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TO GEORGE RICHARDS MINOT.
Mount Vernon, 26 August, 1788. SIR, Your favor of the 7th of this month has been duly received, and I lose no time before I acknowledge the obligations under which you have placed me, by offering the copy of your History as a present. Aside from the honorable testimony of my friend, General Lincoln, the intrinsic merit of the work, so far as I am able to form a judgment from its perspicuity and impartiality, carries a sufficient recommendation.
The series of events, which followed from the conclusion of the war, forms a link of no ordinary magnitude in the chain of the American annals. That portion of domestic history, which you have selected for your narrative, deserved particularly to be discussed and set in its proper point of light, while materials for the purpose were attainable. Nor was it unbecoming or unimportant to enlighten the Europeans, who seem to have been extremely ignorant with regard to these transactions. While I comprehend fully the difficulty of stating facts on the spot, amidst the living actors and recent animosities, I approve the more cordially that candor, with which you appear to have done it.
I will only add, that I always feel a singular satisfaction in discovering proofs of talents and patriotism in those, who are soon to take the parts of the generation, which is now hastening to leave the stage, and that, with wishes for your prosperity, I remain, Sir, &c.
TO WILLIAM BARTON.
Mount Vernon, 7 September, 1788. Sir, At the same time I announce to you the receipt of your obliging letter of the 28th of last month, which covered an ingenious essay on Heraldry, I have to acknowledge my obligations for the sentiments your partiality has been indulgent enough to form of me, and my thanks for the terms in which your urbanity has been pleased to express them.
Imperfectly acquainted with the subject, as I profess myself to be, and persuaded of your skill as I am, it is far from my design to intimate an opinion, that heraldry, coat-armour, &c., might not VOL. XII.
be rendered conducive to public and private uses with us; or that they can have any tendency unfriendly to the purest spirit of republicanism. On the contrary, a different conclusion is deducible from the practice of Congress and the States; all of which have established some kind of Armorial Devices to authenticate their official instruments. But, Sir, you must be sensible, that political sentiments are very various among the people in the several States, and that a formidable opposition to what appears to be the prevailing sense of the Union is but just declining into peaceable acquiescence. While, therefore, the minds of a certain portion of the community (possibly from turbulent or sinister views) are, or affect to be, haunted with the very spectre of innovation ; while they are indefatigably striving to make the credulity of the lessinformed part of the citizens subservient to their schemes, in believing that the proposed general government is pregnant with the seeds of discrimination, oligarchy, and despotism; while they are clamorously endeavouring to propagate an idea, that those, whom they wish invidiously to designate by the name of the “ well-born," are meditating in the first instance to distinguish themselves from their compatriots, and to wrest the dearest privileges from the bulk of the people; and while the apprehensions of some, who have demonstrated themselves the sincere, but too jealous, friends of liberty, are feelingly alive to the effects of the actual revolution, and too much inclined to coincide with the prejudices above described ; it might not, perhaps, be advisable to stir any question, that would tend to reanimate the dying embers of faction, or blow the dormant spark of jealousy into an inextinguishable flame. I need not say, that the deplorable consequences would be the same, allowing there should be no real foundation for jealousy, in the judgment of sober reason, as if there were demonstrable, even palpable, causes for it.
I make these observations with the greater freedom, because I have once been a witness to what I conceived to have been a most unreasonable prejudice against an innocent institution, I mean the Society of the Cincinnati. I was conscious, that my own proceedings on that subject were immaculate. I was also convinced, that the members, actuated by motives of sensibility, charity, and patriotism, were doing a laudable thing, in erecting that memorial of their common services, sufferings, and friendships; and I had not the most remote suspicion, that our conduct therein would have been unprofitable, or unpleasing, to our countrymen. Yet have we been virulently traduced, as to our designs; and I have not even escaped being represented as short-sighted in not fore
seeing the consequences, or wanting in patriotism for not discouraging an establishment calculated to create distinctions in society, and subvert the principles of a republican government. Indeed, the phantom seems now to be pretty well laid; except on certain occasions, when it is conjured up by designing men, to work their own purposes upon terrified imaginations. You will recollect there have not been wanting, in the late political discussions, those, who were hardy enough to assert, that the proposed general government was the wicked and traitorous fabrication of the Cincinnati.
At this moment of general agitation and earnest solicitude, I should not be surprised to hear a violent outcry raised, by those who are hostile to the new constitution, that the proposition contained in your paper had verified their suspicions, and proved the design of establishing unjustifiable discriminations. Did I believe that to be the case, I should not hesitate to give it my hearty disapprobation. But I proceed on other grounds. Although I make not the clamor of credulous, disappointed, or unreasonable men the criterion of truth, yet I think their clamor might have an ungracious influence at the present critical juncture; and, in my judgment, some respect should not only be paid to prevalent opinions, but even some sacrifices might innocently be made to wellmeant prejudices, in a popular government. Nor could we hope the evil impression would be sufficiently removed, should your account and illustrations be found adequate to produce conviction on candid and unprejudiced minds. For myself, I can readily acquit you of having any design of facilitating the setting up an “ Order of Nobility.” I do not doubt the rectitude of your intentions. But, under the existing circumstances, I would willingly decline the honor you have intended me, by your polite inscription, if there should be any danger of giving serious pretext, however ill founded in reality, for producing or confirming jealousy and dissension in a single instance, where harmony and accommodation are most essentially requisite to our public prosperity, perhaps to our national existence.
My remarks, you will please to observe, go only to the expediency, not to the merits of the proposition. What may be necessary and proper hereafter, I hold myself incompetent to decide, as I am but a private citizen. You may, however, rest satisfied, that your composition is calculated to give favorable impressions of the science, candor, and ingenuity, with which you have handled the subject; and that, in all personal considerations, I remain with great esteem, Sir, your most obedient, &c.
TO JOHN FAIRFAX.
Mount Vernon, 31 March, 1789. Sir, As I am now in the act of bidding an adieu to my home, for a longer time perhaps than I wish, I will inform you that it is my intention, if your exertions shall appear to deserve it, to make the wages of the year you are now engaged for, fifty pounds instead of forty, although I consider myself under no obligation to do so; my own motives for it being to encourage you to use every endeavour in your power to promote my interest under the orders and directions of my nephew, who will be intrusted with the general management of all my concerns during my absence.
I have a very good opinion of your honesty, sobriety, and industry, and now is the time to give me proofs of your capacity and skill. The former, though of essential importance, are not sufficient without the latter. For, as I have often remarked to you, contrivance in business, and a judicious arrangement of it, should be the leading trait in the character of a manager. Indeed, they are of such infinite consequence, that no estate can be well conducted without them. Unless the different kinds of business, which occupy the laborers of every plantation or farm, can be brought into one view and seen at a distance, they will for ever be interfering with and treading on the heels of each other. By foresight, arrangement, and the execution of a due proportion of work, this jumble is to be avoided.
It is with pain I receive the Saturday-night reports, for no week passes away without a diminution of my stock. Nor is it less painful to me to see the condition of my work-horses ; some dying, and others scarcely able to walk, unincumbered with a plough. And I might add, as a matter of no less concern, that it is vain and idle for me to attempt to stall-feed any kind of meats, when I have only my expense for my pains, without a morsel of meat fit to appear at my table or for market. But I will rest in hopes, that these things will undergo a change for the better.
I am not inclined to your keeping a horse. There is no occasion for it. My own are adequate to all the services, that my business will require, and more would add expense without profit ; as I need not tell you that there must be no more running about, whilst I am absent, than if I were on the spot. Indeed, I have too good an opinion of you to suppose it necessary to remind you of this.
As I have already given you plans of those plantations, which are committed to your care, and have detailed the business of each in the best manner my time and judgment would enable me to do, I shall add nothing more on this head, than briefly to observe to you, that it is from my nephew, with whom I shall correspond, that you will receive further directions, with respect to such matters as have not been detailed, or concerning any alterations in those which have.
If you have any matrimonial scheme in view, I do not wish to be any let or bar to the accomplishment of it, or to your bringing a wife into the family, who may fare as you do in it.
I am, Sir, &c.
TO GEORGE CLANDENEN.
New York, 25 June, 1790. Sır, I have upon the Great Kenhawa and Ohio Rivers, between the two Kenhawas, several large and valuable tracts of land, which I have been long endeavouring to settle, but without effect. Some three or four years ago I wrote to Colonel Thomas Lewis, who lives in that neighbourhood, requesting his assistance or agency in this business, transmitting to him at the same time instructions expressive of my wishes as to the mode or terms of settlement, together with such other papers respecting the lands as were necessary for his information.
After a considerable lapse of time, Colonel Lewis returned the instructions and papers, declining any agency in the business, lest he should not be able to transact it to my satisfaction, as he had lands of his own to settle in that neighbourhood, which might cause a clashing or interfering of interests, that would be disagreeable or inconvenient to him. I, however, returned the same papers to him, requesting that he would accept the trust, and at the same time put the matter upon such a footing, as I conceived would do away the objections which he had stated.
It is now almost two years since the papers were last deposited in Colonel Lewis's hands, and I have not heard a syllable from him upon the subject, which leads me to believe that he still wishes to decline the trust.
It is therefore necessary for me to place this business in other hands; and your residence in that vicinity, with the knowledge