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To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 20 November 1796

My dear Sir, Walnut Tree farm , Novr 20th 1796

I received your kind & respected favor of the 16 inst. with much pleasure. No apology, my dear Sir, can be necessary for your not having recollected my having put the Certificate for one hundred Bank Shares into your hands. I only wonder, that, under the multiplicity of important, and often anxious, cares which lay on your mind, you can recollect one half you do. I am rejoiced, however, that the Certificate is found; for no regular provision is yet made by the Bank to remedy the inconveniencies which may arise from a loss, which is the reason of my not having yet advertised it as was intended. I shall, as soon as I can get it done, forward to you a power of Attorney to transfer the Shares in the Columbia as well as the Alexandria Bank to your name whenever you may think proper, which I think is better than to have them sent on to transfer in person, as accidents may happen to them in the transmission; and you will observe that they are transferrable either in person at the Bank (with the Certificate) or by power of Attorney.


Accept my thanks, my dear Sir, for your kind attention to my Maria. I hope she will be admitted at Bethleham, because I think it the best & most proper place for her under all circumstances, and I know it was the intention of her dear Mother to have placed her there; but I am apprehensive that the season will be so far advanced as to make the journey too severe for her this winter, especially too as she has a delicate constitution. Should this be the case, and she could be taken in next spring, I have it in contemplation to let her pass the winter with her Aunt Ball, who has lately been on a visit to us, and urged it exceedingly. I have a high opinion of Mrs Ball’s talants to manage young persons, from the behaviour & improvement of her own Children, particularly her daughter who is about Maria’s age. They have also a tutor in the family who would attend to her this winter. I mentioned this to Mr John Bassett, who was with me yesterday on his way from Baltimore, and he joined me in opinion that if Maria could not go to Bethleham before the severe weather sets in it would be best for her to be with Mrs Ball.

Mr Pearce calld upon me on friday Morning, on his way to Baltimore, to ask my opinion on the subject of Mr Smith’s Security &c. He informed me, as you will find in the enclosed letter from him, that Mr S. had given Mr Douglas & Jessee Simms as security, and offered others if these should not be thought adequate. I have had no dealings with either of those persons and have no particular knowledge of their affairs; but from their Characters, particularly Simm’s, as men of punctuality and having the command of money, I should have no hesitation in accepting them. Perhaps John Wise might be added to them, as I am told he has at times endorsed their paper. Mr Smith’s character stands remarkably fair as a man of property & punctuality, and the reason which he now assigns for not being able to meet the payment with convenience is the same which operates with many others, vizt a want of punctuality in payments to him, particularly from Messr Robert Young & Co. He told Mr Pearce that he could get Mr Fendall to endorse his notes; and would do it if you desired; but as Mr Fendall is one of the partners of Robert Young it might be well to get some other person if you should wish another. Mr Pearce informs me that Smith would give security on real property, if that should be preferred. This, in the ultimatum, would always be desireable; but where a security is given on real property, there is very seldom that punctuality which is to be found in personal. I presume however, he would have no objection to giving both, should you think proper to have it thus guarded, I will, with great pleasure, do in this business whatever you may desire; and in these precarious times there cannot be too many guards.

I am rejoiced that my young friend Washington Custis, is settled at a good seminary and under favorable auspices. It is what I have long anxiously wished to see. I dare say he will not be much charmed at first with the collegiate rules of study &c. but it will, I am convinced, have a happy effect upon him, for nothing is wanting in him but habits of industry & application to proper objects. His disposition is excellent, his capacity very good, and the favorable circumstances under which he will probably enter life may enable him to render essential service to humanity—become an ornament to his Country & a blessing to his friends. These considerations properly impressed on his mind, may produce the desired effect, and his friends, particularly his good grandmamma, feel amply repaid for all the anxious cares bestowed upon him. I promised to open a correspondence with him when he should get fixed at his Studies, which I shall not fail to do.

I am now at my farm, where I find a great deal of personal Attention necessary to make things go on as they should do. I have now every thing in a good train for winter—my corn, potatoes & turnips Secured—my ploughs running—my cattle & sheep in good order with excellent accommodations and abundance of food for a long winter. This, from a young farmer, may look like boasting; but when I tell the other part of the story it will be a counterpoise for all these good things—My crop of wheat has turned out so bad that I had only 65 bushls for the market & 70 bushls sown. The crop now in the ground begins to suffer for want of rain; but otherways it looks well; we have not been afflicted with the fly, which, I am told, has totally destroyed whole fields in the upper parts of Fairfax & in Loudoun. I rode over your fallows last week with Mr Pearce & I think I never saw fields look more beautiful. If the Crop should not be a very good one, unless injured by some untoward circumstance, I shall put no faith in farming.

I left my mother & the little folks well yesterday morning. They received the kind remembrance of yourself & Mrs Washington with grateful hearts & desire that their best respects & affectionate regards may be acceptable to you both as well as to their amiable friend Miss Custis in which I most cordially unite with them, & a tender of my best regards to Mr Fayette & Mr Frestell. With the most sincere & perfect attachment I am, my dear Sir, Your respectful, devoted & affectionate friend.

Tobias Lear


DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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