George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., 8 April 1797

From Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr.

Philad[elphi]a 8 April 1797

My dear Sir,

The Letter which you were pleased to write to me of the 3d inst. was not put into my hands ’till late on thursday evening, which prevented my answering it on friday morng as by some new arrangement the Mail for Alexa. is closed at ½ past 7 in the morning.

The Lustre was taken down, well packed, and (with the Boat awning, Sail, &ca) put on board the Tryal, Capt. Hand, who sailed early on Monday last. As the lustre was gone, I have not mentioned it to Mrs Morris. I have enquired of James relative to the Grate. He asserts that he gave the Key into Mr Kitt’s hands, which is all that can be learnt relative to it. If this was really the case I think it probable it will be found in some of the boxes which were sent round. James say’s that brick dust finely powdered is what he used for cleaning the Grate, it must be put on a piece of soft sheep skin leather & rubbed regularly every day.1

In the moment of my departure I pray you my dr Sir, to accept,& to be assured of unfeigned gratitude for the various testimonies of generous approbation which you have manifested towards me in many instances, & particularly for those which you have lately afforded. I shall always recollect them with lively sensibility. Today the ship in which Mr Murray goes will leave Philada & tomorrow morning we follow, & go on board at New Castle.2 Be pleased to remember me to my Aunt in terms of sincere affection & accept with her my thanks for your good wishes of a pleasant passage; being with prayers for your health & happiness & with real respect & attachment my d. Sir, Yr obliged hble Servt

B. Dandridge

P.S. 11 o’Clock P.M.

About 2 o’Clock your letter of the 5th was put into my hands, & I candidly declare it has not been possible for me to make any enquiries relative to a steward for you.3 It has rained incessently all day, & I have scarcely had time to dine. We embark tomorrow morning nevertheless. I have seen John, & he says that the servants saddles were brot from Mount Vernon last summer, all that were here, were sent round. B.D.

ALS, DLC:GW. “Mr Custis” is written on the cover.

3Letter not found. The steward of the president’s household in Philadelphia, Frederick Kitt, did not continue in GW’s employ when GW and his family returned to Mount Vernon in March 1797. During the summer of 1797 Martha Washington sent three letters, all drafted by GW, to Elizabeth Powel in Philadelphia, regarding her need for both a steward and a cook at Mount Vernon. The Washingtons’ chief cook, the accomplished slave Herculas, ran away from Mount Vernon in February (see GW to Tobias Lear, 10 Mar. 1797, n.2). Martha Washington wrote to Mrs. Powel from Mount Vernon on 1 May: “... you will be so good as to allow me, to ask . . . if the man who lived with Mr T. Francis and was recommended to us, is to be found in Philadelphia; and could be induced, if there, to come to us as a steward, or cook. The person we brought from thence is totally inadequate to the purpose for which he was employed. He posseses, it is true, some valuable properties, for I believe he is thoroughly honest, sober and carefull; is obliging in the extreem, but he knows nothing of cooking—arranging a table—or servants; nor will he assume any authority over them. Indeed he cannot understand them, nor they him; it may readily be conceived then that much confusion ensues. Will you be so obliging my dear Mrs Powell as to let me hear from you on the above subject; and if the person Here mentioned is unattainable, wheather it is probable any other competent character could be obtained; when; and on what terms: for the inconvenience I am put to since the loss of my cook is very great, and rendered still more sevear for want of a steward, who is acquainted with the management of such like matters.” In a postscript Mrs. Washington states: “My principle want is a well disposed cook, and if the characters of steward and cook cannot be blended in the same person, I would prefer the latter” (in private hands). On 18 June GW paid “wages as House Stewart” to Charles Meunier, presumably the “person we brought from thence” (Ledger C description begins General Ledger C, 1790–1799. Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 29).

On 20 May Martha Washington again wrote Mrs. Powel, to thank her for her missing letter of 9 May and for her efforts to find “such a servant as you conceive will answer my purposes.” She went on to describe in further detail what would be expected of a steward at Mount Vernon: “Drudgery duties either in the Kitchen or house would not be required of him—To superintend boath and make others perform the duties allotted them is all that would be asked of him unless unusal occations should call for particular exertions (which is not likely to happen). Thare are always two persons, a man and woman, in the Kitchen; and servants enough in the house for all needfull purposes—These require Instructions in some cases, and looking after in all. To be trust worthy—carefull of what is committed to him—sober and attentive, are essential requisits in any large family, but more so among blacks—many of whom will impose when they can do it”(ViMtvL).

In her third letter to Mrs. Powel, dated 14 July at Mount Vernon, Mrs. Washington rejects a suggestion about a steward in a missing letter, or letters, from Mrs. Powel: “Two objections (indeed a third, unacquantdness with blacks) occur to employing the French man mentioned in the latter. first the want of a character from those whom we know, and secondly his wages: sixteen dollars is the most we have ever given to a servant, except to Mr Kitt and the other stewards of the family; who had three times the trouble that any one in that line could have in this family, whare every thing would be provided to His hands, instead of marketing for it him self; by doing which, if he applies the means honestly that is put into his hands, he cannot gain, but might loose if he is not very correct in keeping his accounts. Finding thare is no prospect of engaging a suitable character in Philadelphia without giving extravagant wages—I must take the chance of getting one hear; but for your kind endevours to serve me in this business—I pray you to accept my grateful thanks” (ViMtvL). There are drafts by GW of the first two letters, and he undoubtedly drafted the third for Mrs. Washington. The draft (photocopy) of the 1 May letter is at NN: U.S. Presidents—GW, and the draft of the 20 May letters is at ViMtvL. A comparison of GW’s drafts with Mrs. Washington’s letters reveal that she was a faithful copyist, only occasionally altering GW’s spelling of a word. Frequent strikeouts and interlineations indicate that GW took considerable pains with his drafts of Mrs. Washington’s letters to Mrs. Powel.

In August 1797 GW placed in newspapers an advertisement for a housekeeper or steward (see GW to Nathaniel Ramsay, 13 Aug., n.2), and after a good deal of correspondence with a number of people he hired as housekeeper Eleanor Forbes who began work in December 1797 (see particularly GW to Bushrod Washington, 23 Oct. 1797, and notes). GW records in Ledger C description begins General Ledger C, 1790–1799. Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends paying a cook £1.10 on 9 April 1797 (p. 27), 12 shillings on 23 Aug. to one “who worked here”(p. 30), £40 on 18 Sept. “to pay Ludwell Lee Esqr. for 31 Bls of Rye & for the hire of his Cook” (p. 39), £2 on 23 Sept. to “Peter Gilling (French Cook)”(p. 39), and $10.50 on 25 Oct. to “Peter Gilling (Cook) pd him in full” (p. 41), but he was still looking for a cook in early 1798 (see GW to Kitt, 10, 29 Jan. 1798, and Kitt to GW, 15 Jan. 1798; see also Bushrod Washington to GW, 8 Nov., and GW to George Lewis, 13 Nov. 1797).

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