George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lund Washington, 15 August 1778

To Lund Washington

White plains Augt 15th 1778.

Dear Lund,

Your Letter of the 29th Ulto, Inclosing a line from Captn Marshall to you came to my hands yesterday—I have no reason to doubt the truth of your observation, that this Gentleman’s Land, & others equally well situated, & under like circumstances, will sell very high1—The depreciation of our money—the high prices of every article of produce, & the redundancy of circulating paper, will, I am perswaded, have an effect upon the price of land—nor is it to be wondered at, when a Barrl of Corn which used to sell for 10/. will now fetch 40—when a Barl of Porke that formerly could be had for £3. sells for £15. & so with respect to other Articles which serves to enable the Man who has been fortunate enough to succeed in raising these things to pay accordingly; but, unfortunately for me, this is not my case; as, my Estate in Virginia is scarce able to support itself whilst it is not possible for it to derive any benefit from my labors here.

I have premised these things to shew my inability, not my unwillingness, to purchase the Lands in my own Neck at (almost) any price. & this I am yet very desirous of doing if it could be accomplished by any means in my power, in the way of Barter for other Land—for Negroes (of whom I every day long more & more to get clear of)—or in short for any thing else (except Breeding Mares and Stock of other kinds) which I have in my possession—but for money I cannot, I want the means. Marshalls Land alone, at the rate he talks of, would amount to (if my memory of the quantity he holds is right) upwards of £3000. a sum I have little chance, if I had much inclination, to pay; & therefore would not engage for it, as I am resolved not to incumber my self with Debt.

Marshall is not a necessitous Man—is only induced to offer his Land for Sale in expectation of a high price—& knowing perhaps but too well my wish to become possessed of the Land in that Neck will practice every deception in his power to work me (or you in my behalf) up to his price, or he will not sell. this should be well looked into, and guarded against—If, as you think, & as I believe, there is little chance of getting more (at any rate) than the reversion of French’s Land, I have no objection to the Land on which Morris lives going in exchange for Marshalls, or its being sold for the purpose of paying for it, but remember, it will not do to contract at a high price for the one, before you can be assured of an adequate Sum for the other—without this, by means of the arts which may be practiced, you may give much and receive little, which is neither my Inclination nor intention to do. If Negroes could be given in Exchange for this Land of Marshalls, or sold at a proportionable price, I should prefer it to the sale of Morriss Land as I still have some latent hope that Frenchs Lands may be had of D—— for it. but either I wd part with.2

Having so fully expressed my Sentiments concerning this matter, I shall only add a word or two respecting Barry’s Land.3 The same motives which induce a purchase in the one case prevail in the other, and how ever unwilling I may be to part with that small tract I hold on difficult Run (containing by Deed, if I recollect right 275 acres, but by measurement upwards of 300) on acct of the valuable Mill Seat Meadow Grds &ca4 yet I will do it for the sake of the other but if the matter is not managed with some degree of address you will not be able to effect an exchange without giving instead of receiving, Boot—For this Land also I had rather give Negroes—if Negroes would do. for to be plain I wish to get quit of Negroes.

I find by a Letter from Mr Jones that he has bought the Phæton which you sold Mr Geo: Lewis and given him £300 for it—I mention this, with no other view than to remind you of the necessity of getting the Money for wch you sold it, of Lewis (if you have not already done it)5—He, probably, will prepose to settle the matter with me, but this, for a reason I could mention, I desire may be avoided.

In your Letter of the 29th you say you do not suppose I would choose to cut down my best Land, & build Tobo Houses, but what Am I to do—or—how am I to live—I cannt Support myself if I make nothing—& it is evident from yr acct that I cannot raise Wheat if this Crop is likely to share the fate of the three last. I should have less reluctance to clearing my richest Lands (for I think the Swamps are these & would afterwards do for meadow) than building Houses.

I should not incline to sell the Land I had of Adams6 unless it should be for a price proportioned to what I must give for others. I could wish you to press my Tenants to be punctual in the payment of their Rents—right & Justice with respect to my self requires it—& no injury on the contrary a real service to themselves as the Man who finds it difficult to pay one rent will find it infinitely more so to pay two, & his distresses multiply as the rents increase. I am & ca

G. W——n

ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Lund Washington’s letter to GW of 29 July has not been found. Thomas Hanson Marshall, who had become a captain in the Charles County militia by 1776, owned a tract of almost 500 acres bordering the Mount Vernon plantation on the west. GW had been attempting to buy that land since 1760, and Lund Washington purchased it for him in 1779 (see Marshall to GW, 18 June 1769, and note 1, 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 , 8:217–20).

2Daniel French’s widow, Penelope Manley French (born c.1739), owned lifetime rights in two parcels of land totaling over 500 acres, one on Dogue Run and the other south of Marshall’s tract. On her death the land would belong to Benjamin Tasker Dulany (c.1752–1816), whose wife, Elizabeth French Dulany (born c.1756), had reversionary rights to the land. GW tried for a number of years to buy the land, but Mrs. French refused to sell. Finally, however, Dulany signed his and his wife’s rights over to GW in 1785, and in 1786 Mrs. French relinquished her ownership to GW in exchange for land that GW had bought on Hunting Creek (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:84–85, and Fairfax County Deed Book P [1784–85], 311–21, and Deed Book Q [1785–86], 392–96, ViFfCh). The dower slave Morris, who was overseer at the Dogue Run farm, may have been residing on one of the several Dogue Run tracts that were largely cut off from the rest of the Mount Vernon lands to the south. Some of those tracts were transferred to Lund Washington in 1785 as payment for Lund’s 1779 purchase of Marshall’s land (see n.1 and Fairfax County Deed Book P [1784–85], 415–17, ViFfCh).

3GW had been trying since 1770 to buy a tract of about 193 acres adjoining his mill property. Although GW acquired about 75 acres in December 1770 from Valinda Wade, the remainder of the land was controlled by John Barry (d. 1775), widower of Valinda’s sister Eleanor Wade Barry, for his son William, and he refused to sell. GW eventually acquired the remaining 118 acres from William Barry in 1783 (see Deed from Valinda Wade, 18 Dec. 1770, 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 , 8:417-18, and deed from William and Sarah Barry to GW, 16 June 1783, ViMtvL).

4The tract on Difficult Run, between the Great and Little Falls of the Potomac in Loudoun County (now in Fairfax County), Va., was acquired from Bryan Fairfax in 1763 (see Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 49; Loudoun County Deed Book C [1761–63], 458–63, ViLeeLCh). GW still owned the land at his death.

5The letter from Joseph Jones has not been found. George Lewis paid Lund Washington £200 “for a Phaeton” on 12 June 1778 (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 153).

6GW was referring to the approximately 550 acres of land in Charles County, Md., that he acquired in December 1775 as payment of a debt from Daniel Jenifer Adams (see GW to Lund Washington, 20 Aug. 1775, and note 4, and Lund Washington to GW, 10 Dec. 1775, and note 1).

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