George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Clement Biddle, 29 January 1798

To Clement Biddle

Mount Vernon 29th Jany 1798

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 16th has been received,1 & the Music Strings came safe.

If you conceive any advantage will result from a delay in the sale of the old Coach, until the Spring, it will be quite agreeable to me that it should be postponed. To avoid the accumulating expence of Ho. room, and the injury such articles sustain by lying, & often by neglect & tossing about was my inducement to the disposal of it now. But it rests with you to chuse the time.2

If the Plateaux are not sold, nor a probability of getting nearly what they cost—say currency for Sterling—I request that they may be carefully packed up and sent to me, together with the two smallest of the large groups of Porcelain, and the twelve single images (Arts & Sciences) with which my Table, on Public days, was ornamented. The large group (Apollo instructing the Shepherds) and the two Vases, may be sold for whatever they will fetch. Great care, by a skilful hand, must be used in packing the Porcelain, or all the delicate & finer parts will be broken off.3

I have not yet heard (although it may have happened) of Ellwoods arrival at Alexandria. As Dobson’s bill is not exhibited, I am unapprized of what is charged in it, or of what is coming from him. My wish was, and still is, to have the second copy of all the volumes (as far as published, intended for my own use) of the Encyclopedia, to be neatly bound and sent to me, the last volume excepted, which he will retain to bind the remainder by (if more are yet to come) that all may be alike. If this is not the case, pray let it be so as soon as possible, and he shall receive the cost without delay.4

I must again trouble you in forwarding the enclosed (after sealing) to Mr Kitt, and will say now, what I did not do on this subject in my former letter, and that is, that if you have any dereliction to the business, be frank in declarg ⟨it⟩.5

Inclosed is a letter, & receipt of Doctr Barton’s for Sixty dollars which I pray you to receive, if you can, and place to my credit; but I inform you before hand, that you will never get a copper of it if it depends upon him alone. You will perceive by the letter, that the money borrowed, was, punctually, to be returned in a month. After waiting near, or quite a year, he was applied to, and then, I was, assuredly, to have it in two or three days; after as many months waiting; without hearing a tittle from him applications were again made & the same answers have been received and so it went on until the Scenes of my Public life were closed and he was informed that I was desirous of adjusting all my pecuniary matters in Philadelphia before I left it when the most solemn assurance (without any intention, I am persuaded, to fulfil it) were given that the money should be instantly paid.

It is necessary for me to observe here that Doctr Barton is an entire stranger to me. Never, to my knowledge, or recollection, did I ever exchange a word with him in my life, nor should I know him if I was to see him. I did by him (supposing from his connections that he was a man of honour) as I had done by many others, although I found it not a little difficult to make all my receipts in addition to my compensation, keep pace with my expenditures—that is—to advance a little money (not on Usury) for immediate purposes.

It is not my wish (nor will I) for so trifling a sum, have my name called in a Court of Justice; but (and as his promises alone you may be assured will deceive you) I would suggest the expediency of your obtaining his note, with security, for payment of the nett sum of Sixty dollars, (and I want no more lest it should be conceived that interested motives induced the loan) and then, at the expiration of whatever credit is given, call upon that Security if the money is not punctually paid by Barton. This, if the latter has credit⟨,⟩ to obtain the former he cannot object to.6 With esteem & regard I am Dear Sir—Yr Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. If you could send me samples of some of the best German Oznabrgs with the prices marked thereon, by the Ell, it would enable me to decide, whether to purchase in Philadelphia or Alexandria.7 I may, probably, require a thousand Ells.

In some of the late Philadelphia Gazettes I have seen advertised a number of Passengers from Hamburgh, who are to make their own contracts. Among these it is said there are Clerks in different Languages. If one could be had, who was competent in English; who is master of a fair hand in English character; and who has testimonials as to his sobriety, morals & general good character—such in short as would satisfy you, were you in want of such a Person—I should be glad to contract with him on as long terms as could be obtained, having a great deal of copying to do. And if a complete Country blacksmith—one who knows how to make Ploughs, and all other impliments for a farm would be acceptable also. G. W——n

ALS (incomplete), PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. Only the postscript is in PHi; the remainder of the transcription was made from the letterpress copy.

1Letter not found.

2GW wrote Biddle about strings for a harpsichord on 10 Jan. 1798 and about selling his coach, most recently, on 29 Nov. 1797.

3GW first wrote Biddle on 14 Aug. 1797 about disposing of his table ornaments in Philadelphia. For GW’s earlier correspondence with others about this, see note 2 in his letter to Biddle of 14 Aug. 1797. The ornaments still had not been disposed of as late as June 1798 (see GW to Biddle, 17 June).

4In his letter of 14 Aug. 1797, GW wrote about Biddle’s buying for him Thomas Dobson’s encyclopedias. For GW’s payments for volumes 17 and 18 of one set of encyclopedias and for a second complete set, see note 3 of that document.

6The brother of William Barton (1754–1817) of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Smith Barton (1766–1815), was a student at the College of Philadelphia before going abroad in 1786 to study medicine in London and Göttingen. He was professor of natural history at the College of Philadelphia. No correspondence between Barton and GW has been found except for a letter from Barton dated 26 July 1790, and no other reference to Barton’s borrowing money except for GW’s letter to Biddle of 13 Aug. 1798. GW’s ledger indicates that on 29 Nov. 1798 he received from Barton $60, “being the amount of Cash which I lent him” (Ledger C description begins General Ledger C, 1790–1799. Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 32). It was perhaps at the same time that he paid the debt that Barton inscribed “For General Washington, with the most respectful compliments of his very obedient and very humble Servant &c.” a copy of his New Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America (Philadelphia, 1798). See Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 17. See also GW to Biddle, 13 Aug. 1798.

7For an Alexandria supplier, see William Herbert to GW, 18 Jan., n. 1.

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