ALS signed “Go: Washington,” one page both sides, 7.25 x 11.75, Mount Vernon, May 25, 1785. Letter to Major Robert Lewis and Sons. In full: “In consequence of your letter of the 5th of last month, I discharged Willm Roberts from his attendance at my Mill. It now is, & has been for some times past without a Miller—and as Mr. Davenport from your acct would be ready to take charge of it in about three, not seven, weeks, and not yet come, and nor any acct of him, I am apprehensive of some disappointment.
If this is the case, I should be glad to know it as soon as possible, One Baker who referred to you for a character, & was employed by Col. Biddle at his Mill near George Town (Maryland) has applied to me; but considering myself under an engagement I gave him no encouragement. A person who writes the enclosed letter has also offered; but I gave him no answer, and some others have likewise made applications; but as I depended upon Davenport I asked for no character, nor enquired into their qualifications.
If Davenport should have disappointed me, would Baker answer my purpose? Would Reynolds do better? Or have you any other in view which you may think preferable to either? I am sorry to give you so much trouble with my affairs but hope you will excuse it.”
Two slips are affixed to the inside of the second integral page. One reads, “This letter was found many years ago, among the papers of my grandfather Robert Lewis. I desire my son Robert will take charge of it. Laurence Lewis, February 22, 1849.” Second slip traces the Lewis genealogy from Ellis Lewis (1680–1750) to Robert S. Lewis (b. 1919). Reverse of second integral page bears a free franked address panel in Washington’s hand to “Messrs. Robt Lewis & Sons, Merchts, Philadelphia,” and franked in the lower left, “Free, Go. Washington.” Partial separations along the very fragile intersecting mailing folds, a few trivial areas of paper loss along folds, moderate toning, old tape repairs, a few small areas of paper loss along edges, one area affecting last number in date, and scattered light soiling, otherwise good condition.
As the British evacuated the last of their troops from the newly independent United States at the close of 1783, Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief and returned to Mount Vernon. Though his retirement was brief, returning to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to take his place as president of the Constitutional Convention, the break did enable him to set straight affairs at his beloved plantation. Built in 1771 to increase the production of flour and cornmeal for export, his enormous stone gristmill had remained little utilized while he was at war. In this letter, he seeks out the proper Miller to run it. On their own, both Washington free franks and letters in his hand are highly desirable: this piece, with its free-franked panel still attached to the complete ALS, is exponentially more so: an extraordinary piece! Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.