To Burwell Bassett, Jr.
Mount Vernon 10th Jan. 1798.
Your favour of the 22d Ulto came duly to hand. As Mr Burwell is disinclined to part with his Cook, & Colo. Finnie’s is too much incumbered with a family, I must make the best shift I can with those I have; and indeed, with a housekeeper that understands that business, I believe it is best that I should do so.
As you kindly offered to become the purchaser of Corn for me, in case I should need any for my Distillery, I now request the favour of you to procure, and send me (not of the gourd seed kind) a Vessel load, say from five to twelve hundred bushels—so soon as all danger of the Rivers freezing, is over. I shall be enabled, I expect, to pay for the Corn on delivery; but a month or two after, would suit me better. I had rather the Vessel should have no Corn in it but mine; and I expect the price exclusive of freight, will not exceed fifteen shillings pr barrel, and twelve & six pence would suit my finances much better. Let me hear, as soon as convenient, what is likely to be the result of this application.1 With great esteem & regard I am—Dear Sir Your Obedient Servt
ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.
1. Martha Washington’s nephew Burwell Bassett, Jr. (1764–1841), wrote GW twice, on 16 Jan. and 1 Feb., about the difficulties that he was encountering in securing corn for GW. Bassett’s letter of 16 Jan. from Richmond reads: “I have been possessed of your last favor for a week past but the expectation of making the corn purchase you requested before each succeeding post the suspence delayed my communication⟨.⟩ at or near this place corn cannot now be had for fifteen shillings owing to a sudden rise in the price at Norfolk which possible might have arisen from the ice and the severity of the weather but it has had the effect to insperit the planters to demand 18/ or 20/ I shall be allowed I hope by adjournment of the Assemble to go to New Kent this week where I expect corn may be still had at 15 the result of that expectation I will give you as early as possible in the next week” (DLC:GW). On 1 Feb. Bassett wrote from his house, Eltham: “I find our planters so buoy’d up with the late prices that they cannot let themselves down to a moderate price for their produce and altho 15/ is the most given here abouts[,] to me as a new purchaser something is added. I do not doubt that in ten days ⟨or a⟩ fourteen I could procure the quantity of corn you want I fear it may be too late for your purposes and shall therefore wait your further instruction I could have made the purchase at fifteen payable the 10th of march but it was gourd seed corn. I would thank you for an early answer as I shall endeavor to keep within my option any offer I may have untill I hear from you” (DLC:GW).
Writing from Mount Vernon on 10 Feb. GW put an end to the matter: “Dear Sir I am glad to find by your favour of the 1st instant, from Eltham, that you had postponed entering into any contracts for Corn until you should hear from me, relatively to the advanced price of that article with you.
“Since Corn has arisen to 15/ with you, I find I can purchase, and supply my Distillery with all it requires, on better terms here than to fetch it from below. When the freight, Insurance or risk, are added to 15/ the cost of that article on York river—it will amount to 17/6 at least; when it is to be bought in Alexandria at 16, or 16/6 at most.
“Under these circumstances I pray you to desist from buying and to accept my thanks for the trouble I have already given you in this business. The family here are all well, and unite in best regards for you with Dear Sir Your Obedt Hble Servant Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW).