Virginia Fairfax County Gunston Hall July 15th 1788.
My Son John has lately entered into Partnership with two Maryland Gentlemen of the Name of Fenwick; who had established a House in Bourdeaux, about two Years ago: they begin with a small Capital of three thousand pounds Sterling (vizt. 1,000 each) and their plan is to give no Credits in America for a single Livre; they will therefore neither pay any Man's Bills, or send him Goods for more than the certain Value of his Effects in their Hands; and even for that, they hope not to be drawn on, until they shall have had a reasonable time to sell the Commodities consign'd them, to the best Advantage. They intend to confine themselves entirely to the Consignment Business, & send out no Goods upon their own Account. They will charge such reasonable Commissions as will enable them to pay due Attention to the Interest of their Correspondents, but will debit no fictitious Charges, nor anything but what they actually pay. The Goods they send to their Correspondents they will buy themselves, compare the Quality with the Prices, and trust to no Man. In this Plan they will steadily persevere; and tho' it may contract their Business within narrow Limits at first, they trust it will soon encrease upon a safe and solid Foundation, by proving mutually advantageous to their Correspondents & themselves.
They intend to establish a Credit, by proper Funds, in some reputable House in London, for the Convenience of such of their Correspondents, as may chuse to have their Bills paid there, rather than in France; and will advise them accordingly. John has been fortunate in his first outset, having loaded one Ship, this Summer, in a third less time than they had contracted for, and having more Tobacco engaged than she cou'd carry, they immediately chartered another, which is now almost full, and will be ready to sail in a few Days. John went out himself in the first Ship, which sailed on the 22d. of June last, and expects to arrive, about the first of August, at Bourdeaux, where he will probably reside some Years.
There being no other American House in Bourdeaux, they flatter themselves that they will find some Preference from their Countrymen, as long as they continue to deserve it. More they have no right to expect. The Firm of the House is Fenwick Mason & Compy Merchants in Bourdeaux; and I think I can venture to assert that such Gentlemen as are pleased to make a Trial of the House, will find from them the strictest Integrity, as well as Diligence, & Attention to their Interest. It is in this Confidence, that I beg leave to sollicit Your Interest in their Favour, by recommending them to Your Friends. From the late Encouragements given in France to the American Trade, I shou'd imagine some of the Exports from the Eastern States, particularly Spermacaeti, Whale-bone, Oyl, & Lumber, will find a better Market there than in any other Part of Europe.
I shou'd not have taken the Liberty to have given you this Trouble, had not your personal Acquaintance with my Son John afforded you an Opportunity of judging whether he deserves Confidence; and in the Hope, that a Correspondence with the Gentlemen of Your State will prove mutually advantageous. I sincerely wish You Health, and every Felicity; and am very respectfully, Dr Sir, Your most obdt Servt.