George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George William Fairfax, 25 May 1779

From George William Fairfax

Bath [England] May 25th 1779.

Dear Sir

On the other side is a Copy of a Letter, that Genl Burgoyne was so obliging, as to undertake should be forwarded to you, Since which many things have happened, except that of another favourable opportunity of Addressing you untill now.1 My Nephew Billy Lee having quited all his Schools a year and a half ago, and being so nearly of Age, I really think it necessary for him to Fix to something, and no where so proper as his Native Country, and upon his own Estate, and we have availed ourselves of a very Friendly offer of a Gentn that is returning to the Island of Maderia, under a strong Convoy to take Mr Lee with, and to be at his House untill a favourable opportunity offers to some Port in America, which our friend says frequently happens, and not unlikely to Virginia, but in Case Sir it should be to the Northward, or near where you may be, I have taken the Liberty of desiring him to wait upon you, and to beg your kind advice how to pursue his journey thither.2 One of the informations that I have had since writing to you last, Is that our State has not carried things quite so far against Absentees, as that of Carolina, having only Pass’d an Act for Sequestring British Property, and to put the Lands, Slaves, & Crops of all Absentees into the hands of Commissioners, who are empowerd to direct, by Agents, Stewards, or Overseers, the Management of such Estates, and to provide out of the Crops, and Profits, for the maintenance, charges, and Taxes thereof in the 1st instance, and the residue to be carried into the Loan Office, subject to the future direction of the Legislature,3 So that my good Friend, it may be needless, (if not done before) to give you the trouble of making out a deputation in my behalf, as the State has taken the management of those Estates, intirely in their own hand to prevent remittances, & Strength[en] their Enemies hands Consequently I see very little, if any prospect of getting any assistance from mine, and shall chearfully Acquiesce, as I find the impossibility of draughing a line. Was any to be excused, I flatter myself that I should stand amoung the foremost, as it’s well known, that I was not a Fugitive, but came away before the Commencements of the present troubles, to see after some Family affairs, and for the benefit of our healths. I was mush pleased to hear by an acquaintance of ours, who left Dumfries in Prince William, in June last, that most of our numerous Connections were then well, and that Belvoir was occupied by Mr Wagener,4 as it shews it was not so much out of repair, as I apprehended, but in case It should want any essential ones, I trust and hope the Commissioners will suffer it to be done out of the Profits of the Estate, for the benefit of some now residing in their State. Our united Comp⟨ts⟩ and best wishes attend you, good Lady, and all friends that may be in your circle. and am Dear Sir Your Most Obedient, and Affectionate humble Servt.


George William Fairfax and Sarah Cary Fairfax wrote to GW again on 12 Aug., enclosing a similarly worded copy of this letter, along with an addition dated “Aug. 79” (DLC:GW).

1Fairfax enclosed a copy of his letter to GW of 3 Aug. 1778.

2William Lee (1758–1838) was the son of George Lee (1714–1761) and Anne Fairfax Washington Lee (1728–1761), widow of GW’s half-brother Lawrence Washington. The Madeira Islands, a Portuguese possession, are located about 360 miles west of the coast of Africa. The largest of the islands is Madeira Island. GW wrote to Robert Carter Nicholas on 2 Nov. 1779 that William Lee had arrived at West Point with this letter and the copy of Fairfax’s letter to GW of 3 Aug. 1778 (DLC:GW).

3Fairfax is referring to “An act for Sequestering British Property, enabling those indebted to British subjects to pay off such debts, and directing the proceedings in suits where such subjects are parties,” passed in the October 1777 session of the Virginia general assembly (Va. Statutes 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 [Hening], 9:377–80). North Carolina had enacted a series of confiscation ordinances in 1776 and 1777, but the most recent and most stringent was “An Act for confiscating the Property of all such Persons as are inimical to the United States, and as such Persons as shall not, within a certain Time therein mentioned appear and submit to the State whether they shall be received as Citizens thereof, and of such Persons as shall so appear and shall not be admitted as Citizens, and for other Purposes therein mentioned,” passed in December 1777 (N.C. Acts, 1777, 64–65). A supplement to this act was passed in January 1779 (N.C. Acts, 1778, 13–16).

4Fairfax apparently is referring to Peter Wagener, Jr. (d. 1798), who had succeeded his father as clerk of the Fairfax County Court in 1772, and also served as clerk of the Truro Parish vestry. He was appointed captain of a Fairfax County independent company in September 1775 (see Lund Washington to GW, 29 Sept. 1775) and later served as county lieutenant.

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