George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Tayloe, 30 November 1774

To John Tayloe

Shannondoah Novr 30th 1774.

Dear Sir,

I was sorry to find by your favr of the 16th Instt that I was not likely to receive any assistance from you in the Sale of Colo. Mercers Estate, and was equally concern’d at the cause of it.1 We closed the matter this day to the amount of £1412.0.2 which is a greater Sale than I expected, as there were only 90 instead of 110 Negroes, and a proportionate difficiency of Horses & Stock; & few or no Plantation utensils—the Land in this County (tha⟨t⟩ is Frederick) sold for much less than it was valued at in the year 1767; and yet, I do not think it sold much under the intrinsic worth, as there is a good deal of exceeding poor & broken ground in it. Colo. Mercer, & the mortgagees, will, I doubt not, be a good deal surprized to find this Land valued at so much more in the year 1767 than it would sell for at this day; but there was no help for it; every thing that could be done, was done, to dispose of it to the best advantage, in attempting which, I had three Lots of the Land (by endeavouring to raise them) left upon my hands. The Negroes, Horses, and Stock, have all sold exceeding high; and we have done every thing in our powers to secure payment at the day; but yet I am far from expecting punctuallity, or even from thinking there may not be some Insolvency’s, although I have taken every precaution in my power to get good Security to the respective Bonds.2

In the purchase of Bills (when Cash is receivd for this purpose) every precaution, no doubt, will be taken to get those which are esteem’d good, but I will never, by any Indorsation of mine, make my Estate liable to be rent & torn to pieces, if they shoul⟨d⟩ prove otherwise. I return, inclosed, the Letters you sent me from Colo. Mercer; & wit⟨h⟩ hopes, that you are by this, perfectly recovered, I am with, best respects to Mrs Tayloe & the Family Dr Sir Yr Most Obt Hble Servt

G: Washington

ALS (photocopy), DLC:GW. The ALS was advertised in Sotheby’s catalog no. 5530, item 87, 15 Dec. 1986.

1Letter not found.

2At a sale at West’s ordinary on 21 Nov., GW sold all of George Mercer’s Bull Run Mountains land and spent the next day “taking Bonds & making Conveyances” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:292). For the partitioning of the Bull Run Mountains tract in preparation for this sale, see GW to James Mercer, 8 Jan., 28 Mar., and 11 April 1774. GW conducted the sale of George Mercer’s land, goods, and supplies on the Shenandoah in Frederick County beginning on 24 Nov. and ending on 30 November. GW later estimated that the Mercer sales brought “upwards of £14,000 & was thought scarce sufficient to answer the Mortgages upon it in England & Virginia” (GW to William Trent, 4 Aug. 1775; see also ibid., 292–93). The sales were mostly upon twelve month’s credit, and before he left for Boston GW sought to have Tayloe take over the collection of the money owed from the sale, but without success (see GW to Tayloe, 11 Dec. 1775, 12 Mar. 1776, 19 Aug. 1776, and GW to James Mercer, 21 Feb. 1777, 14 Oct. 1779). For the advertisement on 30 June of the Mercer sale, see note 3 in Statement concerning George Mercer’s Estate, 1 Feb. 1789; see also GW’s Revolutionary War correspondence with Lund Washington and GW’s own summaries of his involvement in the sale of George Mercer’s Virginia property to be found in GW to Francis Lightfoot Lee and Ralph Wormeley, Jr., 20 June 1784, and Statement concerning George Mercer’s Estate, 1 Feb. 1789. GW’s letter of 4 Dec. 1774 to George Mercer reporting on the sales is missing, but see GW to James Mercer, 12 and 26 Dec. 1774, and notes.

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