Washington, George (1732-1799) to John Fairfax
High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.
A high-resolution version of this object is available for registered users. LOG IN
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC07487 Author/Creator: Washington, George (1732-1799) Place Written: Mount Vernon, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: March 1789 Pagination: 2 p. : address ; 30.7 x 18.8 cm.
Before leaving Mount Vernon to serve his first term as President of the United States, Washington instructs Fairfax regarding management of the estate. States that all matters should ultimately be directed by his nephew, Major George Augustine Washington. Encourages Fairfax to manage Mount Vernon more diligently, stating "I have a very good opinion of your honesty, sobriety and industry, and now is the time to give me proofs of your capacity and skill." Laments the current condition of his manor, stating "it is idle and vain for me to attempt to stall feed any kind of Meats; when I have only my expence for my trouble, without a joint of meat which is fit to appear at a Gentlemans Table.- But I will rest in hope, that all these things will undergo a change for the better." Informs Fairfax that if he marries, his wife may "in all respects fare as you do."
Signer of the U.S. Constitution.
Mount Vernon March <31> 1789.
Mr. John Fairfax
As I am now in the act of bidding an adieu to my home - for a longer time perhaps than I wish - I will inform you that it is my intention (if your exertion<s> shall appear to deserve it) to make the wag<e>s of the year you are now engaged for Fifty pounds instead of Forty although I consider my self under no legal or honorary obligations to do so - my only motives for it being, to encourage you to use every endeavour in your power to promote my interest, - under the orders and directions of my Nephew the Major; who will be entrusted with the general management of all my concerns, during my absence.
I have a very good opinion of your honesty, sobriety & industry - and now is the time to give me proofs of your capacity and skill. - For however necessary & important the three first are, they will not be sufficient without the latter. - I have often remarked to you, and I repeat it once more; that contrivance in the arrangement of business, and a happy nack in having it executed by an observance of method; are the distinguishing characteristics of a good Manager. - Indeed they are of such infinite consequence, that no Estate can be well conducted without; for unlesss the different kinds of business which occupy the labourers of every Plantation or Farm, can be brought into one view, and seen in time; and a due proportion of work [inserted: is] exacted from the hands, [inserted: that are to perform it - the different kinds of work] [struck: they] will forever be interfering with, and in the way of each other. Nor is there any way to avoid it but by looking forward in time - [inserted: by] judicious arrangemts - and [inserted: by] making those who are to execute it do what is reasonable & proper without suffering so much time to be spent in the house, under pretence of sickness; which is, in many cases, no other than the effect of Night walking and fatiegue.
It is with pain I receive the Saturday Nights Reports, for no week passes away without a diminution of my stock - Nor is it less painful to me to see the condition of my work Horses - some  dying, and others scarcely able to walk alone. - and to these I might add, as a matter of no less concern & astonishment, that it is idle & vain for me to attempt to stall feed any kind of Meats; when I have only my expence for my trouble without a joint of meat which is fit to appear at a Gentlemans Table. - But I will rest <in> hope, that all these things will undergo a change for the better. -
I am not inclined to your bringing any horse here of you own. Mine are adequate to all the services that my business will require, & more would [inserted: only] add expence without profit.; for I need not tell you, that there must be no <more> running about whilst I am absent than if I was on the spot. - Indeed I have too good an opinion of you to suppose it necessary to remind you of this act of justice. -
As I have already given you plans of those Plantations which are placed under your immediate care - and have detailed the business of each in the best manner my time and judgment would enable me to do; I shall add nothing more on this head than briefly to observe to you, that it is from the Major, with whom I shall corrispond, that you will receive further directions with respect to such matters as have not been detailed - or concerning any alterations in those which have.
If you have any matrimonial scheme in view, I do not wish to be a let or hindrance to the accomplishment of it - or to your bringing a wife into the family - She may eat with, and in all respects, fare as you do. In all things that are reasonable and not inconvenient I am ready & willing to endulge you being your friend.
Mr. John Fairfax
The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.