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TO ROBERT CARY AND COMPANY, LONDON.
Mount Vernon, 28 May, 1762. GENTLEMEN, In your unacknowledged favor of August 10th, I perceive you bring the shortness of some of the bundles of the tobacco shipped in the Bland to account for the lowness of the price. That some of the tobacco was small, I shall not undertake to dispute; but at the same time I must observe, that it was clean and neatly handled, which I apprehended would have rendered the other objection of very little weight. As to stemming my tobacco, in the manner you recommend, I would readily do it, if the returns would be equivalent to the trouble, and loss of the stem; and of this I shall be a tolerable judge, as I am at no small pains this year to try the quality with the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of tobaccos, and shall at the same time find out the difference between a hogshead of leaf and a hogshead of stemmed tobacco. By comparing the loss of the one with the extra price of the other, I shall be able to determine which is the best to pursue, and follow that method which promises the most certain advantages.
Some of the tobaccos, which I put on board the Unity, Captain Cuzzens, got damaged in carrying to the warehouses for inspection, and had a part cut, which will no doubt deface it a little ; but, as this happened while I was at Williamsburg, I am able to give you no exact information concerning it. In this parcel of tobacco there are three kinds, which please to give me your opinions upon.
As I have ever laid it down as an established maxim, that every person is (most certainly ought to be) the best judge of what relates to his own interest and concerns, I very rarely undertake to propose schemes to others, which may be attended with uncertainty and miscarriage. This will at once account for my being among the last, who should advise your sending a vessel into the Potomac for the accommodation of your friends there. That I have often thought of it as a desirable thing for the shippers, I will readily confess, and have as often concluded, that, so soon as you found an established consignment formed here, you would do it of course; and sooner we ought not to expect it. Since you have proposed the matter yourself to me, I certainly must approve of it; and, as you are so obliging as to write, that you shall direct the master to be under my notice, I hope you will be persuaded to believe, that I shall readily contribute my best advice and assistance towards his despatch. VOL. XII.
The tobaccos of most of your friends upon the Potomac (or that ship from thence) lie within fifteen miles above and below this place, and as good, or the best harbour (Piscataway), is within sight of my door. It has this great advantage, besides good anchorage and lying safe from the winds, that it is out of the way of the worm, which is very hurtful to shipping a little lower down, and lies in a very plentiful part of the country. I thought it incumbent upon me to mention these things, after which do as you please. If I had received any intimation of your sending a vessel into this river, I should not have engaged any part of my tobacco to Cuzzens, and while I remain in expectation of her arrival, I will not seek a freight elsewhere for the residue of what I intend for your house from this river, which probably may amount to about thirty hogsheads more.
My letter of the 25th of January will inform you how the interest of the bank stock is to be applied. As that fund was appropriated towards the payment of Miss Custis's fortune, I am informed, that the stock ought to be transferred to her. You will please, therefore, to have it done accordingly, and whatever charges may arise, in so doing, place to her own account. I hope Messrs. Hill & Co. will send the wine into this river, for I had rather have it in Madeira than at York.
Thus far had I written, and was going to conclude, when your favor of the 18th of January was presented to me. I am sorry to hear the account given of the tobacco shipped in Boyes, but as you do not particularize the proprietors' names, who suffered most, I am in hopes my seventy hogsheads have pretty well escaped the general complaint. If they have not, I confess it to be an art beyond my skill to succeed in making good tobacco, as I have used my utmost endeavours for that purpose these two or three years past; and I am once again urged to express my surprise at finding, that I do not partake of the best prices that are going. I saw an account rendered by Mr. Athaws of some tobacco, which he sold for Mr. Fairfax at 12d. The tobacco went from this river, and, I can aver, was not better than twelve hogsheads of my mountain crop, which you received in the Sarah and Bland last summer. In fact, Mr. Fairfax's plantations and mine upon the Shenandoah lie in the same neighbourhood. The tobacco is brought to the same inspection, and, to be short, is in all respects exactly alike. None of mine, however, sold for more than 11d. or 31 d., whichever you please, while his went off a little before at the price of 12 d. as aforesaid. This is a difference really too great, and I see it with concern. However, Gentlemen, I hope to find it otherwise for the time to come. I am, &c.
MESSRS. CARLYLE AND ADAM, MERCHANTS, ALEXANDRIA.
Mount Vernon, 9 March, 1765. GENTLEMEN, So soon as Mr. Lund Washington returns from Frederic, I shall cause my wheat to be delivered at your landing, on Four Miles Run Creek, if flats can get to it conveniently; but previous to this, I should be glad to know determinately upon what terms you expect to receive it, that is, whether by weight or measure. I once thought I had agreed with Colonel Carlyle at fifty-eight pounds to the bushel, but it seems it was otherwise. Be that as it will, you may believe me sincere when I tell you, that it is a matter of very great indifference to me, whether it is fixed at this, or suffered to stand as it is; it being a thing extremely doubtful, from every trial I have been able to make with steelyards, whether I should gain or lose by a contract of this kind. The wheat from some of my plantations, by one pair of steelyards, will weigh upwards of sixty pounds, by another pair less than sixty pounds; and from some other places it does not weigh fifty-eight pounds; and better wheat than I now have I do not expect to make during the term of our contract, at least whilst I continue to sow a good deal of ground.
The only reason, therefore, which inclines me to sell by weight at a medium, which I think just and equitable, is, that it may be a means of avoiding all kinds of controversy hereafter; for I am persuaded, that, if either of us gains by it, it must be you. I may be encouraged, indeed, to bestow better land to the growth of wheat than old corn ground, and excited perhaps to a more husbandlike preparation of it; but to do either of these is much more expensive, than the method now practised, and in fact may not be so profitable as the slovenly but easy method of raising it in corn ground. If it should be, and my wheat be the better thereby, it is a truth I believe universally acknowledged, that, for every pound it gains after it is once got to a middling weight, it increases the flour in a tenfold proportion.
You were saying that the standard for wheat in Philadelphia was fifty-eight pounds, and at Lancaster sixty pounds. I have taken some pains to inquire, likewise, into this matter, and am informed, that fifty-eight is a much more general weight than the other all over Pennsylvania and Maryland (where their wheat is better than ours can be, till we get into the same good management), and Colonel Tucker's miller, a man from the northward upon high wages, whom I saw whilst I was last below, assured me that very few bushels, out of the many thousands of wheat which he receives for Colonel Tucker, reach fifty-eight pounds. However, that you may not think I have other motives than those declared for mentioning these things, I shall only observe, that, as you are sensible by my present contract I am not restricted to weight, but obliged only to deliver clean wheat, and as good as the year and seasons will generally admit of, I will nevertheless, in order to remove every cause of dispute, which can possibly arise, fix the weight, if it is agreeable to you, at fifty-eight pounds per bushel, and to be paid a penny for every pound over that weight, and deduct a penny for every pound it is under. If you do not choose this, the contract must then remain as it now stands. I am, &c.
TO ROBERT CARY AND COMPANY, LONDON.
Mount Vernon, 20 September, 1765. GENTLEMEN, It cannot reasonably be imagined, that I felt any pleasing sensations upon the receipt of your letter of the 13th of February, covering accounts of sales for one hundred and fifty-three hogsheads of Master Custis's tobacco, and one hundred and fifteen of mine.
That the sales are pitifully low needs no words to demonstrate ; and that they are worse than many of my acquaintance upon the river Potomac have got in the outports, and from Mr. Russell and other merchants of London, for common Aronoke tobacco, is a truth equally as certain. Nay, not so good as I myself have got from Mr. Gildart of Liverpool for light rent tobaccos (shipped to him at the same time I did to you) of the meanest sort; such as you once complained of, as the worst of Maryland, and not salable. Can it be otherwise than a little mortifying, then, to find that we, who raise none but sweet-scented tobacco, and endeavour, I may venture to add, to be careful in the management of it, however we fail in the execution, and who, by a close and fixed correspondence with you, contribute so largely to the despatch of your ships in this country, should meet with such unprofitable returns ? Surely I may answer, No! Notwithstanding, you will again receive my own crops this year, and sixty-seven hogsheads of Master Custis's; but, Gentlemen, you must excuse me for adding, (as I cannot readily conceive, that our tobaccos are so much depreciated in quality, as not only to sell much below other marks of good repute, but actually for less, as I before observed, than the commonest kinds do,) that justice to myself and ward will render it absolutely necessary for me to change my correspondence, unless I experience an alteration for the better.
I might take notice upon this occasion also, that my tobacco nets a good deal less than Master Custis's, and why it should do so, I am really at a loss to discover; his one hundred and fiftythree hogsheads averaging £7 7s. 7d., and my one hundred and fifteen only £5 17s. 6d. Perhaps it may be urged, that some of mine was Potomac tobacco. I grant it, but take these out, and the Yorks then average £6 6s. 5d. only. If you had allowed him the benefit of the bonded duties, I should not have wondered at the difference; but this, I perceive, is not done; and certain I am, my tobacco ought not to have been inferior to his, in any respect, the lands being the same, and my directions for making it good equally as express.
Tobacco, I well perceive, for a year or two past, has fallen in its value. From what causes I shall not take upon me to determine; and I am not so extravagant as to believe, that my own and Master Custis's crops should fetch their usual prices, when other good tobacco met with abatements. But I am really selfish enough to expect, that we ought to come in for a part of the good prices that are going, from a belief that our tobacco is of a quality not so much inferior to some, that still sells well, and that so considerable a consignment, when confined in a manner to one house, as ours is, would lay claim to the best endeavours of the merchant in the sales, and in the return of goods; for many articles of which I pay exceeding heavily, another thing I cannot easily account for, unless it is on a presumption, that they are bought at very long credits, which by no means ought to be the case. For, where a person has money in a merchant's hands, he should doubtless have all the benefits that can result from that money; and in a like manner, where he pays interest for the use of the merchant's, should he be entitled to the same advantages; otherwise it might well be asked, For what purpose is it that interest is paid ?
Once, upon my urging a complaint of this nature, you wrote me, that the goods ought to be sent back, and they should be returned upon the shopkeeper's hands in cases of imposition ; but a moment's reflection points out the inconveniences of such a measure, unless the imposition be grossly abusive, or we could afford to have a year's stock beforehand. How otherwise can a person, who imports bare requisites only, submit to lie a year out of any par