George Washington maintained detailed private and plantation accounts throughout his life. During his years of public service he added other layers of public accounts, cash disbursements, and receipts. Although most of his cash memorandum records have not survived, enough of his accounts remain to offer several windows and avenues of access into his complex financial world.
Washington's records show that he took great pride in maintaining clear, concise, and accurate records. During his life Washington was responsible for millions of dollars in public and private expenditures for his household, his wife Martha's estates, his agricultural and milling business enterprises, his land investments, the Virginia militia, the Continental Army, and the federal government. Auditors closely examined his records without finding fault. Although long known to scholars, these records have been seldom used compared with Washington's diaries or correspondence. Disguised by formidable financial formats, these records have hidden detailed, exciting information on how Washington and his private, public, and military households or families lived on a daily basis.
New evidence of the roles of women, blacks, and ordinary laborers is here in abundance. How many people know that Washington had two housekeepers during the Revolutionary War, Mary Smith and Elizabeth Thompson, who traveled with the army, maintaining Washington's military household? How many people know that Martha Custis Washington's widow's estate from her first marriage was maintained as a separate household account from George Washington's? How many people know who actually made the furniture and clothes for Mount Vernon and its inhabitants? Or, what charities were favored by Washington? Or, the foods supplied for Washington's own table, his servants, his slaves, and his public aides? How many people know about the sources from which Washington derived his income? All of these interesting questions and more can be answered in Washington's financial and accounting records.
General Account Books (-TOP-)
Ledger Book 1, 1750 - 1772
Ledger Book 2, 1772 - 1793
These two books contain the basic business accounts of George Washington's estates for forty-three years. A name index for each volume provides the user with access to records showing receipts and expenditures in transactions with individuals. All receipts and expenses for goods and services generated by Washington's Mount Vernon estate can be found here. Mostly in Washington's own hand, these records show everything from the acquisition of land and slaves to the sale of fish, farm products, the work of servants, the operation of mills, and the sale of slaves.
Account Book 1, 1755 - 1766
Washington's correspondence and invoices with his London business "factors" or agents are found in these volumes. Fortunately for scholars and students of social and economic history, Washington's records even include the local London suppliers and artisans who produced the purchased goods.
Account Book 2, 1767 - 1775
This volume wholly in Washington's hand contains his business correspondence with merchants in the American colonies as well as in London. Although bound together in one book, it appears to be two overlapping records: one of general business and the other of land acquisitions.
Invoices, 1766-1773; Miscellaneous Lists, 1755 - 1774
The invoices in this volume are those of goods shipped from London merchants to Washington. They cover everything from needles and pine to bales of cloth and bars of iron. The lists include quit-rents due Lord Fairfax for his lands (rental fees paid by a freeholder to his feudal landlord); county taxes due on lands throughout Virginia; and tithables (that is, church taxes) for adults living on Washington's estates. The range of Washington's landholdings are in evidence in these records. The tithe tax includes information on the race and occupational skills of those taxed.
Weaving Accounts, 1767 - 1771
This volume records weaving done by Washington's on-site cloth weavers, led by Thomas Davis, a white artisan. The records indicate Washington's interest in being self-sufficient but also in turning a profit. In 1770, for example, Davis produced linen, bed ticking, broad cloth, striped woolen, striped silk, striped jersey, and double birdeye, which was valued by Washington at £44.11.0. Washington's use of both slaves and white artisans together are recorded here. Washington operated profitable mills, threshing barns, forges, and a fishery at Mount Vernon, using indentured servants, slaves, and hired artisans. Washington's weavers produced yarn and cloth for his neighbors, as well as for those who worked in Mount Vernon's many operations.
Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts, 1755 - 1758
This is Washington's traditional account book of receipts and expenditures for the period of his military actions. Expenses for British General Edward Braddock's campaign against the French and for the ensuing period of Washington's command of the Virginia frontier forces in the Shenandoah Valley are central to these records. Accounts record expenditures for munitions, recruiting, supplies, and for spying on French and Indian opponents. Records of the receipts in the volume of the same date above are included in these more comprehensive accounts.
Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts: Memorandum Book, 1757 - 1758
This is, in Washington's words, "Memm. how the 4000£ Receiv'd of Mr. Boyd is expended." It is the record of the expenditure of a single monetary disbursement. Alexander Boyd was the paymaster for Virginia's militia during the French and Indian War. Boyd maintained the Disbursement Book for 1758, below.
Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts: Memorandum Book, 1758
In this brief account book, Washington recorded expenditures of funds for the period April 3 through May 24, 1758. Most of his expenditures for this period went for pay for troops, enlistments, horses, and quartermaster supplies.
Virginia Colonial Militia Accounts: Recruiting Funds, 1758
This small volume, as entitled by Washington, is a "Memorandum of money paid to Recruits for the Virginia Regiment," which he commanded. The records for May and June, 1758, show the expenditure of £400 in Virginia currency for recruits to serve on the frontier.
Virginia Colonial Militia Disbursement Book, 1758
This brief book was maintained by Paymaster Alexander Boyd. It contains receipts for cash disbursements for £173, 2 shillings, and 6 pence made during the period June 14-19, 1758. Most of the expenditures were for forage and baggage.
Cash Memorandum Book, 1772 - 1773
Cash Memorandum Book, 1773 - 1774
Cash Memorandum Book, 1774 - 1775
George Washington maintained these accounts of expenditures and minor receipts of cash primarily for his personal rather than his plantation accounts. But because Washington carried this and the other small memorandum books with him, there are some entries for plantation expenditures and for hiring various laborers and artisans as part of his daily activities. Blotter pages separate account pages in these books. Most of these entries were later transferred to his large ledger and account books that begin Series 5 above.
Although these cash books cover the period during which Washington served as delegate to the First Continental Congress, September and October 1774, and his return to Philadelphia May 1775, he did not record his expenditures there in them.
Cash Memorandum Book, 1775 - 1776; 1783 - 1784
Washington maintained this personal account book while a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and through his first year as commander in chief of the Continental Army. His first purchase upon reaching Cambridge to assume command of the Army was "a ribbon to distinguish myself." After January 1776 Washington abandoned his personal account books (like his diaries) for the duration of the war. This cash book resumes in September 1783. His records for the war years can be found in his Revolutionary War Accounts below.
Revolutionary War Warrant Book 1, 1775 - 1776
Revolutionary War Warrant Book 2, 1776 - 1778
Revolutionary War Warrant Book 3, 1778 - 1779
Revolutionary War Warrant Book 4, 1779 - 1780
Revolutionary War Warrant Book 5, 1780 - 1783
Washington's warrant books list written authorizations to receive or deliver goods or money and are signed by Washington. These warrants were used by quartermasters to issue vouchers to acquire forage, supplies, munitions, clothing, transportation, etc., for the use of the American military. These warrants were also generally used to maintain Washington's headquarters.
Warrants could be redeemed by the army paymasters, but most often they were used like cash by the recipient. Warrants, like bills of exchange and vouchers, were often heavily discounted; that is, they depreciated in value. The fortunes of war could be traced through the discount rates on warrants, vouchers, and Continental dollars.
Revolutionary War Expense Account, 1775 - 1783
George Washington refused to accept a salary as commander in chief, instead offering to claim only his expenses. Congress readily accepted this offer in 1775. At the end of the war, Washington compiled his own general accounts from the record books in this Revolutionary War section of Series 5. He calculated that £ was equivalent to $26, which was generous on his part because at times the dollar depreciated to hundreds of dollars to a single British pound sterling. Washington's total expenses of $160,074 included not only his personal accounts but expenses for his headquarters (which he referred to as his "military family"), secret intelligence (spy services), and traveling expenses for his headquarters and guards, commanded by Captain Caleb Gibbs. After a careful examination of these accounts and their supporting documentation, James Milligan, Comptroller General of the United States Treasury, found that Washington was due an additional eighty-nine nintieths of one dollar.
This account book is accompanied online by explanatory notes from George Washington's Account of Expenses While Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army 1775-1783 reproduced in facsimile with annotations by John C. Fitzpatrick, Assistant Chief, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917).
Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1, July - December, 1783
These accounts cover the period from July 1, when Washington compiled his official expense accounts for the war, through December 28, 1783, when he submitted his resignation to Congress at Annapolis. This volume is bound together with the following one.
Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 2, 1775 - 1783
Vouchers for payment, and receipts for funds received for supplies of goods and services provided General Washington and his immediate staff during the war are recorded here. These records were used by Washington to compile his Revolutionary War Expense Account above.
Revolutionary War Household Expense Accounts, 1775
Detailed records of cash expenditures for Washington's immediate "military family" were kept by Ebenezer Austin under the direction of Colonel Joseph Reed. Austin, who was the steward of Washington's headquarters household, supervised the food and laundry services for Washington and his staff. Reed served as Washington's private aide and secretary until his appointment as army adjutant general in 1776. This account book covers the period from Washington's arrival in July at army headquarters at Cambridge, Massachusetts, through October 1775.
Revolutionary War Household Expense Accounts, 1775 - 1776
From November 1775 until Washington's departure from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to New York in April 1776, his military headquarters household accounts were kept by Ebenezer Austin under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Harrison. Harrison, an aide to Washington, succeeded Reed as secretary on May 16, 1776.
Revolutionary War Receipt Book, 1776 - 1780
Upon Washington's arrival in New York in May 1776, these memoranda and records of receipts were maintained by Captain Caleb Gibbs. He maintained them as steward from May 13, 1776, to November 15, 1780. Gibbs was a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, and had served in Colonel John Glover's Massachusetts Continental regiment before his appointment on March 12, 1776, as commander of Washington's Life Guards. Late in 1780, Gibbs left to serve as a major in the 2nd Massachusetts Continental regiment and was wounded at Yorktown.
Mary Smith and Elizabeth Thompson served successively as housekeepers of Washington's military headquarters in New York. They managed cleaning, laundry, and cooking during this period. Mary Smith was a widow from New York. June 24, 1776, an anonymous letter to New York authorities claimed to identify her as part of a loyalist group planning to assist the British in their forthcoming campaign against New York. She later fled to England and there received from the British government a loyalist pension of £20. She seems to have left Washington's employ, or been discharged, because, on June 18, before the anonymous letter was written, Washington was writing General James Clinton that he was "entirely destitute" of a housekeeper and had heard good reports of an Elizabeth Thompson from Clinton's "neighborhood." He enclosed a letter to Thompson but it has been lost. Thompson, born in 1704, left Washington's employment in December 1781 and in 1785 received for her service a retirement pension from the Continental Congress (Papers of George Washington. Revolutionary War Series, ed. Philander D. Chase [Charlottesville; London: University Press of Virginia, 1993], 5:132n).
Revolutionary War Household Expenses, 1776 - 1780
These memoranda and daily record of expenditures were maintained by Caleb Gibbs and Mary Smith for Washington's military headquarters. They form one of the most fascinating of Washington's financial accounts in the detail they record of life at headquarters. Gibbs and Smith recorded everything from wages paid to Washington's slaves and servants to the cost of individual items of food, such as eggs, chickens, radishes, and lobster. They recorded the purchase of utensils and furniture, as well as items "captured" from the enemy, such as two fruit baskets and two pudding dishes belonging to British General Frederick Haldimand, military governor of Quebec, taken on July 11, 1776.
Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1, 1776 - 1780
Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 2, 1780 - 1784
Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 3, 1784
Vouchers were written affidavits or promises to pay a specified amount of money. Records of these accounts payable (or amounts owed) were maintained in voucher registers, such as these, by voucher clerks. They were regularly issued instead of money and could be redeemed by military paymasters or quartermasters. Often they circulated as money equivalents and were heavily discounted during the war.
The first two volumes are bound together and contain supporting documents and the final audit of Washington's accounts. These vouchers and memoranda provide the paper proof of expenditures made by Caleb Gibbs, Mary Smith, and others for headquarters household expenses. Also included are correspondence from the Congressional Office of Finance, the Office's final report, and accounts of "monies drawn from the United States" by General Washington during the course of the war.
The third volume includes records of expenses, individual records and vouchers for expenses incurred during the General Meeting of the Society of Cincinnati in May 1784. Washington spent £86, 4 shillings, and 8 pence for the hire of a horse, lodging, and food for himself and servants.
Daily Expenses, 1787
George Washington listed his daily expenses while serving as president of the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, May through September, 1787. Washington recorded daily expenditures for food, lodging, entertainments and recreation, charitable contributions, and other household expenses for himself and his servants.
Daily Expenses, 1793 - 1794
This record of daily expenses covers the period from September 2, 1793, through April 4, 1794, during Washington's second presidency of the United States. The record was maintained by Bartholomew Dandridge, Washington's secretary and Martha Washington's nephew. Among the expenses recorded, those for wood, books, and horses are most frequent.
Mount Vernon Account Book, 1794 - 1796
William Pearce, manager of Washington's plantations for two years, maintained this record of general business accounts of Mount Vernon from January 6, 1794, through November 7, 1796. The record's name index identifies the people who made up the business side of Washington's life. Although Washington was keenly interested in his plantation management, it is clear from these records that his managers controlled the daily activities of Mount Vernon during Washington's presidency.