George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Boucher, 3 March 1770

From Jonathan Boucher

Caroline [c.3 March 1770]


It gives Me infinite Uneasiness to find myself under a Necessity of making a disagreeable application to You; but so am I circumstanced that this is almost my last Resort, to preserve Me from a very distressg Situa[tio]n.

Doubtless, You have heard of the calamitous Fate of poor Mrs Campbell. At the Best, her Situa[tio]n was piteous; but it was rendered much more so by her being deserted by every Friend & Relative. I never had an insensible Heart; but a Female reduced from Opulence to extreme Indigence & penury was an object I never could look on, unmov’d. There were few of her Acquaintance who could not have been of more effectual Service to Her than I, who neither have a Fortune, nor have yet learn’d how to make one. Yet (unluckily for Me in this Instance) I had Credit; & the Sheriff offering to trust Me for any Slaves I might chuse to purchase, till April, my Discre[tio]n yielded to my Humanity, & I bought, for Mrs Campbell’s Use, to the Amount of £370. Of this Mr Claiborne promises to pay 50£ & Mr Roger Dixon £100, wc. He owed to Mrs Campbell: The Balance I am accountable for. Will it be in your Power, Sir, to lend Me this Sum?1 I am asham’d almost to tell You, that if You cannot, I see no other Means of raising it with Certainty, but by selling my Negroes, which yet I cannot do without infinite Inconvenience. I have try’d to collect it from outstanding Debts here in Virga, but in vain: I try’d to borrow it in Maryland, equally in vain. So that, in Truth, I find myself reduc’d to a chance of being broke up for a Sum not much exceeding £200. I am in Hopes Mastr Custis’s Estate may be able to spare This, which I can only promise to pay again, if requir’d, in any Time after a Year; & that You may run no Risque, I will either give You sufft personal Security, or a Mortgage of Negroes of much more Value than the Sum I ask.2

It may appear to You perhaps, Sir, that I have been very improvident to be thus perplex’d in raising £220; & This is but too true; for as I never had a Wish to become a rich Man, I have only endeavoured so to square my Expences, as that my Income might just ansr my own Occasions, witht ever dreamg of so unexpected a Demand as the present.

Let me only add, that if You can by any Means, oblige Me with this Money, You will observe it must be before the first of April; & that your doing it will be conferring a very lasting Obliga[tio]n on, Sir, Yr most Obedt & very Hble Servt

Jonan Boucher

Mr Addison, who left This a few Days ago, has undertaken to purchase Me a waiting Boy, as I am in great Want of one; & to send Him over to your House, by Friday, in Hopes it may be in your Power to contrive Him down to Me. As Joe will probably have some Luggage, I fear He will not be able to bring Him, otherwise I believe He might witht hurtg his Horse. If You see He cannot, I beg You wd by no means send on purpose, but be so good as to let the Boy (if indeed I get one) stay with You, till some conven[ien]t oppty offers.3


1Boucher wrote in his Reminiscences description begins Jonathan Bouchier, ed. Reminiscences of an American Loyalist, 1738–1789: Being the Autobiography of The Revd Jonathan Boucher, Rector of Annapolis in Maryland and afterwards Vicar of Epsom, Surrey, England. Boston, 1925. description ends (pp. 63–64): “A near neighbour of mine, the widow of a Colonel Spotswoode . . . had married a Mr. [John] Campbell, a native of Jamaica, where he was supposed to have large possessions. (He was a sensible and an agreeable man; and we were good neighbours.) But they had been expensive; and of course were soon plunged into great difficulties. To extricate them out of these, Mr. Campbell said it was necessary to go to Jamaica. He did go, but never returned, having long since settled in Bruxelles, where last summer I called upon him, but could not see him, and where he seems to live utterly unmindful of his wife and Virginia. In two or three years after he went away his creditors grew impatient; and ere long, as there was but little of any other property to seize, all his wife’s jointure was seized, to be sold during his life. Mrs. Campbell during her prosperity had been thought to carry her head high; and of course everybody, instead of endeavouring to alleviate her misfortunes, seemed to rejoice in her fall. I could not bear this; and so, at the sales of her effects which were chiefly slaves, I laid out not only Mr. [Joseph] Tickell’s three hundred pounds, but two hundred pounds more of my own. And with the negroes I thus bought I wrought the plantations, so as not only decently to maintain her, but also in five years’ time fully to repay myself: and from that time to this, though the negroes are still legally mine, she has had the sole use and benefit of them.” Mary Dandridge Spotswood Campbell, Martha Washington’s cousin, had been left a wealthy widow when her husband John Spotswood died in 1758. At that time she was called the “reigning Toast” of Fort Cumberland (see GW to Sarah Cary Fairfax, 12 Sept. 1758, and note 6 of that document). An advertisement for the sale of the land and slaves belonging to Mrs. Campbell appears in the Virginia Gazette (Rind; Williamsburg), 4 Dec. 1766. Mr. Claiborne may be Philip Whitehead Claiborne. Roger Dixon was a prominent Fredericksburg merchant.

2GW’s response to this letter is missing, but see Boucher to GW, 2 April.

3Joe is John Parke Custis’s servant. For Boucher’s “waiting Boy,” see Boucher to GW, 2 April.

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