George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, 29 September 1777

From Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson

Græme Park [Pa.] September 29 1777


I take the liberty of adressing you by Mr Bradford on Behalf of My Hu[s]band Mr Fergusson who is returnd after an Absence two years from Britain.

In Brief his Situation is as follows: He went to Britain in September 1775 on some Bussiness merely of a Domestick nature; From thence he Saild to Jamaica last February; and after passing a Month there, Embarkd for N. york where he arrived the evening before Lord Howe Saild,1 Mr Fergusson in order to get in here saild with him and is now in Germantown And He is extreamly desirous after so long an absence from Home to return to it. The intention of this application to your Excellency is to know if you will be pleas’d, to give Mr Fergusson a probation for a month, to stay in his own House; And He will [give] his parole that He will not give any information to the Enemy. He will be confind to such Limits of Space as will be thought proper by your Excellency.

As I am very anxious to know your Excell[e]ncys determi[na]tion, I have applyd as early as possible. Yet well knowing how Critical this important juncture of time is; I have many appologies to make for troubling your Excellency about an individual when things of so interesting a Nature are on the Carpet.

One thing I must beg leave to subjoin on the Subject is that My dear Mr Fergusson never took a Decisive part on either Side: Being a calm Domestic Character.

I will not longer detain your time which must be very precious; but Sincerely wishing your Excellency Health and Happiness I remain Your Excellencys most Obedient Humble Servant

Elizabeth Fergusson


Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson (1739–1801), a writer and prominent member of Philadelphia literary society, who lived at her estate Graeme Park on the southwest branch of Neshaminy Creek about twelve miles north of Germantown, had married Henry Hugh Fergusson (b. 1748), a Scotsman ten years her junior, in 1772. Fergusson apparently was not disturbed by the fact that GW did not give him a pass to leave Philadelphia to rejoin his wife. General Howe appointed Fergusson commissary of prisoners during the occupation of Philadelphia, and when the British evacuated the city in June 1778, Fergusson accompanied the army to New York. Charged with treason and proscribed by the Americans, Fergusson never returned to his wife, moving to London after the war and eventually joining the British army. Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson’s own reputation was brought into question when she became the bearer of her friend Jacob Duché’s notorious letter of 8 Oct. 1777 to GW, which called on GW to renounce independence and end the war. In June 1778 she became involved in the attempt of the British peace commissioner George Johnstone to bribe Joseph Reed into securing a peace settlement. Because of her and her husband’s activities, Graeme Park was confiscated in 1779. Only the petitions of her many influential friends secured the return of the estate under some restrictions two years later.

1Lord Howe’s fleet sailed for the Chesapeake Bay from Staten Island on 20 July 1777.

Index Entries