Virginia Gunston-Hall May 14th. 1789.
I have received your several Letters, one Via Norfolk, and two by the Brigs Betsy & Nancy, besides the former ones; the Rect whereof I had before mentioned. Your Brother George has received a Letter from you, of a later Date, Via Philadelphia; wherein you mention your Intention to set out for Paris the next Morning; and that you were just recovering from a severe Attack of your old Disorder, the convulsive Cholic. I am afraid this Complaint is, in some Measure, constitutional in you, as it has been, almost thro' Life, in me; and without great Care, will become habitual. I will therefore give you such Advice as is founded on my own personal Experience.
Take Care to avoid a costive Habit, & whenever you find yourself falling into one, remove it, by taking a few Pills, every Night (and Morning if necessary) of Castile Soap Rhubarb & succotrine Alloes; encreasing or decreasing the Dose, so as only to procure one or two Stools (rather looser than ordinary) a Day; this in three or four Days will alter the Habit, & remove the Complaint. I believe you know the Composition; if you don't, the following Proportions will answer-2 Penny wt. of good Rhubarb, one Penny wt. of succotrine Alloes, both powdered very fine, & 4 Penny wt. of Castile Soap scraped; incorporate them well together, & mix them, with any kind of Syrup, into a Mass for Pills; two or three Pills of a common Size, Night & Morning, are generally sufficient; frequently less.
Immediately take a Course of Bark & Rhubarb, &continue it four or five Weeks, in the following Manner. Take 1 oz. good Peruvian Bark & 2 drms. (5 Penny wt.) of good Rhubarb, both grossly powdered, put them into a Quart Bottle of Madeira or Lisbon Wine, or any other pretty strong sound white Wine; let the Bottle stand three or four Days, where it will be moderately warm; if in the Summer in the Sun, if in the Winter near the Fire, shaking the Bottle frequently; then let it settle, & take a Wine Glass full of the Tincture every Morning & Evening, upon an empty Stomach, using a little Exercise after it; when the Bottle is about 2/3ds. out, it will bear recruiting with about a Pint of Wine more, sitting the Bottle in a warm Place, & shaking it frequently, as before; it will be best to mix two Bottles of this Medecine at a time; that one may be always fit for Use. When you have gone thro' this first Course, still keep a Bottle of this Mixture always by you, to be ready, as Occasion may require; and whenever you find your Stomach beginning to be disordered, use a Bottle of it (or more if necessary) in the Manner above directed. These Medecines will require no confinement, or particular Regimen; but they are slow in their Operation, & tho' preventive of the Disorder; of little or no Efficacy during the Fit; in which the best Remedie I have found, is a Puke, procured by Draughts of warm strong Chamomoil Tea, and if that does not remove the Pain, a warm sudorific Boluss, with Castor, Camphor, Sal-Ammoniac, & a little Opium, or some Preparation of it; and afterwards a gentle Purge of the Oyl of Palma Christi Seeds, commonly called Castor Oyl; of which two Spoonfuls is a common Dose; I don't recollect the botanic Name of this plant; but you know what I mean; or a Purge of powdered Senna Leaves & Cream of Tartar will answer nearly as well.
Previous to a Fit of the Convulsive Cholic, I have some times found some very acid Juices rising on my Stomach, & that kind of Pain, which is vulgarly called the Heart-burn; in this Case, I have generally found Relief from two teaspoonsfull of Magnesia alba, mixed in a tea-cup of Water, to be repeated, as Occasion requires. Sometimes for a few Days before an Attack of the Convulsive Cholic, I have found myself affected with a kind of Jaundice; my Eyes & Skin turning yellow, & my Urine very high coloured. These Symptoms, with me, were always sure to be followed with a Fit of the Convulsive Cholic; they are generally removed, & a Fit of the Cholic prevented, by the Use of the beforementioned alterative Pills; the Tincture of Bark & Rhubarb, if taken in the Beginning, in the Manner before directed (or if necessary three Glasses a Day) is also a most excellent Preventative of the Complaints arising from any kind of Jaundice.
You shou'd use Exercise, & eat moderately, always rising from Table, with some little remaining Apetite. It may be necessary to mention, that when I have been subject to the Convulsive Cholic, I have generally found Coffee disagree[d] with me, & I have heard others make the same Observation. By following, & persevering in these Directions, I think you may, at your early Period of Life, eradicate this dreadful Disorder: and after having been some time clear of it, you will find the Cold-bath a great Strengthener, & Preservative; taking Care to begin it, at a proper Season of the Year, & by Degrees; bathing for the first three or four Days, only your Head & Neck, & your Feet & Legs, for a very short Space, & drying them well quickly; afterwards your Arms also, and after seven or eight Days, your whole Body.
I have written a long Letter, by this Opportunity, to Fenwick, Mason & Compy. upon several interesting particulars, to which I refer you, to save a Repetition here. I observe what you mention, with Respect to over shipping Goods to some particular People. Perhaps in a few Instances, now & then, it is difficult to avoid this; but you shou'd avoid it, as much as possible. The Hazard is too great in large Debts; and small Debts, in the Country, are not worth a Shilling in the Pound; and there are some People, who wou'd otherwise ship you Tobacco, that upon getting in your Debt, will immediately discontinue their Correspondence. But when you were mentioning, with Regret, your having overship'd Goods to a small Amount, I am surprised at your Silence, with Respect to the more important Affair of Mr. Whitesides; this has the Appearance of it's having been done without your Participation, or of your not being intimately acquainted with the Transactions, & Business of the House; either of which may be productive of bad Consequences. You are upon the Spot, ought to know, & have a Right to be consulted in all important Transactions; in order to entitle you, with the greater Propriety, to this, you shou'd spare no Pains, or Application, to make yourself well acquainted with Business; so as to be able to take a proper Share in the Management; as well as to enable you to conduct the Business of a separate House yourself, whenever it becomes necessary; which probably may be soon. Notwithstanding I understand you are likely to secure yourselves, this Affair gives me much uneasiness, for tho' I have always heard a very good Character of Mr. Fenwick, & that he is a diligent attentive discreet young Man, yet this Transaction shews a kind of Softness & Milkiness of Temper, liable to Imposition; which both you & he ought to guard against. Pray explain this Business of Mr. Whitesides, and let me know, without Reserve, how it is like[ly] to terminate.
I have accidentally heard that Carter Braxton has lately written to Fenwick, Mason & Compy., probably making some Proposals of a Correspondence. I know him well, and think there are few Men in the United States less deserving Trust or Confidence, with Respect either to his Circumstances, Principles, or Character; tho' he is a very plausible Man. He has considerable Debts due to him, & may make you some Shipments; and Commissions are as profitable from him as from another; but take Care not to trust him, or place the smallest Confidence in him.
I inclose you a Letter from my Friend Mr. Stephen West; it came to Hand too late to go by the Becky, as did also the five Hhds. of Tobo. he mentions; but I believe they are now on board the Washington. You will observe Mr. West makes great Professions of Friendship & a Desire to serve you; which it is probable it may be in his Power to do; I wou'd therefore advise you to return him a Polite Letter of Thanks. This can do no Harm, & may be of Service to you; besides good Manners requires it; but you know his general Character, & therefore will take Care not to advance any thing, upon any Proposals or Promises whatever.
I believe your Convention-Acquaintance, Doctr. McClurg of Richmond, has ship'd you eight or ten Hhds. of Tobo. per the Washington. I wou'd have you write him particularly, by the first convenient Opportunity; informing him of the Prices Current, & what Articles can be advantageously imported from Bourdeaux; it may be a Means of opening you a Correspondence from James River; as Dr. McClurg is a Member of our Executive Council, and a Man of some Interst in that Part of the Country; but you shou'd always take Care to be accurate in your Quotations of the Prices Current at the time; this was not the Case in the List of the current Prices transmitted in your Letters of Decemr. or January; wherein you quoted Tobo. from 30tt to 32tt Ct. instead [of] 28tt.. 30
You are under obligations to Mr. Daniel Brent, of Richland, & his brother, Mr. Richard Brent, for their utmost Endeavours to promote your Interest here; and I believe to very good Effect.
Your Stafford Friends have not ship'd you so generally, as I expected; one Reason for this is, that great Part of their Tobo. upon low Grounds, was destroyed by the excessive Rains last Summer, and another, that I believe many of them are indebted to the Scotch Stores, and there is hardly a Scotch Merchant, in this Part of the Country, who does not wish your House at the Devil.
I hope to hear soon that you & Mr. Fenwick have got to Housekeeping; for as your Business is now grown considerable, & there are, of course many Captains of Ships & others to whom it will be necessary for you to shew Civilities, I can't think House-keeping will be any great Addition to your Expences; and I am sure it will give some Respectability to your House; besides that it must be much more agreeable than living in a boarding-House. I still continue of Opinion, that it will be very imprudent in you to come to America this Year; but that it will be very proper the Year after. Indeed the more I have reflected on this Subject, the more I am confirm'd in this Opinion.
I mentioned to you, in my Letter by the Becky, that it was not then in my Power to ascertain the respective Quantity of Wheat ship'd by me, & your Brothers Thomson & William. I now send you, on the other Side, an exact Statement of all the Wheat we ship'd you in the two ships, the Maryland & the Becky, according to which, separate Accts. of Sales are to be rendered us; notwithstanding the Bills of Loading for the Whole may have been taken in my Name; as I wou'd avoid blending your Brother's Accts. with mine. You will observe that 67 Bushs. of the Wheat included in your Brother William's Quantity properly belongs to William Green; who being very desirous to ship you something, got your Brother William to include it with his; as the Ship did not take in any Wheat, but from our Family, except Forrest & Stoddert's own; for this 67 Bushells your Brother William desires a separate Acct. of Sales may be rendered to Green, and an Acct. of Sales rendered to himself for only his own proper Wheat. It will also please Green mightily; which is some Consideration, as the Man seems to be much attach'd to you, and I believe intends to ship you his Tobo. also. You will observe too, that Messrs. Forrest & Stoddert are to have Credit, by me, for the Nett Proceeds of fifty four Bushels of my Wheat in the Becky, & my Acct. debited accordingly, it being the Quantity I still owe these Gentlemen, for Wheat they were so kind to lend me.
On the other Side is also a Duplicate of the List of Goods, I ordered in my Letter per the Becky. I wish the Brandy may arrive before the new Duties take place; and I hope it will be of better Quality than the Brandy sent me last Year by Mr. Fenwick; which tho' at a very high Price, is exceeding bad; the Man who furnished it must have been a Knave; for I make no Doubt Mr. Fenwick expected it was good, and paid a Price accordingly. The Peice of silk ordered is for your Sister Betsy, and I expect you will chuse it yourself.
I enclose you a List of the Members of the new Congress, in both Houses; by which you will see that a considerable Number of the Senate are our Convention-Acquaintance.
I send you, by Capt. Bond, a Barrel containing eight Hams; I wish they may arrive in good order; as I think they were exceeding good Hams, when they were pack'd up. I should be glad to know whether the Barrel of Hominy, and smoaked Beef, by Capt. Rose, got to Hand in good Order.
Your Brothers sent you, by Capt. Rose, two Female and one Male Opossom; one of the females has some Appearance of pregnancy; tho' it cou'd not certainly be distinguished; if this shou'd be the Case, you will have a natural Curiosity; which contradicts the received Opinions, & will puzzle the Naturalists. Shou'd neither of the females prove with Young, if one of each Sex arrives safe, they may perhaps breed in France; tho' they are the Natives of a more Southern Climate; being much more plenty in the Southern, than in the northern Parts of Virginia, & still more plenty in North Carolina. Those which were sent you had been so lately caught, that I fear they have not survived the Passage; and if they have, it may be difficult to tame them thoroughly. We have now got a female Opossom, who is too far advanced in her Pregnancy, to bear a Sea-voyage; the Young ones being almost ready to drop off the Teats, as they are vulgarly (but I believe erroniously) called. We intend to keep her, until she has raised her Brood; I expect they will be perfectly tame, & when they are sufficiently grown up, we will send you some of them; which will give a fair Chance of their breeding in France. As we have had the old female, in Durance, from a pretty early Stage of her Pregnancy, & the progress has been, & will be, attended to, I will hereafter send you my Conjectures upon this extraordinary Mode of Generation, so different from that of other Animals, that the fact is neither understood, or believed in Europe.
We have had a Mocking-Bird for you, ever since last Summer; which is quite tame and domestic; and intended to send it out this Spring; but it proves a Female, and they seldom sing; this hardly attempts a single Note; and therefore we shall not sent it abroad, to disgrace it's native Country. I wou'd turn it out of the Cage, but I am afraid it's Liberty, after such long Confinement, wou'd only make the poor thing a Prey to the first Hawk, that came in it's Way. We will endeavour to raise some young ones this Summer. I will also endeavour to raise a Buck & Doe Fawn for you this Summer, if we are lucky enough to catch any; the few tame Deer we now have are Stags, that is they have been castrated; an Operation which prevents the Growth of the Buck's Horns, &consequently lessens his Beauty, as well as his Dignity.
The Family at Gunston is reduced lately, from a very large to a small one, consisting now only of your Sister Betsy, your Brother William, Mrs. Mason & myself. I most cordially wish you Health & Happiness, and am, dear John, Yr. affecte. father,