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LETTERS TO JOHN MASON.

335

passage to some of the Northern or Eastern States, and make a tour to the Southern States in the course of next winter, and if you purpose to establish a house in the commission line upon Potomac River, your principal American consignments here will be from the Eastern States, and therefore a tour through their principal sea port towns, on your way home, in order to settle a correspondence, may be an object of importance. However with respect to your embarking for one of the Southern or Eastern States, the season of the year, in which you expect to arrive will be your best guide. I have shipped per the Washington thirtythree hogsheads of tobacco.

I have received your letters dated in October and November last, and rejoice to hear that your health is in a great measure restored. I rejoice also to hear that I have been mistaken in my opinion respecting the paper money, yet I think it was founded on reason as well as experience ; but really the French Revolution from the beginning has been attended with such extraordinary circumstances that the man who judges of it by comparison with anything else in the annals of mankind, will probably find himself mistaken.

No doubt you have heard that an act of Congress has passed for fixing the permanent seat of government of the Union, after ten years, upon [the] Potomac, at such place as the President should direct, between the mouth of the Eastern Branch and the mouth of Conogochieg (about sixty miles from each other) with the power of laying off ten miles square for the jurisdiction of Congress, and fixing the spot for the public buildings, confining the public buildings, however, to the eastern side of the river. The President has had the miles

laid off in the following manner. Beginning on the upper side of the mouth of Great Hunting Creek and running north-west ten miles (which includes the town of Alexandria), thence north-east ten miles (which crosses Potomac River a little above the Little Falls, and includes all my tract of land there of about two thousand acres), thence south-east ten miles (which includes George Town and the navigable part of the Eastern Branch), thence south-west to the beginning. He has also directed the city for the seat of government, within the said ten miles square, to be laid off in the following manner. Beginning on Potomac River on the lower side the mouth of Rock Creek (just below George Town) thence with the meanders of Potomac River to the mouth of the Eastern Branch and up the meanders of the Eastern Branch about two miles to a point called (I think) Evan's Ferry, thence a course to strike the main road from George Town to Bladensburg about half a mile from the ford, thence with the main road to the ford of Rock Creek, and with the meanders of Rock Creek to the beginning These last boundaries contain about four thousand acres, and the proprietors, I understand, have agreed to give up the whole of the land (reserving the right of selling the wood on it) to defray the charge of the public buildings, &c, on condition of being paid the value of their houses and receiving again respectively half the lots after the town is laid off and the streets adjusted. The spot for the public buildings (which is the most important point) is not yet fixed. The Alexandrians, as usual, are very much buoyed up on the occasion and think their fortunes made forever, although it is evident to any cool, impartial, sensible man, that if the inland navigation of Potomac and Shenandoah is effectually completed and the seat of the federal government fixed near the harbor of the Eastern Branch, Alexandria must become a deserted village.

square

Adieu my dear son ; this, I expect will be the last opportunity I shall have of writing to you while you are in Europe. God bless you and send you safe to your native country and friends. I hope I shall soon have the pleasure of seeing you, and assuring you personally, how much I am

Your affectionate father,

G. Mason

P.S. Your friends here are all well, except your sister Cooke's children, who are under inoculation for the small-pox, but I believe are in a good way. We shall begin to inoculate here and at Lexington " about the end of May. John Mason, Esquire, Merchant in Bordeaux.

By the Washington, Capt. Chilton.'

Mason Papers.

JAMES RIVER MERCHANTS.

337

as it

GUNSTON HALL, July 12, 1791. DEAR JOHN:

I did not receive your letter of the 13th of May via Nantes, until Saturday the gth instant, after that day's post had passed, so that I had no opportunity of conveying a letter to Norfolk, until this day's post. Herewith you will receive a packet (containing several letters) which I have put under cover to Mr. John Brent, as you desired, and hope it will be in time ; but should you have arrived, and have left Norfolk, before my packet reaches the hands of Mr. Brent, I have desired him to send it immediately after you (per post) to Petersburg or Richmond. The letters are all left open for your perusal; you will easily distinguish which are intended as complimentary introductions, merely to entitle you to civilities, and those which may be of use to you in the line of business, or in making you acquainted with the most respectable merchants, for I have myself so little acquaintance with the James River merchants, that I am not able to recommend such may

be
proper

for you to confide in. Most of my letters are to gentlemen in Richmond ; since the death of my worthy friend Colo. Bland, I have no intimate acquaintance nearer Petersburg than Colo. Heth and Mr. David Ross. Colo. Heth having been some years a member of the executive council in Richmond, and having married some years ago in the neighborhood of Petersburg, and lived there a good while, and from his office of collector of the upper district of James River, must be as well acquainted with the situation, and character of all the merchants there as any man in Virginia. I believe he lives near Cabbin Point, or at Bermuda Hundred. You will find him a man of information and good sense, and I am sure his friendship for me will induce him to do you every service in his power; and I think you can confide in any information he gives you. Mr. Ross is also a particular friend of mine, and I think will be ready to do you any good offices in his power. I have also received many instances of civility from Mr. Alexander, who is a very intelligent man, and well acquainted with business. He resided many years in France, and is perfectly acquainted with that country ; but he is a Scotchman, and has the character of an artful, designing man. With this caution, I think he may be serviceable to you, and if it

John Brent was a nephew of Mrs. Mason's.

1

does not in any way interfere with his own interest, I make no doubt will take pleasure in being so; and I think his acquaintance is well worth your cultivating. Mr. David Ross is well acquainted with all the merchants upon James River, and is generally thought to understand commerce better than any man in the State. He is a man of uncommon penetration, and depth of understanding and judgment, by which he has acquired immense possessions, but is said to be very much in debt. He is a very plain man in his manners, and I have always found him a very friendly man, but he too is a Scotchman. I thought it necessary, however, to give you the outlines of his character. Mr. Ross spends as much of his time in Richmond as in Petersburg.

The Governor, Colo. Harvie, and Mr. Marshall are all very worthy men, and intimate friends of mine, but they have never been in any mercantile line, though they may be serviceable to you, in making you acquainted with the most respectable merchants, and in promoting connections with the country gentlemen, if you have a mind to form such. Mr. Hopkins has been many years a commissioner of the Continental Loan Office. He is well acquainted with everybody in that part of the country, has been concerned in trade, is a man of good sense, and has always supported a good character.

It is proper to inform you that Colo. Wood's, the Lieutenant Governor's lady is a distant relation, a second cousin of ours, and the daughter of the late Reverend Mr. Moncure, the most valuable friend I ever had in my life.

Should you have occasion to lodge money any time in Richmond, the iron chests in the public treasury will be the safest place. Colo. Harvie is a very intimate friend of Mr. Ambler, the treasurer, and Mr. Marshall married one of his daughters ; either of these gentlemen can procure you leave to do so.

The present price of tobacco at Richmond and Petersburg I am told is from 17 /o to 20 / Virginia currency, upon Potomac 13 /, and I believe almost any quantity could readily be bought here at 14 / or at most 15 /. It is unfortunate you did not, immediately upon the decree with respect to tobacco, charter and send out a French ship or two. If you had at this instant three or four French ships in the Potomac, they could be readily loaded upon

FRIENDS IN RICHMOND,

339

consignment; but I doubt you have lost the time and that it is now too late to send orders for that purpose to France, as I have reason to believe several of the merchants here have advised their correspondents in Europe to charter French ships as speedily as they can.

Pray write to me as soon as you arrive ; a letter per post will reach me in four or five days from Norfolk, and in two or three from Richmond. I long to see you exceedingly, and so do all your brothers and sisters; yet I think if you load the ship in James River, you had better not leave that part of the country, until you despatch her.

Your brother George is in much better health than he has been for two years past. He thinks he received much benefit, last summer, from the use of the Augusta Springs. He and your brother William spend this season there also. They set out the day before yesterday, and don't intend to return before September.

I wish to hear as soon as possible how your health is, and what effect the voyage has had upon it ; I hope a good one, and am, dear John, Your most affectionate father,

G. Mason.'

Of the friends and acquaintances spoken of by Colonel Mason in this letter, several will be recognized as prominent names of contemporary statesmen. Colonel Bland, George Mason's ally in the Convention, though a silent one; "Mr. Marshall,” his able antagonist, who as Chief Justice was to do so much later towards moulding the plastic form of the new Confederation into its permanent shape, and giving it that bias towards consolidation so much to be deplored; and Colonel Harvie, a member of the Continental Congress, who was long a resident of Richmond, and afterwards removed to “Belvidere," the beautiful country-seat of the Byrds on James River. David Ross was a Scotch merchant who acquired a large landed property in various parts of Virginia's broad domain, and was the original owner of the

| Mason Papers.

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