The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

George Washington to Tobias Lear, November 14, 1790

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.--vol. 31 IMAGES

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.--vol. 31


Mount Vernon, November 14 1790.

Dear Sir: Having wrote two letters to you on the subject of Page's Stage Coach, one or the other of which, if not both, it is presumable will certainly have got to hand before this can, I shall add nothing more thereto than that Page's Coach isnow my dependance.

I am, I must confess, exceedingly unwilling to go into any house without first knowing on what terms I do it, and wish that this sentiment could be again hinted, in delicate terms to the parties concerned with me. I cannot, if there are no latent motives, which govern in this case, see any difficulty in the business.Mr. Morris has most assuredly formed an idea of what ought, in equity, to be the rent of the tenement in the condition he left it, and with this aid, the Committee ought, I conceive, to be as little at a loss in determining what it should rent for with the additions and alterations, which are about to be made, and which ought to be done in aplain andneat manner, not by any means in an extravagant style; because the latter is not only contrary to my wish, but would really be detrimental67 to my interest and convenience, principally because it would be a mean of keeping me from the use and comforts of the House to a late period, and because the furniture, and everything else would require to be accordant therewith, besides its making me pay an extravagant price, perhaps to suit the taste of another or to the exorbitant rates of workmen; or their blended performances in the two Houses.68 I do not know, nor do I believe

[Note 67: Letters from George Washington to Tobias Lear (Bixby edition: 1905) prints the word as "repugnant."]

[Note 68: Letters from George Washington to Tobias Lear prints at this point: "(if they sometimes work at one, and sometimes at the other)."] that anything unfair is intended by either Mr. Morris or the Committee; but let us for a moment suppose that the rooms (the new ones I mean) was to be hung with tapestry, or a very rich and costly paper (neither of which would suit my present furniture) that costly ornaments for the Bow-Windows, extravagant chimney pieces &ca. &ca. were to be provided; that workmen from extravagence or the times for every 20/worth of work would charge 40/;69 and that advantage should be taken of the occasion to new paint every part of the house, buildings &c, would there be any propriety in adding ten or 121/2 pr Cent for all this to the rent of the house in its original state, for the two years that I am to hold it? If the solution of these questions are in the negative, wherein lyes the difficulty of determining that the houses and lots, when finished according to the proposed plan, ought to rent for so much? When all is done that can be done thereto, the residence will not be so commodious as the House I left in New York (with the additional buildings made there); for, there, (and the want of it will be found a real inconvenience at Mr. Morris's) my Office was in a front room below, where persons on business were at once admitted; whereas now they will have to ascend two pairs of stairs, and to pass by the public rooms to go to it.70 Notwithstanding which I am willing to allow as much as was paid to Mr. Macomb, and shall say nothing if more is demanded, unless there is apparent extortion. Extortion, if it should be intended by delay is to see to what height rents will rise,71 I should be unwilling to [submit to] and to take it at the expence ofany public body Iwill not. There is one expression

[Note 69: Letters from George Washington to Tobias Lear prints this: "were to charge a pound for that, which ought not to cost ten shillings."]

[Note 70: Letters from George Washington to Tobias Lear prints this: "as well as private chambers to get to."]

[Note 71: Letters from George Washington to Tobias Lear prints this: "before mine is fixed. In either of these cases I should not be pleased, and to occupy the premises at the expence of" etc.] in your letter of the 4th the meaning of which I do not clearly understand, viz, "The additions, repairs, &ca. of the house, in which Mr. Morris now lives, are likewise to be comprehended in the expenditures to be refunded by the rent of this House." Is it meant by this that the rent of the houseyou are now in is to beencreased by the expenditures on the one Mr. Morris has removed to, or is no more meant by it than that therent of the former is intended as asecurity for the refund.72 The latter may be very proper, but the former could be submitted to on no other ground than that of dire necessity.73 I had rather have heard that my repaired Coach was plain and elegant than "rich and elegant. I am &c.74

[Note 72: Letters from George Washington to Tobias Lear has: "only for payment of the latter."]

[Note 73: Letters from George Washington to Tobias Lear has: "If this is all, have nought to say against it. But dire necessity would only induce me to submit to the other. We all unite in best wishes for you and Mrs. Lear and I am etc."]

[Note 74: From the "Letter Book" copy in fileWashington Papers.]