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No person will congratulate you more sincerely than I shall on the final success of your mission, if it answers your expectations ; nor is there any one who reprobates more than I do improper interferences of all sorts. As your perseverance, however, is likely to be accepted, and as this will open a view, which promises a pleasing prospect, I hope you will suffer no difficulties or differences to divert you from your course, and that you will not give up the business, until you see the legislature seated in the Capitol of the United States.
The last message from the President to the Houses of Congress has brought the matter to an issue. I am, &c.
DIRECTIONS FOR GEORGE A. WASHINGTON, PESPECTING THE MAN
AGEMENT OF THE PLANTATIONS AND OTHER AFFAIRS AT MOUNT VERNON.
31 March, 1789.
Having given very full and ample details of the intended crops, and my ideas of the modes of managing them at the several plantations, little, if these are observed, needs be added on this subject. But as the profit of every farm is greater or less, in proportion to the quantity of manure, which is made thereon, or can be obtained by keeping the fields in good condition, these two important requisites ought never to be lost sight of.
To effect the former, besides the ordinary means of farm-yards, cow-pens, sheep-folds, stables, &c., it would be of essential use, if a certain proportion of the force of each plantation could be appropriated, in the summer or early part of autumn, to the purpose of getting up mud to be ameliorated by the frosts of winter for the spring crops, which are to follow. And to accomplish the latter, the gullies in these fields, previous to their being sown with grain and grass-seeds, ought invariably to be filled up. By so
* The agricultural papers among Washington's manuscripts are numerous, containing instructions to his managers, remarks on the various modes of cultivating lands and on the different kinds of products, abstracts from the best treatises on agriculture, tables of rotations of crops, diaries, estimates, and records of his experiments and their results. The diaries were continued many years. In these he noted down, almost every day, the kind and quantity of work done on his farms, the times of planting, cultivating, and gathering the crops of each lot, the amount of labor bestowed, and in general every circumstance, which could tend to make him thoroughly acquainted with the details of the business from day to day, and enlarge his knowledge by experience. These papers are monuments of his prodigious industry and attention to affairs; but, from the nature of the subject to which they relate, and from their comparatively small intrinsic value, they are not suited to the present work. A few specimens only are here presented, as indicating the habits of Washington, and as affording hints to practical agriculturists. They are all taken from originals in his own handwriting.
When he assumed the office of President of the United States, he committed the superintendence of his private concerns to his nephew, George A. Washington, who then resided with him at Mount Vernon.
doing, and a small sprinkling of manure thereon, they will acquire a green sward, and strength of soil sufficient to preserve them. These are the only means I know of, by which exhausted lands can be recovered, and an estate rescued from destruction.
Although a precise number of tobacco hills is by my general directions allotted to each plantation, yet my real intention is, that no more ground shall be appropriated to this crop, than what is either naturally very good (for which purpose small spots may be chosen), or what can be made strong by manure of some kind or other; for my object is to labor for profit, and therefore to regard quality, instead of quantity, there being, except in the article of manuring, no difference between attending a good plant and an indifferent one. But in any event, let the precise number of hills be ascertained, that an estimate may be formed of their yield to the thousand.
Being thoroughly convinced, from experience, that embezzlement and waste of crops (to say nothing of the various accidents to which they are liable by delays) are increased proportionably to the time they are suffered to remain on hand, my wish is, as soon as circumstances will permit after the grain is harvested, that it may be got out of the straw, especially at the plantations where there are no barns, and either disposed of in proper deposites, or sold, if it is wheat, and the price is tolerable, after it has been converted into flour. When this work is set about as the sole, or as a serious business, it will be executed properly. But when a little is done now, and a little then, there is more waste, even if there should be no embezzlement, than can well be conceived.
One or two other matters I beg may be invariably attended to. The first is to begin harvest as soon as the grain can be cut with safety; and the next, to get it in the ground in due season. Wheat should be sown by the last of August; at any rate by the 10th of September; and other fall grain as soon after as possible. Spring grain and grass seeds should be sown as soon as the ground can possibly, with propriety, be prepared for their reception.
For such essential purposes as may absolutely require the aid of the ditchers, they may be taken from that work. At all other times they must proceed in the manner, which has been directed formerly; and in making the new roads from the Ferry to the Mill, and from the Tumbling Dam across the Neck, till it communicates with the Alexandria road, as has been pointed out on the spot. The ditch from the Ferry to the Mill along this road may VOL. XII.
be a common four-feet one. But from the Mill to the Tumbling Dam, and thence across to the head of the old field by MuddyHole fence, it must be five feet wide at top, but no deeper than the four-feet one, and the same width at bottom as the latter.
After the carpenters have given security to the old barn in the Neck, they must proceed to the completion of the new one at the Ferry, according to the plan and the explanations, which have been given. Gunner and Davis should get bricks made for this purpose; and if John Knowles could be spared (his work, not only with respect to time, but quantity and quality to be amply returned) to examine the bilged walls, and the security of them, but to level and lay the foundations of the other work, when the bricks are ready, it would be rendering me an essential service; and, as the work might be returned in proper season, would be no detriment to your building. .
When the brick work is executed at the Ferry Barn, Gunner and Davis must repair to Dogue Run, and make bricks there; at the place and in the manner, which have been directed, that I may have no salmon bricks in that building.
Oyster shells should be bought, whenever they are offered for sale, if good and on reasonable terms.
Such moneys as you may receive for flour, barley, fish, as also for other things, which can be spared and sold; and for rents, the use of the jacks, &c.; and for book debts, which may be tried, though little is expected from the justice of those who have been long indulged ; may be applied to the payment of workmen's wages as they arise, Fairfax, and the taxes, and likewise to the payment of any just debts, which I may be owing in small sums, and have not been able to discharge previous to my leaving the State. The residue may await further orders.
As I shall want shingles, plank, nails, rum for harvest, scantling, and such like things, which would cost me money at an. other time, fish may be bartered for them. The scantling, if any is taken, must be such as will suit for the barn now about to be built, or that at Dogue Run, without waste and of good quality.
I find it is indispensably necessary, for two reasons, to save my own clover and timothy seed ; first, because it is the only certain means of having it good and in due season; and, secondly, because I find it is a heavy article to purchase.
Save all the honey-locusts you can, of those which belong to me; if more could be obtained, the better. And, in the fall, plant them on the ditches where they are to remain, about six inches apart, one seed from another.
The seeds, which are on the case in my study, ought, without loss of time, to be sown and planted in my botanical garden, and proper memoranda kept of the times and places.
You will use your best endeavours to obtain the means for support of G. and L. Washington, who, I expect, will board, till something further can be decided on, with Dr. Craik; who must be requested to see that they are decently and properly provided with clothes from Mr. Porter's store. He will give them a credit on my becoming answerable to him for the payment. And, as I know of no resource, that II. has for supplies but from me, Fanny will, from time to time, as occasion may require, have such things got for her, on my account, as she shall judge necessary. Mrs. Washington will, I expect, leave her tolerably well provided with common articles for the present.
My memorandum books, which will be left in my study, will inform you of the times and places, when, and where, different kinds of wheat, grass-seeds, &c., were sown. Let particular attention be paid to the quality and quantity of each sort, that a proper judgment of them may be formed. To do this, great care must be taken to prevent mixture of the several sorts, as they are so contiguous to each other.
The general superintendence of my affairs is all I require of you ; for it is neither my desire nor wish, that you should become a drudge to it, or that you should refrain from any amusements or visitings, which may be agreeable, either to Fanny or yourself to make or receive. If Fairfax the farmer, and Thomas Green, on each of whom I have endeavoured to impress a proper sense of their duty, will act their part with propriety and fidelity, nothing more will be necessary for you to do, than would comport with amusement and that exercise which is conducive to health. Nor is it my wish, that you should live in too parsimonious a manner. Frugality and economy are undoubtedly commendable, and all that is required. Happily for this country, these virtues prevail more and more every day among all classes of citizens. I have heard of, and I have seen with pleasure, a remarkable change in the mode of living from what it was a year or two ago; and nothing but the event, which I dreaded would take place soon, has prevented my following the example. Indeed, necessity, if this had not happened, would have forced me into the measure, as my means are not adequate to the expense at which I have lived since my retirement to what is called private life. Sincerely wishing you health and happiness, I am ever your warm friend and affectionate uncle.