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governments, you will be enabled, without any comment of mine, to draw your own inference of their conduct.
Delaware is a very small State, the greater part of which lies low, and is supposed to be unhealthy. The Eastern Shore of Maryland is similar thereto. The lands in both, however, are good.
But the western parts of the last-mentioned State, and of Virginia, quite to the line of North Carolina, above tide-water, and more especially above the Blue Mountains, are similar to those of Pennsylvania, between the Susquehanna and Potomac Rivers, in soil, climate, and productions; and in my opinion will be considered, if not considered so already, as the garden of America; forasmuch as they lie between the two extremes of heat and cold, partaking in a degree of the advantages of both, without feeling much the inconveniences of either; and, with truth it may be said, they are among the most fertile lands in America, east of the Appalachian Mountains.
The uplands of North and South Carolina and Georgia are not dissimilar in soil, but, as they approach the lower latitudes, are less congenial to wheat, and are supposed to be proportionably more unhealthy. Towards the seaboard of all the southern States, and further south more so, the lands are low, sandy, and unhealthy ; for which reason I shall say little concerning them, for, as I should not choose to be an inhabitant of them myself, I ought not to say any thing that would induce others to be so.
This general description is furnished, that you may be enabled to form an idea of the part of the United States, which would be most congenial to your inclination. To pronounce, with any degree of precision, what lands could be obtained for, in the parts I have enumerated, is next to impossible, for the reasons I have before assigned; but, upon pretty good data, it may be said, that those in Pennsylvania are higher than those in Maryland, and I believe in any other State, declining in price as you go southerly, until the rice-swamps of South Carolina and Georgia are met with, and these are as much above the medium in price, as they are below it in health. I understand, however, that from thirty to forty dollars per acre (I fix on dollars because they apply equally to all the States, and because their relative value to sterling is well understood,) may be denominated the medium price in the vicinity of the Susquehanna in the State of Pennsylvania; from twenty to thirty on the Potomac, in what is called the Valley, lying between the North Mountains and Blue Mountains, which VOL. XII.
are the richest lands we have; and less, as I have noticed before, as you proceed southerly. But, what may appear singular, and was alluded to in the former part of this letter, the lands in the parts of which I am now speaking, on and contiguous to tidewater, with local exceptions, are in lower estimation than those which are above, and more remote from navigation. The causes, however, are apparent. First, the land is better ; secondly, higher and more healthy; thirdly, they are chiefly, if not altogether, in the occupation of farmers; and fourthly, from a combination of all of them, purchasers are attracted, and of consequence, the price rises in proportion to the demand.
The rise in the value of landed property in this country has been progressive ever since my attention has been turned to the subject, now more than forty years; but, for the last three or four of that period, it has increased beyond all calculation, owing in part to the attachment to, and the confidence which the people are beginning to place in, their form of government, and to the prosperity of the country, from a variety of concurring causes, none more than to the late high prices of its produce.
From what I have said, you will perceive, that the present prices of lands in Pennsylvania are higher than they are in Maryland and Virginia, although they are not of superior quality. Two reasons have already been assigned for this ; first, that, in the settled part of it, the land is divided into smaller farms, and more improved ; and, secondly, it is in a greater degree than any other the receptacle of emigrants, who receive their first impressions in Philadelphia, and rarely look beyond the limits of the State. But, besides these, two other causes, not a little operative, may be added, namely, that, until Congress passed general laws relative to naturalization and citizenship, foreigners found it easier to obtain the privileges annexed to them in this State, than elsewhere; and because there are laws here for the gradual abolition of slavery, which neither of the two States above mentioned have at present, but which nothing is more certain than that they must have, and at a period not remote.
Notwithstanding these abstracts, and although I may incur the charge of partiality in hazarding such an opinion at this time, I do not hesitate to pronounce, that the lards on the waters of the Potomac will in a few years be in greater demand and in higher estimation, than in any other part of the United States. But, as I ought not to advance this doctrine without assigning reasons for it, I will request you to examine a general map of the United States, and the following facts will strike you at first view; that they lie in the most temperate latitude of the United States ; that the main river runs in a direct course to the expanded parts of the western country, and approximates nearer to the principal branches of the Ohio, than any other eastern water, and of course must become a great, if not (under all circumstances) the best highway into that region ; that the upper seaport of the Potomac is considerably nearer to a large portion of the State of Pennsylvania, than that portion is to Philadelphia, besides accommodating the settlers thereof with inland navigation for more than two hundred miles; that the amazing extent of tide navigation, afforded by the bay and rivers of the Chesapeake, has scarcely a parallel.
When to these it is added, that a site, at the junction of the inland and tide navigations of that river is chosen for the permanent seat of the general government, and is in rapid preparation for its reception; that the inland navigation is nearly completed, to the extent above mentioned; that its lateral branches are capable of great improvement at a small expense, through the most fertile parts of Virginia in a southerly direction, and crossing Maryland and extending into Pennsylvania in a northerly one, through which, independently of what may come from the Western country, an immensity of produce will be water-borne, thereby making the Federal City the great emporium of the United States; I when these things are taken into consideration, I am under no apprehension of having the opinion I have given, relative to the value of land on the Potomac, controverted by impartial men.
There are farms always and everywhere for sale. If, therefore, events should induce you to cast an eye towards America, there need be no apprehension of your being accommodated to your liking ; and if I could be made useful to you therein, you might command my services with the greatest freedom.
Within full view of Mount Vernon, separated therefrom by water only, is one of the most beautiful seats on the river for sale, but of greater magnitude than you seem to have contemplated. It is called Belvoir, and belonged to George William Fairfax, who, were he living, would now be Baron of Cameron, as his younger brother in this country (George William dying without issue) at present is, though he does not take upon himself the title. This seat was the residence of the abovenamed gentleman before he went to England, and was accommodated with very good buildings, which were burnt soon after he left them. There are near two thousand acres of land belonging to the tract,
surrounded in a manner by water. The mansion-house stood on high and commanding ground; the soil is not of the best quality, but a considerable part of it, lying level, may, with proper management, be profitably cultivated. There are some small tenements on the estate, but the greater part thereof is in wood. At present it belongs to Thomas Fairfax, son of Bryan Fairfax, the gentleman who will not, as I said before, take upon himself the title of Baron of Cameron. A year or two ago, the price he fixed on the land, as I have been informed, was thirty-three dollars and a third per acre. Whether he could not get that sum, or whether he is no longer disposed to sell it, I am unable with precision to say; for I have heard nothing concerning his intentions lately.
With respect to the tenements I have offered to let, appertaining to my Mount Vernon estate, I can give no better description of them and of their appurtenances, than what is contained in the printed advertisement enclosed; but, that you may have a more distinct view of the farms, and their relative situation to the mansion-house, a sketch from actual survey is also enclosed; annexed to which, I have given you from memory the relative situation and form of the seat at Belvoir.
The terms, on which I had authorized the superintendent of my concerns at Mount Vernon to lease the farms there, are also enclosed; which, with the other papers, and the general information herein detailed, will throw all the light I am enabled to give you upon the subject of your inquiry. To have such a tenant as Sir John Sinclair (however desirable it might be) is an honor I dare not hope for; and to alienate any part of the fee simple estate of Mount Vernon is a measure I am not inclined to, as all the farms are connected and parts of a whole. With very great esteem and respect,
P. S. As I shall have an opportunity, in the course of the present session of Congress, to converse with the members thereof from different States, and from different parts of each State, I will write to you a supplementary account, if essential information should be obtained, which may add to, or correct, what is given in the foregoing sheets.
TO WILLIAM STRICKLAND, IN ENGLAND.
Mount Vernon, 15 July, 1797. Sir, I have been honored with yours of the 30th of May and 5th of September of last year. As the first was in part an answer to a letter I took the liberty of writing to you, and the latter arrived in the middle of an important session of Congress, which became more interesting as it drew more near to its close, inasmuch as it was limited by the constitution to the 3d of March, and on that day was to give political dissolution to the House of Representatives, a third part of the Senate, and the Chief Magistrate of the United States, I postponed, from the pressure of business occasioned thereby, the acknowledgment of all private letters, which did not require immediate answers, until I should be seated under my own vine and fig-tree, where I supposed I should have abundant leisure to discharge all my epistolary obligations.
In this, however, I have hitherto found myself mistaken ; for at no period have I been more closely employed in repairing the ravages of an eight years'absence. Engaging workmen of different sorts, providing and looking after them, together with the necessary attention to my farms, have occupied all my time since I have been at home.
I was far from entertaining sanguine hopes of success in my attempt to procure tenants from Great Britain; but, being desirous of rendering the evening of my life as tranquil and free from care as the nature of things would admit, I was willing to make the experiment.
Your observation, with respect to occupiers and proprietors of land, has great weight, and, being congenial with my own ideas on the subject, was one reason, though I did not believe it would be so considered, why I offered my farms to be let. Instances have occurred, and do occur daily, to prove that capitalists from Europe have injured themselves by precipitate purchases of freehold estates, immediately upon their arrival in this country, while others have lessened their means in exploring States and places in search of locations; whereas, if on advantageous terms they could have been first seated as tenants, they would have had time and opportunities to become holders of land, and for making advantageous purchases. But it is so natural for man to wish to be the absolute lord and master of what he holds in occupancy, that his true interest is often made to yield to a false ambition. Among VOL. XII.