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If I could get fifteen hundred pounds for the mill, and one hundred acres of land most convenient thereto, I would let it go for that money.
As a compensation for the faithful performance of all these services, I agree to allow you five per cent for all the money, which shall be collected and paid to me or for my use ; whether arising from rents, bonds, notes, or open accounts; or from the sale of wheat or four taken for rents and converted into cash. Also twenty shillings Pennsylvania currency for every tenant, who shall be fixed on any of my land, and who shall receive a lease for the same on the terms mentioned; and the further sum of two dollars for every lot, which you shall lay off for such tenants, together with such reasonable expenses as may be incurred thereby.
TO PATRICK HENRY, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
Mount Vernon, 30 November, 1785. Dear Sir, I have had the honor to receive your Excellency's favor of the 11th; and am much obliged to you for the copy of the Commissioners' report respecting the cut from the waters of Elizabeth River to those of Albemarle Sound; and it is with great pleasure I have since heard, that the matter is in a prosperous way in our Assembly, and placed on a footing (reasonable and just, I think), which is likely to meet the approbation of the legislature of North Carolina. It has always been my opinion since I first investigated the Great Dismal Swamp as a member of, and manager for, the Dismal Swamp Company, that the most advantageous cut would be found to be through Drummond's Pond to the head of Pasquotank; and I have notes and surveys, which prove it, I think, beyond a doubt. Mr. Andrews's conjectures, with respect to locks, I conceive are justly founded; for, if the bed of the lake is above the level of the waters of Elizabeth and Pasquotank Rivers, the flowing out by means of the canal, being greater than the influx, must undoubtedly drain the pond, and render it useless as a reservoir without these locks. But the places, at which it may be proper to establish them, must, I should suppose, depend upon the level, and suitableness of the ground to receive them after the cut is made, which should be begun at the extreme ends, that the water may run off, and, if with any velocity, contribute to the work.
If this cut is effected, the obstructions in the Roanoke removed, which will most assuredly follow, and the inland navigation of the rivers James and Potomac completed agreeably to law, it will open channels of convenience and wealth to the citizens of this State, which the imagination can hardly extend to, and make this the most favored country in the Universe. These measures only require a beginning, to show the practicability, ease, and advantage, with which they may be executed. The Rappahannoc and Shenandoah will follow the example, and I see nothing to prevent the two branches of York River from doing the same.
The consequence in the article of draught cattle alone, and to our roads, will be inconceivably great. The latter with small amendments will always be in good order, when the present number of carriages is no longer tearing them to pieces in the most inclement season of the year; and the saving in the former will be felt most sensibly by the farmer and planter in their annual operations.
But, until these things are accomplished, and even admitting they were done, do you not think, my good Sir, that the credit, the saving, and convenience of this country all require, that our great roads leading from one public place to another should be straightened, shortened, and established by law, and the power in the county courts to alter them be withdrawn? To me these things seem indispensably necessary, and it is my opinion they will take place in time. The longer, therefore, they are delayed, the more people will be injured by the alterations when they happen. It is equally clear to me, that, putting the lowest valuation upon the labor of the people, who work upon the roads under the existing law and customs of the present day, the repairs of them by way of contract, to be paid by an assessinent on certain districts, until the period shall arrive when turnpikes may with propriety be established, would be infinitely less burthensome to the community than the present mode. In this case the contractor would meet with no favor ; every man in the district would give information of neglects. Whereas negligence under the present system is winked at by the only people who know the particulars, or can inform against the overseers; for strangers had rather encounter the inconvenience of bad roads, than the trouble of an information, and go away prejudiced against the country for the polity of it. With great esteem and respect, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JAMES RUMSEY.
Mount Vernon, 31 January, 1706.
If you have no cause to change your opinion respecting your mechanical boat, and reasons unknown to me do not exist to delay the exhibition of it, I would advise you to give it to the public as soon as it can be prepared conveniently. The postponement creates distrust in the public mind; it gives time, also, for the imagination to work, and this is assisted by a little dropping from one, and something from another, to whom you have disclosed the secret. Should a mechanical genius, therefore, hit upon your plan, or something similar to it, I need not add, that it would place you in an awkward situation, and perhaps disconcert all your prospects concerning this useful discovery; for you are not, with your experience in life, now to learn, that the shoulders of the public are too broad to feel the weight of the complaints of an individual, or to regard promises, if they find it convenient, and have the shadow of plausibility on their side, to retract them. I will inform you further, that many people, in guessing at your plan, have come very near the mark; and that one, who had something of a similar nature to offer to the public, wanted a certificate from me, that it was different from yours. I told him, that as I was not at liberty to declare what your plan was, so I did not think it proper to say what it was not.
Whatever may be your determination after this hint, I have only to request, that my sentiments on the subject may be ascribed to friendly motives, and taken in good part.
I should be glad to know the exact state in which my houses at Bath are. I have fifty pounds ready, for which you may draw on me at any time, and I will settle for the whole as soon as possible.
Herewith you will receive a magazine containing the estimates of the expense of the canal in Scotland. It belongs to Mr. Johnson, who requested me to forward it to you, after I had read it. To him you will be pleased to return the book, when you have done with it. With esteem and regard, I am Sir, &c.
TO BATTAILE MUSE.
Mount Vernon, 8 March, 1786. Sir, I have just received your letter of the 20th of last month, and request that you will proceed as you have begun, that is, to do equal and impartial justice to the tenants and myself. I want no improper advantage of them, on the one hand; on the other, where leases are clearly forfeited, by a manifest intention on the part of the tenant to neglect all the covenants in them that were inserted for my benefit, and their sole aim has been to make traffic of the land, I shall have no scruple in setting them aside, and beginning afresh upon the best rents I can get for ten years.
At any rate, it is my wish that you would be as attentive to the other covenants of the leases, as to that which exacts the rent; particularly to those, which require a certain proportion of woodland to be left standing in one place, orchards, meadows, and buildings. These were as much objects with me, as the rent; nay more, because to these I looked, to have the value of my land enhanced, whilst I was, in the first instance, contenting myself with low rents. If, therefore, these have passed off unnoticed by the tenants, it should be punished equally with the non-payment of rents. I mention these things, because it is my wish they should be strictly complied with.
There is another matter or two, which, in renting my lands, I am desirous you should always keep in view ; first, to lease to no person, who has lands of his own adjoining them; and secondly, to no one, who does not propose to live on the premises. My reasons are these. In the first case, my land will be cut down, worked, and destroyed to save his own, whilst the latter will receive all the improvements. In the second case, if the tenant does not live thereon, it will not meet a much better fate, and negro quarters and tobacco pens will probably be the best edifices of the tenement. One Grigg (I think his name is), an overseer to Colonel John Washington, must be an exception, because, at the instance of my brother, I consented to the purchase he has made.
Enclosed you have a letter for Mr. Robert Rutherford, of whom you will endeavour to receive the amount of the within. If you should succeed in this, you may carry it to my credit, and draw a commission thereon, as if collected for rent. I am, &c.
TO WILLIAM MOULTRIE, GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
Mount Vernon, 25 May, 1786. Dear Sir, The letter, which your Excellency did me the honor to write to me, of the 7th ultimo, came safely to hand; and I should feel very happy if I could render any services to the Company, who are engaged in the laudable and important design of opening a cut between the rivers Cooper and Santee.
Mr. Brindley, nephew to the celebrated person of that name, who conducted the work of the Duke of Bridgewater, and planned many others in England, possesses, I presume, more practical knowledge of cuts and locks, for the improvement of inland navigation, than any man among us, as he was an executive officer, he says, many years under his uncle in this particular business; but he is, I know, engaged with the Susquehanna Company, who are, I believe (for I saw Mr. Brindley about six weeks ago), in a critical part of their work. I have, notwithstanding, written to a gentleman of my acquaintance, who is not only a member of that Company, but one to whom the business is chiefly confided and near the spot, to know if Mr. Brindley's services can be dispensed with long enough to answer the purposes mentioned in your letter. His answer shall be forwarded as soon as it comes to my hands.
It gives me pleasure to find a spirit for inland navigation prevailing so generally. No country is more capable of improvements in this way than our own; none, which will be more benefited by them; and to begin well, as you justly observe, is all in all. Error in the commencement will not only be productive of unnecessary expense, but, what is still worse, of discouragements. It appears to me, therefore, that if the cost of bringing from Europe a professional man, of tried and acknowledged abilities, is too heavy for one work, it might be good policy for several companies to unite in it, contributing in proportion to the estimates and capital sums established by the several acts. I see no necessity for confining the services of such a person to a single undertaking. One man may plan for twenty to execute; and the distance from Delaware (between which and the Chesapeake a cut is in contemplation, and commissioners appointed by the two States to agree on a plan,) to the Cooper River, is not so great but that one person of activity might design for all between them, and visit the whole three or four times a year.
This is only a thought of my own. I have no authority for VOL. XII.