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Mount Vernon, 22 August, 1785. Sir, Both your letters of the 16th have come safe. As you have engaged the clover seed of Mr. Wormeley's manager, I will take one bushel of it, though I had no idea of giving so high a price; as I could have got the same quantity from Philadelphia, I suppose equally good, for half the sum. If you send it to the care of Mr. Hartshorne in Alexandria, it will come safe, and the sooner it is done the better. Pay for it out of the first money you re. ceive for my use.
I am willing to take your wheat, if it is free from the fly, well cleaned, and of good quality; provided it is delivered at my mill, the road to which, by being less used, is better than that to Alexandria or Dumfries. My prices are always governed by the Alexandria cash market ; for I neither give more, nor expect it for less. The price current there at present, according to Richards's Gazette, is five shillings; but the state of our trade at this time is so uncertain, that it is almost impossible to determine whether it will be more or less.
If the present restriction of our commerce continues, the manufacturing of wheat must be broken up altogether, as the West India markets, which afford the greatest demands for our flour, are shut against our vessels. If you choose to take the certainty of five shillings for your wheat, it may be a bargain at that, provided you determine immediately; or, if you prefer to abide by the rise or fall of the Alexandria market, I am willing to do this also, if you will fix a period at which you shall determine to accept the price which is then existing. By this I mean, and it is necessary to declare it in order to avoid misunderstandings, that, if you should be from the 1st of October to the 1st of April, for instance, in delivering your crop, I shall not think myself under an obligation to allow the highest price that may be given within those periods; because the price may rise to six shillings, and then fall to four ; according to the demand arising from circumstances. It would therefore be as unreasonable for you to expect, that I should give the highest price at which wheat had sold within the beforementioned periods, as for me to suppose that you ought to take the lowest. However, to be more clearly understood, (if the price is to be regulated by the Alexandria cash market, for I shall not be governed by what they offer in goods,) it must be the price at the day on which you determine to take it ; that is, if it should start from five shillings, and keep rising till by the 1st of December it has reached six shillings, and on that day you inform me personally, or by letter, that you will take the market price, I shall think myself obliged to allow six shillings for your crop. On the other hand, if you expect the price will get higher, and wait for its doing so until it falls to four shillings, I will pay no more than four shillings for it.
I have been thus explicit, because I dislike disputes, and wish to avoid them; which makes it necessary to mention another case, which sometimes happens; and that is, that what a few bushels of wheat may sell for, or what a merchant, when he has got a vessel nearly loaded, may give rather than detain her at high charges, is not to be considered as the market price. You are not in a situation (having your wheat to transport from a distant part) to take advantage of the case last mentioned ; and a few bushels of particular wheat, or wheat for particular uses, can have no influence upon the general price, which is always very well established in a place of such trade as Alexandria. After all, I confess it would be more agreeable to me to fix a price between ourselves; but I cannot at this time exceed five shillings, as that is the price now current.
When you come down in October, I shall be glad to see you here. By that time I expect to have the accounts against my tenants brought into some kind of order. If you could engage for me about two hundred and fifty pounds of good fall butter, from such farmers as you can depend upon for the quality and their punctuality, I should be obliged to you. If you let me have your wheat, the butter may come down occasionally with that.
I am, Sir, &c.
TO SAMUEL FRAUNCIS.
Mount Vernon, 7 September, 1785.
As no person can judge better of the qualifications necessary to constitute a good housekeeper, or household steward, than yourself, for a family which has a good deal of company, and wishes to entertain them in a plain, but genteel style, I take the liberty of asking you, if there is any such one within your reach, whom you think could be induced to come to me on reasonable wages. I VOL. XII.
would rather have a man than a woman, but either will do, if they can be recommended for their honesty, sobriety, and knowledge of their profession ; which, in one word, is to relieve Mrs. Washington from the drudgery of ordering, and seeing the table properly covered, and things economically used. Nothing more, therefore, needs be said, to inform you of a character that would suit me, than what is already mentioned.
The wages I now give to a man, who is about to leave me in order to get married (under which circumstance he would not suit me), is about one hundred dollars per annum; but for one who understands the business perfectly, and stands fair in all other respects, I would go as far as one hundred and twenty-five dollars. Some time ago I wrote to Colonel Biddle, and to Mr. Moyston (who keeps the City Tavern in Philadelphia), to try if they could procure me such a person as I want. I therefore beg, if you know of one that would suit me, and is to be had upon the terms above, and who can attend properly to a large family (for mine is such, with a good many workmen), that you would immediately inform Colonel Biddle of it, before any engagement is entered into by you on my behalf, lest one should be provided at Philadelphia, and embarrassments arise from the different engagements. I am sorry to give you so much trouble, but I hope you will excuse it in, Sir, yours, &e.
TO LEVI HOLLINGSWORTH.
Mount Vernon, 20 September, 1785.
I have long been convinced, that the bed of the Potomac before my door contains an inexhaustible fund of manure; and that, if I could adopt an easy, simple, and expeditious method of raising, and taking it to the land, it might be converted to useful purposes. Mr. Donaldson's Hippopotamus goes beyond any thing I had conceived with respect to the first; but, whether the manner of its working would answer my purpose or not, is the question. By his using a horse, I fear it will not, as I shall have to go from one hundred to eight hundred or a thousand yards from highwater mark for the mud; though I believe any quantity may be had at the less distance. The depth of water at the greater will not exceed eight feet, and not much swell, unless the wind is turbulent.
Under this information, it would give me great satisfaction to have Mr. Donaldson's opinion of the utility of his Hippopotamus for my purposes; as mud, which is many feet deep and soft, is to be raised at a distance from, and be brought to, the shore when the tide is up, in vessels which draw but little water. And he would add to the favor, if the machine is applicable to my wants, by informing me what kind of a vessel is necessary for its operation ; what would be the cost of this vessel, and of the machine I should have to use on it; whether by a model the whole could be constructed by ingenious workmen here; or whether it must be done under his own eye; and, in the latter case, what would be the additional expense of getting one from Philadelphia to this place.
The kind offer of Mr. Donaldson, for which I pray you to return him my sincere thanks, of furnishing me a model, or other information, and your obliging communication thereof, have drawn upon you both this trouble. Instead, therefore, of apologizing for giving it, I will assure you that I have a grateful sense of the kindness, and am his and your most obedient, &c.
TO THOMAS FREEMAN.
23 September, 1785. Sir, The situation of my affairs on the western waters in the States of Pennsylvania and Virginia requiring a superintendent, and you having been pleased to accept the appointment, I must beg leave to point out to you the performance of such duties as are particularly necessary.
These will be to settle tenants upon my land; collect the rents, which will arise therefrom, the debts which will proceed from the sale of my copartnership effects, such others as may be due to me from persons living as above; and in general, to act and do (where no particular instruction is given) in the same manner as you would for yourself under like circumstances; endeavouring in all cases by fair and lawful means to promote my interest in this country.
My land on the Ohio and Great Kenhawa will be rented on the terms contained in a printed advertisement herewith given you ; and, as my disbursements will be great, I should prefer the lastmentioned therein to the other two, as the immediate profit arising therefrom is greatest. It is my wish, also, that each tract could be rented on the same tenure, though I do not bind you thereto.
The remainder of my untenanted lands, in the tract commonly called and distinguished by the name of Washington's Bottom, may be rented on the best terms you can obtain, until the close of the year 1794, and no longer. Less than what I am to get from the other tenants on the same tract, after allowing them three years free from the payment of rent, I should not incline to take; more, I think, ought to be had and may be got.
My tract at the Great Meadows may be rented for the most you can get for the term of ten years. There is a house on the premises, arable land in culture, and meadow enclosed. Much of the latter may be reclaimed at a very moderate expense; which, and its being an excellent stand for an innkeeper, must render it valuable.
All my rents are to be fixed in specie dollars (Spanish coin), but may be discharged in any gold or silver coin of equivalent value. The tenants, in all cases, are to pay the land-tax, which, to prevent disputes, is to be expressed in the leases; and it will be a necessary part of your duty to visit them at proper and convenient periods, to see that the covenants, to the performance of which they are bound, are strictly fulfilled and complied with.
Where acts of Providence interfere to disable a tenant, I would be lenient in the exaction of rent; but, when the cases are otherwise, I will not be put off; because it is on these my own expenditures depend, and because an accumulation of undischarged rents is a real injury to the tenant.
In laying off and dividing any of the lands herein mentioned into lots and tenements, particular care must be had, that they are accurately surveyed, properly bounded, and so distributed as to do equal justice to the several grantees and to the grantor; that a few may not injure the whole, and spoil the market of them.
If you should not have offers in a short time for the hire of my mill alone, or for the mill with one hundred and fifty acres of land adjoining, I think it advisable in that case to let it on shares, to build a good and substantial dam of stone where the old one stood, and to erect a proper fore-bay in place of the trunk, which now conducts the water to the wheel; and, in a word, to put the house in proper repair. If you should be driven to this for want of a tenant, let public notice thereof be given, and the work let to the lowest bidder; the undertaker finding himself, and giving bond and security for the performance of his contract. The charges of these things must be paid out of the first moneys you receive for rent or otherwise.