Virginia, Gunston-Hall, January 8th. 1783.
I Yesterday received your Letter of the 31st July from St. Amand, also yours of the 10th & 14th. of Octor. from Paris; and am greatly concern'd to hear of your bad State of Health, and that you have found rather Injury than Benefit from the Mud of St. Amand; for from Dr. Lee's Account of it, I had very sanguine Hopes of it's salutary Effects. Your Disorder I fear is of too long standing & of too confirm'd a Nature to be easily removed. So far as I am able to judge, you wou'd have been cured by the sulphurious warm Springs of Augusta County, the Year you tryed them; had it not been for an accidental Cold you got during the Use of them, & the very improper Use of the Cold-bath immediately after. When you return to America, you must try them once more, with greater Caution. If we have a Peace this Winter (as seems now to be expected) I wou'd by all Means advise you to return next Summer, & to endeavour to embark so as to arrive here about the latter End of June, or the Beginning of July, that you may be familiarised a little to your native climate, before the approach of Winter. If the War continues, you must endeavour to take your Passage on board some good Vessel; for a passage in one of the little things, that is half the Way under Water, wou'd not agree with your Constitution: if any French Frigate, or Ships of War shou'd be coming to America, perhaps Dr. Frankling wou'd be kind enough to interest himself in your Favour, & procure you an Order for your Passage in her; had I the Honour of being acquainted with him, I wou'd trouble him with a Letter on the Subject. If you find the Plan you have been in, of shipping Goods to America, will answer, so as to make it worth your while, it might be well for you to continue another Year, in Expectation of a Peace; but from the present high rate of Insurance, & the Price at which Goods sell in the Whole-Sale Way here, I do not think it will. Mr. Thompson sold the Goods you consign'd him at 2/9 Maryd. Curry in Specie Livre, first Cost in France; which I don't think will yield a Profit worth your Trouble: the reason of such low Sales (notwithstanding the great Demand for Goods) is the extream Scarcity of Money, & our having so contracted an Export for our Produce. The most profitable Plan that I know of at present (but this depends entirely upon the Certainty of the War's continueing another Year) wou'd be to charter a Ship that will carry seven or eight thousand Bushels of Salt; give her about six or eight Guns (six or nine Pounders) man her with eighteen or twenty good Sea-Men, which will be sufficient to keep off little Privateers; & with wooden Guns &c, give her some Appearance of a Ship of Force; load her entirely with good Salt, and send her, under the Command of a careful Captain, ensured to the Value in Europe, into James River; consign her to a Man of Credit there, & order her to be expeditiously loaded with Tobo. for Europe, ensuring the ship, and the Value of the Tobo. here, back again, &covering also the Premium for Insurance on both Voyages; in Case of Miscarriage, the Loss wou'd not be very considerable, and in Case of Success, the Profit great: the present Price of good Salt in Virginia is from four to five Dollars Bushl. & if the War continues, I think it will bring from 18/ to 20/ Bushl. thro' the Course of the next Summer: the Price of James River Tobo. in the best upper Warehouses, is 20/ hund.—but from the Scarcity of Money, no brisk Demand; Salt being an indispensable Necessary of Life, will command either Tobo. or what little Money we have among us. The Reason why I shou'd prefer James River to any other, is not only on Account of the superior Quality of the Tobo. & the Demand for Salt, to supply the extensive back Country above the Falls; but because the Risque from privateers is less than in running higher up Chesapeake Bay, & it's Mouth is so near the Capes, that a Vessel may generally run in or out, with one wind. David Ross & Compy. at Petersburg, or James Buchanan at Richmond, I think the safest Men to consign to: I believe such a Ship might go as high, or nearly as high, as Warwick, very convenient to either of the above mentioned places. Had I an Opportunity of shiping a Quantity of Tobo. or cou'd command Bills of Exchange, I shou'd make a Remittance to Mr. Johnson of Nantes, and propose joining with him in such a Plan as this.
I shall take the first Opportunity of advising Mr. Bealle of your having repaid Messrs. Clifford & Teyssett, the Money they advanced you in Amsterdam; it is lucky enough that the Money has not also been paid to Mr. Bealle here, for I was very near advising your Brother to sell some of your Tobo. immediately for that Purpose; by which, at the low Price here, you wou'd have lost considerably; but I thought it most prudent first to hear from you. I have secured the Debt due to you from Mr. Russell of London in very safe Hands here; tho' from the Scarcity of Money, it will hardly be paid during the War; in the meantime it lies at an Interest of 6 Ct. . An: Your Brother Thomson has lately sold Wheat from your plantations to the amt. of abt. £230 Specie, & there will be a good deal of Indian Corn to spare from them this year; which (the Crops being generally short) will sell for a pretty good Price. He means (unless you direct him otherwise) to invest the Money in Tobo. for you; which, in the Event of a Peace, will be very profitable. You have two or three years crops of Tobo. uninspected; your Brother & myself thinking it safer in your own Tobacco-Houses than in the public Ware houses, until an Opportunity shou'd offer of disposing of it to advantage. Your Stocks of Horses Cattle &c. have encreased and your estate is in good Order; except you have had some Losses in your Slaves; but I refer you to your brother's Letters for Particulars; he is very attentive to your Interest, & no Doubt, will give you every necessary Information.
As to the Money you have spent in Europe, provided you can satisfy me that it has not been spent in Extravagance, Dissipation, or idle Parade, I don't regard it. It is true I have a large Family to provide for; & that I am determined, from Motives of Morality & Duty, to do Justice to them all: it is certain also, that I have not lost less than £ 10,000.—Ster: by the War, in the Depreciation of Paper-Money, & the Loss of Profits of my Estate; but I think this a cheap Purchase of Liberty & Independence. I thank God, I have been able, by adopting Principles of strict œconomy & Frugality, to keep my principal, I mean my Country-Estate, unimpaired; I have suffered little by the Depredations of the Enemy. I have at this time two year's Rents (you know mine are all Tobo.-Rents) in Arrear, & two Crops uninspected; so that if a Peace happens, it will find me pretty full handed in the Article of Tobo. which will then be very valuable. The Money, it has cost you to relieve the Distresses of your unfortunate Country-men, was worthily expended; and you will receive Retribution, with large Interest, in Heaven; but in order to shorten the time of Credit, and also to entitle myself to some Proportion of the Merit, I shall insist upon replacing to you every shilling of it here; I hope you will therefore keep an exact Account of it.
I am greatly obliged to Mr. Johnston for the many Civilities you have received from Him; I beg you will let him know the grateful Sense I have of his Friendship to you, and how pleasing it wou'd be to me to have an Opportunity of rendering him any acceptable Service. I shou'd have ship'd him some Tobo. but we have not had a single Vessel in Potomack River this Year, upon Freight, in which any prudent Man cou'd venture his Property; the same Reason has prevented yr. Brother from shipping Mr. Johnston some of your Tobo. as you directed, & he intended; Some good Ships are expected this Winter from New-England, to load upon Freight, if they arrive, & the present Hopes of Peace wear away, we shall both ship some Tobo. but if the Probability of a Peace continues, it will by no Means answer to ship Tobo. at the Freight of one half for the Carriage of the other.
Mr. Henderson was so obliging, as to deliver Mrs. Mason's Watch himself; which she likes very well, and thanks you for your care in getting it done; he at the same [time] deliver'd me a Snuff-Box a Present from you; and I have since received from Mr. D Arrell a Pr. of Spectacles, & a Bundle of Grape-Seeds &c. but for want of exact Endorsations upon all the Papers, I am at a Loss to know the different kinds of Grapes, & which are the best worth cultivating; the Spectacles suit me as exactly as if I had chosen them myself, and have enabled me to read & write with much more Ease, than I cou'd do with those I before used. Mr. Arrell (who was obliged to run his Vessel into South- [Key?] ) inform'd me, by Letter, that he had a small Bale on board for me, which he believed contain'd some Family-Goods; but it proved to be a Mistake, & was one of the Packages address'd to Mr. Wm. Thompson. The little Balce. you have of the Money in yr. Hands, belonging to Mrs. Eilbeck's Estate, as well as the Money you rec'd from Mr. Delap of Bourdeaux, for the Balce. of my Tobo. you are very welcome to keep in your Hands, if the sending me Goods for it will be attented with any Inconvenience to you.
I beg you will freely communicate to me the Situation of your Affairs; and if there shou'd be a Necessity of making you Remittances, I will endeavour to do it, at all Events; tho' it must be by selling some of the Produce of my Estate at an Under-value. I am now pretty far advanced in Life, and all my views are center'd in the Happiness & well-fare of my children; you will therefore find from me every Indulgence which you have a right to expect from an affectionate Parent.
I have been for some time in Retirement, & shall not probably return again to public Life; yet my Anxiety for my Country, in these Times of Danger, makes me sometimes dabble a little in Politicks, & keep up a Correspondence with some Men upon the public Stage; you know I am not apt to form Opinions lightly, & without due Examination; and I can venture to say that the french Court & Nation may confide in the Honour & good faith of America; we reflect with gratitude on important Aid France has given us; but she must not and I hope will not attempt to lead us into a War of Ambition, or Conquest, or trail us round the mysterious Circle of European Politicks. We have little News worth communicating; nothing of Consequence has happened here this Campaign; the Enemy having generally kept close within their Lines, & the American Army not strong enough to force them. We have a long time expected the Evacuation of Charles Town; the Enemy having dismantled their Out-works, & embark'd their heavy artillery, & some of their Troops; however by the last Accounts (in December) they had still a Garrison there.
By late Accounts from Kentuckey, we are inform'd that General Clarke, with 1200 Voluntiers, had crossed the Ohio River, & destroyed six of the Shawnese Towns, destroying also about 2,000 barrels of their Corn, & bringing off Furrs & other Plunder to the Value of £3,000. which was sold, and the Money divided among his Men; this will probably drive these savages nearer the Lakes or the Missisippi. Upon Clark's Return, the Chickasaws sent Deputys to him to treat for Peace; every thing was quiet in the new Settlements, & upwards of 5,000 Souls have been added to them since last Septemr. The People there are extreamly uneasy, least the free Navigation of the River Missisippi to the Sea, shou'd not be secured to them, upon a Treaty of Peace; if it is not, it will occasion another War in less than seven Years; the Inhabitants think they have a natural Right to the free (tho' not the exclusive) Navigation of that River; and in a few Years they will be strong enough to enforce that Right. Some People, who have come in lately, give most surprizing Accounts of the Fertility of that Country; one Tristoe, whom I know, & believe him a Man of Veracity, says that he saw twenty one Barrels two Bushels & a peck of Indian Corn shell'd & measured from one Acre of Ground, which had been but indifferently cultivated: you know that, in this Part of the Country, we esteem three Barrels of Corn a good crop from an Acre of well cultivated Ground. He says also that the Richness of their Pasture is such, that their last Spring's Calves are as large as our Cows.
I have got all my back-Lands judiciously located, in one Body, upon Panther Creek, a Branch of Green River, on the north Side of the sd. River; they lye from ten to twenty Miles East from the Ohio River, & about seventy or eighty Miles below the Falls; I expect the surveys will be compleated this Winter; I have been once or twice disappointed in making my Surveys, by the Incursions of the Indians; which has run me to great Expence. These Lands will cost me, by the time the Title is compleated, not less than £1,000 Specie; but if I can secure & settle them, they will, in twenty years, be worth forty or fifty thousand Pounds to my Family.
Adieu dear George; and be assured you have a sincere Friend, & affectionate Father in
P. S. January 15th: 1783. Since writing the above Letter, we have received authentic Accounts that the British Garrison evacuated Charles Town about the 10th. of Decemr. The German Troops, & the American Refugees, are gone to New-York, & Augustine; and the British Troops to the West Indies.