George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Hanson Harrison, 10 January 1772

From Robert Hanson Harrison

Alexandria January 10. 1772


I do not think you would be safe in purchasing the Land in dispute between Messrs West and Posey. that is that you would be liable to the penalities of the Statute 32 H 8 ch9 which I have Transcribed & herewith send you for your perusal—It does not appear by this Statute that Bonds &c. respecting Sales of pretenced titles are void; It only Subjects the purchasor to a forfeiture of the Value of the Land, that is the bona fide price paid; as It does the Vendor to that of the Sum received; Nor does It Avoid a Conveyance—But should you & Mr West incline to conclude a Bargain, risquing a prosecution on this stat., the best way would be to have Two Deeds; One for the Land to which he is Indisputably Intitled recitg the Consideration paid for that & a separate one for that in dispute.1

I think that the Court will not make a Reservation in the decree as to Barry’s Crop, as he might by his Answer to the Bill (had It been filed at the Court after the Bill was brought) have had his part of the Land ascertained by a Division and then only Cultivated his own—proof of his avowed design of keeping you out of your part, will do no harm, probably be of Service—I shall endeavour to get It tried as soon as possible & If I can get the division to be made upon a day not Interfering with my Attendance at some of my Courts, will most certainly be present.2

I shall apply to the Doctor next Prince William Court for payment tho shall not expect It—If he shall refuse I think It will be Advisable to waite & Arrest him here.3

I Observe your kind postscript. but as my being Appointed to the Office depends upon Mr Graysons leaving the Court & his leaving the Court (probably) upon his being a Representative, I am afraid that the Office is remote—and as Mr Randolp[h], has given his promise I immagine that another Application will not be necessary, however if you think It necessary you will please to do It4—I heartily wish you a much better journey to the Capitol than I think you will have5 And am sir with great respect Yr much obliged Hble Servt

Rob. H: Harrison

P.S. As to the matter of Interest I dont know that the Court can in the present case make Barry pay It but I will Consider of It.

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter was sent “per Will.”

1At the death of Martha Price Posey in 1769, John West, Jr., inherited the plantation neighboring Mount Vernon where Mrs. Posey and her husband, John Posey, had lived. West also entered suit for the adjacent 6–acre strip of land along the Potomac which Posey had bought. GW in the spring of 1769 purchased from West the tract that West had inherited, and at this time he was seeking to gain title to the 6–acre tract claimed by both Posey and West. See GW to John Posey, 24 Sept. 1767, n.3, and particularly West to GW, 26 April 1769, n.2. For other documents relating to the land bought from John West, Jr., and West’s dispute with John Posey over the 6–acre tract, see Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 256, 346; Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 41; lease from John Posey to GW, 23 April 1770, American Art Association catalog, 3 May 1923, and Parke-Bernet catalog 1663, item 148, 27 Mar. 1956; GW’s contract with West, 18 Sept. 1770, DS, in GW’s hand, PHi: Gratz Collection; deed of release from Posey to GW, 8 June 1772, partially printed document filled in by GW and signed, PPRF; lease from West to GW, 21 Sept. 1772, ADS, in GW’s hand, MoSW; release from West to GW, 22 Sept. 1772, ADS (photocopy), DLC:GW; and bond from GW to West (including receipt for payments), 22 Sept. 1772, DS, PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit PPAmP. Harrison enclosed an excerpt from an act entitled “A Bill of Bracery and buying of Titles,” passed in the thirty-second year of Henry VIII’s reign, chapter 9 (Statutes at Large description begins Owen Ruffhead et al., eds. The Statutes at Large . . .. 14 vols. London, 1786–1800. description ends , 2:280–81).

2For the steps GW took to force John and William Barry to divide the Wade tract on Dogue Run so that he could secure title to the half of the tract belonging to Valinda Wade, see note 13, and references, in Cash Accounts, March 1771. Harrison and William Ellzey brought suit in the Fairfax County court in August, and the court ruled that the property should be divided (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:125).

3Acting on behalf of GW and Bryan Fairfax, Harrison was attempting to force Dr. William Savage to pay the annuity to which his wife Margaret Savage was entitled. See GW to Margaret Savage, 27 Jan. 1772. For general discussions of the Savage affair, see Henry Lee and Daniel Payne to GW, 24 April 1767, n.1, and GW to Margaret Savage, 28 June 1768, nn.2 and 4

4William Grayson apparently had hoped to be elected to the House of Burgesses in Prince William County at the election in December 1771, but he did not become a member of the Virginia legislature until 1784. See GW to Samuel Washington, 6 Dec. 1771. Grayson, who at this time was living in Fairfax County, some years earlier had been appointed deputy king’s attorney by the governor at an annual salary of 3,000 pounds of tobacco (Fairfax County Order Book, 1770–72, p. 68; Fairfax County Order Book, 1772–74, pp. 107, 146). For the mode of appointment and the duties of a deputy king’s attorney, see 4 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 545–46. John Randolph (c.1728–1784) was king’s attorney, or attorney general, of the colony.

5Harrison may have been referring to the snow that still covered the ground after the storm on 7 January.

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