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To George Washington from Tobias Lear, 17 January 1797

My dear Sir, Washington, January 17th 1797.

Your respected favor of the 13th instant reached this place last evening, and should have been answered by return of the Mail; but I had been absent for some days at the Great Falls, on the business of the Potomac Company, and did not get home till this day.

I trust, my dear Sir, that after knowing my reasons for not having sooner acknowledged the receipt of your kind letter of the 14th of december, covering one from the Revd Mr Van Vleck, and accompanied by Fulton’s Treatise on inland navigation, you will have the goodness to pardon the omission. Mr Van Vleck was kind enough to say, that as the Roads in that part of the Country were very bad in March, he would allow me ’till the end of may to bring Maria on, and only requested, in case any unforeseen accident should prevent my doing so by that time, that I would give him previous information thereof. He added, that, when convenient, he would wish to know the ages of the young Ladies, and if they had passed through the measles & small pox. On these points I could not satisfy him with respect to Colo. Ball’s daughter. I wrote, soon after, to the Colonel informing him of the permission given to enter his daughter at the School, and requesting he would satisfy me on the points above mentioned. To this letter I had received no answer; and I thought it unnecessary to trouble Mr Van Vleck with respect to one until I could satisfy him as to both, and therefore have not written to him. I was certainly culpable in not acknowledging the receipt of your letter; but observing nothing in it which required an immediate reply, I delay’d doing it until I should be able to write to Mr Van Vleck. I intended going to Colo. Ball’s from the Great Falls; but a heavy rain on saturday had raised the runs and made the roads very bad, which determined me to return home. I have written to him again, and should I not receive an answer before this day week I shall go up there.

I shall, with pleasure, execute Mrs Washington’s commission respecting the butter, as well as any other which you or she may be so good as to lay upon me before your return to Mount Vernon.

I am truly sorry that any inconvenience should arise from the not coming forward of the deeds of the land on which the Arsenal is to be erected. Had I received intimation thereof, such part as is executed should have been forwarded before this time. The deed for the land purchased of the Wagers was to have been recorded at the last Berkley Court; but the absence of young Wager, who was in Philadelphia & some of the witnesses prevented its being done at that time. It will be recorded at the Court of the present month. The deed for the other tract has not yet been executed in the manner pointed out by Mr Lee, the Attorney General. The Executors of Thomas Rutherford Junr in whom the land was vested by a Bond of conveyance, from Griffith, the devisee of Harper, had the land surveyed and a deed drawn in proper form, which was submitted to Mr Lee in September last; but he was of opinion that it would be more proper for them to get a deed from Griffith before they conveyed to the United States. Griffith lives in Kentucky and the Executors of Rutherford assured me that they immediately sent to Griffith for a deed; but that their letter never reached him, and that they have now sent a person out for the express purpose of getting said deed, and his return is daily expected. Their obligation to convey to the United States is still binding, and as the money is not yet paid them, they are anxious to get it done. In consequence of this delay of Rutherford’s deed, I have not yet forwarded the other, expecting daily to hear it was ready, when one trip up the country would enable me to finish both at the same time. I shall go up next week, and, at all events forward Wager’s deed.

Mr Pearce informed me about a fortnight since, that Mr Smith proposed that his note due you should be discounted at the Bank of Alexandria, which would lodge the money there at once, and that he would pay the discount. As this would settle the business, I told Mr Pearce I thought it would be best to do it, as the security of the money would be more satisfaction to you than the interest for 60 days could be benefit, and advised him to do it; but as Mr Pearce had endorsed the note for you, he had some hesitation in doing it, as he wished to have the business closed before he left Mount Vernon; I therefore advised him to get another note from Mr Smith on which I would put my name, as the last endorser, which was done and the Bank has discounted one thousand dollars of it, and will do the rest as soon as they can with convenience.

I have perused Fulton’s Treatise on inland navigation with some attention; but find that he only means to apply his inclined plains to small streams, and to raise boats of about 4 tons burthen. It is ingenious; but will not apply to the navigation of the main River here.

I am happy in being able to inform you that con[side]rable progress has been made in the excavation of the [Loc]k seats at the Great Falls—a large quantity of Stone is prepared for building the Locks, and lime is ready on the Bank of the River; but the uncommon lowness of the water during the summer & autumn totally prevented the passage of Boats to get those materials down. We shall take advantage of the first opening to do it. I am apprehensive that we shall lose the services of our Engineer; for he seems to be so largely engaged in his own business & speculations that he cannot give the time which the Directors think necessary to the works. Tomorrow there will be a meeting either to fix or dismiss him.

My mother and the little Boys are in good health & unite with me in offering their highest respects to Mrs Washington & yourself, and best wishes to the family. With the most affectionate & grateful attachment I have the honor to be, my dear Sir, Your very sincere & respectful

Tobias Lear.


DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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