon on 15 July (see Diaries, description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends 6:204).

3GW originally gave instructions to Thomas Green to construct dormer windows on the stable at the Mansion House farm (see GW to Howell Lewis, 11 Aug. 1793). GW mentioned the windows in his letter to Pearce of 28 Dec. 1794.

4GW’s slave Nathan (born c.1768) was listed as a cook on both the 1786 and 1799 slave lists (see Diaries, description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends 4:277, and Papers, Retirement Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends 4:529), but he evidently also worked at the Muddy Hole farm, where his wife Peg was a laborer. He appears at Muddy Hole on a few farm reports from 1793 through 1797, sometimes as detached for kitchen work (DLC:GW).

5The letterpress copy ends at this point.

6At this time there apparently were three slaves named Ben at River farm. Ben (born c.1729), sometimes called old Ben, was the dower slave husband of GW’s slave Peg, a laboring woman at the farm. GW’s slave Ben (born c.1777), sometimes called Carter Ben, was Peg’s son. GW’s slave Ben Hubbard (Ben Herbert; born c.1778), the son of Boatswain and Myrtilla, was by 1799 the husband of Penny, another laboring woman at River farm. He appears on River farm reports from February 1795 until December 1797, when he became a ditcher. Pearce reported a Ben ill for six days in the farm report of 24–30 May. The extant reports show that Pearce listed Ruth as ill for a minimum of eighteen days in 1794 and at least another eighteen up to that time in 1795, including six days in his most recent report of 24–30 May (all documents AD, in Pearce’s hand, DLC:GW). For GW’s earlier comments about her claims of illness, see his letter to Pearce of 27 July 1794.

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