Gunston Hall, May 22, 1792
Your man Lewis arrived here this morning, with letters from you, and your brother Tom. I am glad to hear my tobacco on board the Auguste Capt. Cabella is insured, and thank you for the directions you have given Messrs. Cathalan's respecting it. I have never heard in what manner this vessel was lost, or whether her Crew, or any part of the Cargo, was saved; nor have I yet heard anything of the french Brig you loaded at Alexandria, for Bourdeaux, on board which I had fifty Hogsheads of Tobacco. As I understand some very good Accounts of Sales, for good Virga. Tobacco have lately been received from London, I think it probable you may be able to resell, to Advantage, the Tobo. you have purchased, if you should find it necessary.
The prodigious Fall of Exchange between France and foreign countrys, and the great, &continuing Depreciation of their Assignats, are truly alarming Circumstances; such as I very much fear will be productive of general Dissatisfaction & Confusion, & render it extreamly difficult, if not impracticable, to keep up an Army, & support an expensive war. This summer must, I presume, bring things to a Crisis, and show the nation, with certainty, what they are to expect from the great powers of Europe. Prussia, I have no Doubt, would be ready enough to guaranty the low Countrys to the Emperor, but I think the English Government will hardly hazard so unpopular a Measure.
As I shall forward this Letter, by the first post, I am in hopes it will find you in Norfolk; and shall therefore trouble you with the execution of a Peice of Business there; which tho' at first a Trifle, is by the unexpected Delay I have met with in it, now become an object of considerable Importance to me. I wanted a few a hundred feet of Cypress Scantlin, for the Collumns, Rails Ballusters &c of the piazzas and steps to your brother Thomson's house. None of this Scantlin being large, it might, I dare say, at any time, have been procured in a Fort-night, if Attention had been paid to it. About this time twelvemonth, or sooner, I wrote to Mr. John Brent and enclosed him an exact bill of this scantlin, and at the same time a memdm. of a large Quantity of Shingles I wanted, & desiring to know if they could be got at Norfolk, so as to be landed here, in the course of last Summer or Fall. I limited the price of the Shingles, but as the Quantity of Cypress Scantlin was small, I limited no price to that, but desired Mr. Brent to have it got as soon as he could & sent up by the first vessel to Potomack River, to be landed about five or six miles below Alexandria, just at the upper End of General Washington's estate, & a very little below the large pocorson, that runs from the mouth of Great Hunting Creek two or three miles down the river. Mr. Brent wrote me, that the shingles could not be procured at the price I had limited; but that I might depend upon the Scantlin's being immediately got and sent up, by the first vessel, at all events in the course of the Summer (vizt. last summer) it not coming, I have wrote repeatedly to Mr. Brent; twice this Spring per post, but have had no answer. The captain of the packet from Alexandria to Norfolk was desired to speak to Mr. Brent about it. Mr. Brent told him the Scantlin was got, but had not been brought to Norfolk, but that it should be at Norfolk, ready for the packet, when she came down the next trip. The next trip the same excuse was made, & the same promise repeated. In short, I find Mr. Brent so careless & inattentive a man, that no dependence or confidence can be placed in him. When the packet was Alexandria, some time ago, your brother Thomson gave the Capt. a Bill of this Scantlin, & desired the Capt. if when he went next to Norfolk, Mr. Brent had not the Scantlin then ready for him, to depend no longer upon him, but to have the Scantlin got, and brought to Norfolk himself, & bring it up with him. The packet went from Alexandria five days ago, & is now, I suppose, at Norfolk; where perhaps she may continue some time. I have lately got all the Shingles, which, with all the weather boarding are ready to put up. The House will be raised next week, and I am in danger of having the Building stop'd, and half a dozen workmen upon my hands, doing nothing, for want of this small quantity of Cypress Scantlin; without which the piazzas can't be raised. What I have therefore, to beg of you, is to inquire immediately of Mr. Brent, & of the Capt. of the packet; and if neither of them have already had the Scantlin got, that you will endeavour to have it got with all possible expedition, and sent up by the packet now there. Or if this can't be done, by the packet the next Trip, or by any other vessel, which may happen to be coming to Alexandria soon for which purpose, I send you, on the other side, a Bill of the Scantlin, with a [full?] description of it. Should you not be able to have this executed, while you stay at Norfolk; there is a Mr. Dyson living in Portsmouth (I believe he keeps the Ferry from Norfolk to Portsmouth) who I have cause to believe will readily do me any good office in his power, & will therefore be a proper person to consult with, & to leave the necessary directions with, concerning the Business; and in this case, upon knowing the cost, I will immediately remit the money to Mr. Dyson, by the Capt. of the packet, or in any other mode he may direct; or perhaps you can make some arrangement for the payment, while you are there & wherever it is brought up, an Agreement should be made with the Captain for the Freight &certified to me. I am, dear John, Yr. affecte. Father
P. S. Pray write me, by the Post, what steps are taken to have the Scantlin got & sent up.