George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Samuel Washington, 6 December 1771

To Samuel Washington

Mount Vernon Decr 6th 1771.

Dear Brother,

Your Letter of the 30th Ulto came to my hands the 3d Instt1—That Mr Smith is dead, is no wonder; that he lived so long, is a matter of some surprize to me, as every body expected to have the burying of him into whose house he came—What a pretty situation your family would have been in, if he had obtaind leave to Innoculate? after having receivd the Infection you would have been left to the mercy of Providence; for I was morally sure he could ⟨not live to carry⟩ you through it at any rate & I suppose the little fatiegue, & trouble he must have undergone would necessarily have hasten’d his end. This being his Situation, what a Madman must he have been, to quit his House & Friends in pursuit of so vain a shadow? to persist in it to the last; argued something of insanity.2

I cannot help thinking, that you & our Friend Warner, are a little out of luck to be pesterd in the manner I hear you are, with Glostonian’s in pursuit of Land3—and I cannot help thinking also that, our Brother Charles is acting the part of a madman, to Rent his land to People of such force, who must, in the nature of things cut down and destroy his Land to all Intents & purposes; to the manifest injury of his Children, who would otherwise consider those Lands as by odds the most valuable part of their Inheritance.4

You wrote me word sometime ago that a Tenant of mine, was desirous of raising money in your hands for the discharge of his Rent; if you think there is a probability of his doing of it, I should much rather take it in that way, than by distress, & should be glad if you would order it so accordingly, & ask the other’s, as you may accidentally see them, in what manner they purpose to pay; as I am resolvd, so soon as Gholson’s Rent for the present year becomes due, to destrain for the whole; as I also will for all the Arrearages of Kennedy’s after March when I think by his Lease I have a right so to do.5

Mr Warner Washington6 told me that, he did not doubt but some of the lowlander’s (that were in pursuit of Land) would be very glad to Rent that ⟨place⟩ of Kennedy’s after his term expires, which will be at Christmas in the next year; if so, I would Rent all that remains untenanted on the left hand side of the Road from my Brother John’s place to Doctr McCarmick’s containing as near as I can guess about 600 Acres—If I gave a lease it should not be for a less Rent than £40 a year as that is not more than the Interest of the money I could sell the Land for if so much; I would not have you agree with any one for it even at this Rent, as there is a person wanting it, that I should Incline to give the preference to, but I should be glad you would intimate the matter to any that may be in want by way of sounding them the result of which please to let me know—the Wood Land between the Road aforementioned & your Line of the Surplus Land I shall always reserve by way of Support to the Tract as I expect to have most of the other Timber destroy’d notwithstanding the clause in my Leases reserving a certain proportion of wood to each Lott.7 I have a small Tract of Land lying between the Lines of Mr Wormley Mr Keith, Mr Alexander, the Land of the Tract Surveyed in the name of Richd Sanford, & Colo. George Lee, which I would sell. By the Proprietors Deed it should contain 183 Acres; but by Plotting the Courses & measuring the figure they make, there is 273 Acres which of them is right or whether either, I do not know—but I told Mr Warner Washington I would take £250 for it be it more or less—or if he has nevr offered it to any body I would rather take 25/an Acre, & stand to the measure of it myself if it lyes in your way to mention this matter to any of the Land buyer’s I should be obligd to you as it is only fit to be sold, or Rented & possibly would not rent for the Interest of the Money.8

If Mr Keith and you are upon friendly terms, I should be obligd to you if you could discover from him whether he would sell a tract of Land which he holds in this County & upon what terms—I do not want it myself but have promised to come at this knowledge (if I can) in behalf of another and do not know how to do it unless you can assist me.

I hope it is unnecessary for me to add that, I shall always think myself very happy in seeing you here whenever you can make it convenient. I have been expecting my Brother John & Mr Lawe Washington with their Wives; but do not well know what to think of their coming now, as John was to have been up to Frederick & down again before this and I learn from Crawford that he has not made the Trip as yet.9 The two old Burgesses are chosen for Richmond; but Colo. F. Lee’s Electn I hear is to be disputed by Muse, who it is said was within two of him10—Lee’s are again chosen for Westmoreland, & the squire it seems by Colo. Phi⟨lip⟩ Lee’s making abt 30 Votes on the day of Election;11 Alexander & Peyton are Elected for Stafford; Jones & Fitzhugh for King George—Grymes shut out of Spotssylvania & Grayson disappointed in Prince Wm the old ones being choose12 & in our County no Pole was taken.13 Mrs Washington &ca present their Love to my Sister & yrself along with that of Dr Sir Yr Most affect. Br.

Go: Washington


1Letter not found.

2John Smith was at Mount Vernon on 22 Oct. on his way to Frederick County court where he intended to secure permission from the local magistrate to inoculate Samuel Washington and his family but died before he could do it. Smith lived for many years at Shooter’s Hill, Middlesex County, the home of his wife Mary Jacquelin Smith (1714–1764). In 1767 Smith returned to Northumberland County and established a smallpox hospital at his old home, Fleets Bay. He was accused of having caused several outbreaks of smallpox by not quarantining patients for a long enough time.

3By Glostonians, GW probably means men of Gloucester County in the Tidewater. The Warner mentioned here is probably Warner Washington’s son Warner (1751–1789) who had the previous year married Mary Whiting of Gloucester County. He by this time may have been living in his new home Clifton, three quarters of a mile north of his father’s Fairfield, in Frederick County.

4GW may be referring to Charles Washington’s Frederick County lands, to which he moved from Fredericksburg in 1780.

5Anthony Gholson rented a 113-acre parcel of GW’s Frederick County land above Worthington’s Marsh from 1768 until at least as late as 1786. Rental was set at £4 a year. Gholson did not make his first payment until 19 Oct. 1772, at which time he paid £18.15.0 to cover his arrears through 1771 (Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 305; Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 31; Frederick County Deed Book, 22 Mar. 1769, pp. 10–12). David Kennedy rented a part of GW’s Bullskin lands in Frederick County from 1766 to 1773. At the end of 1772, he owed GW £178, more than six years of back rent. In 1773 and 1774, GW received from George Johnston in payment for Kennedy a total of £153.15.11, leaving only one year’s rent due (Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 248; Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 22). On 4 April 1787 Kennedy gave GW the following promissory note: “I acknowledge the above Balance due General Washington of Twenty Eight pounds which I Promise to Pay with Interest From this Date” (NjP:De Coppet Collection). See also Kennedy’s Account with GW, December 1759 to 20 Aug. 1784 (NjMoHP). During the Revolution until his death in 1781, Samuel Washington received much of what rent GW’s tenants in Frederick or Berkeley counties paid (see Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 22, 31, 32, 72).

6This is Warner Washington, Sr.

7Samuel, Charles, and John Augustine Washington all inherited land northwest of Charles Town from Lawrence Washington. For GW’s several tracts of land in Frederick County, most of which were located on the waters of Bullskin Creek, see Land Grant, from Thomas, Lord Fairfax, 20 Oct. 1750, in Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends , 1:47–48, and notes. For the tract in the area belonging to Dr. John McCormick (McCarmack), see George Washington’s Professional Surveys, 22 July 1749–25 October 1752, ibid., 31; and Cash Accounts, August 1760, ibid., 6:443–4.

8GW’s survey and plat of his 183–acre tract is dated 7 April 1760 (CSmH), as is the grant from Lord Fairfax (Northern Neck Grants, Book K, 98). The land appeared on his quitrent list for the first time in 1763. Mr. Wormley is Ralph Wormeley and Mr. Alexander is Garrard Alexander. Mr. Keith is probably James Keith (1734–1824), clerk of the Frederick County court. See Northern Neck Grant Book K, 98, 7 April 1760. GW wrote in his diary for 2 June 1772: “Went to Run off the Land Captn. Kennedy lives on also my smaller Tract by Mr. Keiths. Accomplished the former but not the latter” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:112).

9Valentine Crawford was at Mount Vernon from 3 to 8 December. No mention of a visit in December from any of the Washingtons appears in GW’s diary. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:74–80. GW’s brother John Augustine Washington and his cousin Lawrence Washington of Chotank did not come to Mount Vernon until the next month (ibid., 83).

10After his arrival, Lord Dunmore dissolved the old assembly on 12 Oct. 1771. The new assembly was supposed to meet on 12 Dec., but Dunmore prorogued it until 10 Feb. 1772. The “two old Burgesses” for Richmond County were Robert Wormeley Carter (1734–1797) and Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797). Hudson Muse (1740–1799) did not challenge Lee’s election in the House of Burgesses.

11The Lees who were representing Westmoreland County were “Squire” Richard Lee (1726–1795) and Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794). Col. Philip Ludwell Lee, brother of Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, was a member of the governor’s council.

12John Alexander, Jr. (1735–1775), and Yelverton Peyton (c.1735–c.1794) were the burgesses from Stafford County; and Joseph Jones (1727–1805) and William Fitzhugh (1741–1809) of Somerset and Chatham were elected in King George County. George Stubblefield and Mann Page, Jr. (1749–1803), replaced Benjamin Grymes and Roger Dixon in Spotsylvania County; and Henry Lee and Foushee Tebbs were reelected from Prince William County. William Grayson was elected to serve in the House of Delegates from Prince William in 1784.

13GW and Col. John West, the “old ones” in Fairfax County, were unopposed.

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