George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Charles Washington, 31 January 1770

To Charles Washington

Mount Vernon Jany 31st 1770

Dr Charles,

If you saw my Brother John in Stafford when you were down there at Christmas; if you had any Conversation with my Br. Saml on the Subject I mentioned to you; and if any time was proposed for your meeting at this place, I shoud be glad to know it, & beg you will write me a line by the first Post after this gets to hand informing me of it accordingly; as I want to prepare for my journey but am desirous before hand of knowing whether I am to go alone or in company as it will make some difference in my preparations.1

As I expect it will now shortly be known, whether the Officers & Soldiers under the Kings Proclamation have any chance to come in for Lands West of the Alligany mountains2 I shoud be glad to know if any of them which may fall in your way woud sell their rights; and upon what terms; tho. I have little expectations that any of them will sell upon such terms as I woud buy, or any person coud afford to buy, unless they warranted the Land; for if the number of Grants (which are of older date to the King’s Proclamation) shoud take place, as their is but too much reason to apprehend, if they do not by clashing with each other, destroy themselves; I woud hardly give any Officer a button for his Right: for besides a large Tract of Country reserved for the Indian Traders, from Fort Pitt near 150 Miles down the Ohio, & up to the Laurell Hill, there appeard by a List laid before the House of Burgesses by Order of the Govr to be between 6 & 7,000,000 of Acres actually granted, & Petitioned for; & most of the Grants made in such generall, & indeterminate terms, that if confirmd, no man can lay off a foot of Land & be sure of keeping it, till they are servd.3

Upon my shewing Mr Thruston (who was formerly a Lieutt, & thereby entitled to 2,000 Acres of Land) a Copy of the Grants, & proceedings of the House of Burgesses thereupon, he immediately sold his right (tho. otherwise very fond of it) to Lund Washington for Ten pounds4—Now, coud I purchase 12 or 15,000 Acres upon the same terms, I woud do it, considering of it as a Lottery only; and my Reason’s for so doing are these—Such a quantity of Land as this, added to what I may expect in my own Right, woud form a Tract of so great dignity as to render it worth my while to send out a Person for the discovery of Land, clear if possible of these numerous grants; and to be at some expence and trouble in seating and Saving it; for without th⟨is⟩ the Land woud soon be forfeited (which I beleive will be the case with half the Officers in this Colony) if they shoud actually obtain the Land. & again, it woud be worth my while thus situated, to buy of some who might under their Grants think I clash’d with them.

Upon the whole, as you are situated in a good place for seeing many of the Officers at different times,5 I shoud be glad if you woud (in a joking way, rather than in earnest at first) see what value they seem to set upon their Lands, and if you can buy any of the rights of those who continued in the Service till after the Cherokee Expedition, at the rate of about five, Six, or Seven pounds a thousand acres I shall be obligd to you, & will pay the money upon demand. I am of opinion that Chew,6 & some of those who may be in want of a little ready money, would gladly sell; nor is it much to be wondered at if they shoud, for if those large Grants which I have already mentiond shoud take place the purchaser will have sunk so much money to very little purpose; nor is the Officer’s right under the Proclamation of any consequence to those who either does not resolve to go after the Land himself, or employ others to do it for him; the first I do not suppose many are inclind to, the last is hardly worth the expense for small tracts; & the Officer is as much obliged to find the Land as any other individual; nor is his Title, if he be not entitled to some degree of preference, a jot better than any other Man’s who will go in pursuit of Lands himself, except that he is to enjoy it 10 years free of Quitrents.

If you shoud make any purchases, let it be done in your own name; for reason’s I shall give you when we meet—take Bonds in large Penalties to convey all their Rights under the Kings Proclamation to you; and they shoud be obligd to suffer their names to be made use of to obtain the Land, as the Kings Proclamation requires a Personal application to the Govr & Council in order to entitle them to the Respective quantities granted. In looking over the List of Grants that were laid before the Ho. of Burgesses I perceivd one for 10,000 Acres to a certain Ambrose Powell (who I beleive lives in Culpeper County) lying above the Mouth of the great Kanhaway—this is comprehended within our Grant of 200,000 Acres, it is also fixed at a place where two or three other Grants are laid & I believe some of them older; but yet, as it lyes in the way of a scheme I have in view; and woud, in some small degree promote my Plan if I had it, I shoud be obligd to you if ⟨yo⟩u woud enquire in a round about way who this Powell ⟨is⟩, where he lives, &ca; & tell me who you think the most ⟨lik⟩ely person for me to employ to purchase his right to ⟨the⟩ Grant7—You need not let your reasons for enquir⟨ing⟩ after Powell be known, till you have given me what information you can concerning him, least it may give him or others cause to imagine that his grant is more valuable than it really is: In fact, I do not think th⟨at⟩ it ⟨is⟩ intrinsically worth a groat (tho. I woud give ⟨eight or⟩ Ten pounds for it, If I coud not get it for less) ⟨inasmuch⟩ as it is totally swallowed up in other Grants; but ⟨several⟩ of this sort may in some measure give me a prior ⟨claim to⟩ have my share of the 200,000 Acres laid of abo⟨ve the⟩ Mouth of the Gt Kanhaway where I am told the ⟨land is⟩ very fine, it is for this reason therefore I would ev⟨en give⟩ a tittle for Powell’s.8

In the whole of your transactions, either w⟨ith the⟩ Officers, or on this other matter; do not let it be kno⟨wn that⟩ I have any concern therein. I have Inclosd y⟨ou a copy⟩ of the Bond I drew from Thruston to Lund Was⟨hington,⟩ which will serve you for a Precedent in case you ⟨shoud⟩ make any purchases—I have put your name ⟨in the⟩ place of Lund Washington’s as I would have the ⟨title⟩ given to you, & not to me, till matters are rip⟨er than⟩ they appear to be at present. I shall take c⟨are to⟩ furnish you with money as you may find oc⟨casion⟩ to compleat the quantity I have mentioned. ⟨Show no⟩ part of this Letter, so that you can be drawn into ⟨no trou⟩ble or difficulty in t⟨he⟩ Affair. In the mean ⟨time I⟩ shoud be glad if you would write to me fully by the first post after this gets to hand. I am Yr Most Affecte Brother

Go: Washington

P.S. Inclosd you will receive 30/ to pay the within Acct of James Browns—tho. I think it is a most enormous charge as I shoud be glad you would tell him.9

ALS, DLC:GW. The portions of the letter in angle brackets are taken from Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 3:1–4.

1John Augustine Washington with his wife and one daughter, Samuel Washington, and Lawrence Washington of Chotank, also with a daughter, all arrived at Mount Vernon on 22 Feb. and remained until 1 March. The third brother, Charles Washington, did not get to Mount Vernon until 16 Mar., accompanied by Fielding Lewis, their brother-in-law. The journey that GW is referring to may be that of October 1770 to Pennsylvania and the Ohio country, with only James Craik as a traveling companion. For a possible indication of the “Subject” of the family meeting, see Edmund Pendleton to GW, 3 July 1769.

2By the terms of the royal proclamation in 1763, the governors of the colonies in America had been instructed to give land to the officers and men who had served in America during the war just ended, but the proclamation also banned the granting of land in the transmontane west. Consequently, the veterans of the French and Indian War still had not received their bounty land. Treaties with Indians in 1768 ceding rights to a large area in the West (see note 3) inspired the general expectation that restrictions on the granting of western lands imposed by the Proclamation of 1763 were at the point of being lifted. Under the terms of the proclamation, GW was entitled to 5,000 acres.

3For the attempt by Sir William Johnson and the Iroquois to reserve land by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 for the “Suffering Traders,” see Andrew Lewis to GW, 1 Mar. 1770, n.2. On 29 Nov. 1769 the burgesses voted to ask the governor, Lord Botetourt, to give the house an account of all petitions to the governor and council for orders to take up lands across the Alleghenys and of all such orders issued. Botetourt complied and then assured them that the “Faith of Government” was not involved in carrying through with orders not yet confirmed (see JHB description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 1766–1769, 302, 304, 317–18, 319, and 323). For the list of orders and petitions prepared by Nathaniel Walthoe, clerk of the council, on the orders of the governor, see Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 6:688–703.

4GW records in his Cash Accounts for January 1770 paying Lund Washington £10 for the claim to bounty lands that Rev. Charles Mynn Thruston had under the terms of the royal proclamation of 1763, for his service as a lieutenant in the 2d Virginia Regiment in 1758. In 1773 GW used the Thruston warrant to claim 2,000 acres on the Great Kanawha within William Crawford’s 1771 survey, but it was not until 12 April 1784 that the grant for the land was issued to GW (see GW to Thomas Lewis, 1 Feb. 1784, n.6).

5Charles Washington at this time was living in Fredericksburg. This clause has been cited in support of the tradition that he built and operated the Rising Sun Tavern in that place.

6Larkin Chew, a lieutenant in the 2d Virginia Regiment, was shot in the arm in May 1759 in an encounter with Indians after the Forbes campaign. He was the brother of Colby Chew, an ensign in GW’s 1st Virginia Regiment, who was killed in September 1758 near Fort Duquesne.

7See note 3. On 3 Mar. 1752 the council approved the issuing of a warrant of survey to Ambrose Powell for “Ten Thousand Acres in Augusta begining on Alleghany [Ohio] above the mouth of New [Kanawha] River to continue up the said River for quantity” (Exec. Journals of Virginia Council description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends , 6:693). Powell, who in 1750 accompanied Dr. Thomas Walker in his well-known exploration of Kentucky, did live in Culpeper County where he was a surveyor and vestryman.

8Most of the bounty lands that GW acquired in 1771 and 1773 under the proclamations of 1754 and 1763 were on the Great Kanawha and Ohio rivers. For a recapitulation of GW’s acquisition of western lands before the Revolution, see GW to Samuel Lewis and to Thomas Lewis, both 1 Feb. 1784, and notes in both documents.

9For GW’s payment to James Brown dated 3 Feb., see his Cash Accounts, February 1770. James Brown was a silversmith in Fredericksburg.

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