George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Anderson (of Scotland), 7 April 1797

To James Anderson (of Scotland)

Mount Vernon 7th Aprl 1797


A few days since, through the Channel of our Minister in London, I was favoured with the receipt of your third volume of Essays relating to Agriculture & rural Affairs for which I pray you to accept my best thanks.1

I am once more seated under my own Vine and fig tree, and hope to spend the remainder of my days—which in the ordinary course of things (being in my Sixty sixth year) cannot be many—in peaceful retirement, making political pursuits yield to the more rational amusement of cultivating the Earth.

To do this in the small way, I find I shall need a Gardener in October next—the time of the one I now have terminating the 10th of that month and no inclination on my part to employ him any longer.2 You have not only skilful persons of this profession in Scotland, but generally speaking, they are more orderly & industrious, than those of most other nations; and besides the dissimilitude of climate between the Southern & middle parts of Scotland, and the middle States of this Country, is not great. These considerations have induced me to turn my eyes that way; presuming that the emigration of men in that line are not under governmental restraints.

My present Manager (Mr James Anderson, an honest, industrious and judicious Scotchman five years since from the County of Fife) has Written to a Mr Foreman and to a Mr Harper (whose places of residence and professions, together with what was formerly his own, are to be found in his memorandum enclosed)—to procure, & send me a Gardener.3 He thinks it is much in the power of Mr Harper, who according to his account has been several years principal Gardener to Lord Murray, to do this;4 but I have desired him to request them, to consult and advise with you on this Subject before any agreement is entered into as I shall place more confidence in a Gardener who is approved by you, than by them alone without this check. For taking the liberty of requesting this favor of you, and for the trouble it must necessarily give I shall rely on your goodness and usual complaisance for a pardon.

I would prefer a single man to a married one, but shall not object to the latter if he has no children, or no more than one, or at most two; and his wife would undertake to superintend my Spinners, & if required a small dairy at the Mansion house (where the Gardens are). The man ought to be a good Kitchen and Nursery Gardener; to have some knowledge of a Green & hot house, and how to raise things in hot beds. He would have two or three labourers under him, but not placed there with a view to exempt him from manual labour. He would be furnished with a good apartment, convenient to his work, to reside in; and would have an ample allowance of good Provisions with fuel, and if a single man, with his washing also.

My Manager conceives that such a character, with the assurances here given, might be had for twenty guineas pr Annum: but if he should be mistaken in this, and a well recommended Gardener could be engaged for twenty five guineas a year, I would allow the latter sum and pay his or their passage (as the case may be) provided he (or they) would enter into articles with you (or some other in my behalf) to remain with me three years—four would be still better—without which, that is for a single year only, I would not encounter the expence of the passage, & run the hazard of being left to seek another at the end of it. Both of us would be placed on surer ground by the longest term; while one, or the other, perhaps both ultimately might be incommoded by the short⟨er⟩.

You would do me a particular favor by acknowledging the receipt of this letter as soon as convenient after it gets to your hands informing me of the prospect of succeeding, for I shall be without a Gardener in October, and cannot engage one here permanently until I know the result of my application with you.5 With great esteem & regard I am Sir Yr obliged & Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. Upon second thoughts, it appears best that the letters of my Manager to Messrs Foreman & Harper shd pass under cover with this letter open to you that you may know precisely what is requested of them and give your advice accordingly.


James Anderson (1739–1808), a Scottish economist, began his correspondence with GW on 28 Sept. 1791 when he sent GW several volumes of the Bee, a weekly journal containing papers on agriculture and economics which Anderson published in Edinburgh from 1790 to 1794. Anderson’s earlier publications on these and other topics had earned for him in 1780 an LL.D. degree from the university in Aberdeen. In the 1790s Anderson sent GW a number of publications, pamphlets on cochineal insects and on the cultivation of silk which he published between 1787 and 1794. The correspondence continued for GW’s lifetime, and after GW’s death Anderson printed Selections from the Correspondence of George Washington and James Anderson, LL.D. A second James Anderson, with whom GW was corresponding at this time, was the manager of his Mount Vernon farms from 1797 to 1800 (see Anderson to GW, 8 Mar. 1797, and source note of that document).

1Anderson sent the third volume of his Essays Relating to Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Edinburgh, 1796) with his letter to GW of 30 May 1796.

2In 1789 GW hired John Christian Ehlers of Bremen as gardener at Mount Vernon. Ehlers arrived from Germany on 22 Sept. 1789, followed by his wife in 1792, who took charge of the spinners on the plantation. See Ehlers to GW,24 June 1789, and note.

3An abstract of Anderson’s memorandum to John Foreman, in GW’s hand, reads: “Mr James Anderson—to Mr Jno. Foreman dated 7th Aprl 1797. To cause Mr Richmond, or any other Nursery man of character to put up 20,000 thorns of 4 yr old—one half—and the other half of 3 years old—closely packed in Boxes with fog & some little earth. Also to have gathered 12 firlots of the best kind of Haws from the real white thorn—3 plows Invented and made by James Small. All to be sent to London to the care of [ ] on whom draw for the amount of cost. Also a Gardener who understands the Nursery, Kitchen & flower Garden; & who understands the Hot, & Green house, & raising early things under glasses”(NjMoHP).

4Lord Murray may be William Murray (1705–1793), the famous first earl of Mansfield, who retired to his estate in 1788 and “devoted his declining days to horticulture, the study of the classics, society, and religious meditation” (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds. The Dictionary of National Biography: From the Earliest Times to 1900. 22 vols. 1885–1901. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1973. description ends , 13:1310).

5Anderson acted promptly: he wrote to GW on 3 Aug. that he had hired for GW one William Spence, who arrived in October (GW to Anderson, 4 Nov. 1797).

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