George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Bartholomew Dandridge, 13 March 1784

From Bartholomew Dandridge

New Kent [Va.] 13th March 1784.

Dear Sir

It has given me great pleasure to hear you are arrived at home in safety & good health, I most sincerely congratulate you on this happy Event, and all others that have contributed to it, and wish you a long continuance of every Happiness you can desire.

I have endeavored to arrange the Affairs of Mr Custis’s Estate in such a manner as I judged most for it’s Interest, but I must own I have not succeeded in it agreably to my wishes or expectations, but when I have done the best I could I hope I may not be blamed for Consequences that I could not guard against. I have from time to time informed Mr Lund Washington of every material Circumstance that has attended the Estate since I took charge of it, of which I doubt not he has informed you and from that and my present Letter to him, you will have a full view of the present situation of Mr Custis’s Affairs. I endeavored to avoid troubleing you with them when you were at a distance and engaged in Matters of so much greater consequence, If you have now leisure to point out to me any thing that you think will be of advantage to Mr Custis’s Estate or Family, I shall be much obliged to you and will endeavor to conform to your directions.1

I believe I can now spare the Young Stud Horse, & hope it will suit you to take him in part for your demand against Mr Custis’s Estate. I don’t doubt but we shall readily agree in the Price, and the Estate is not yet able to make you any other Payment.2

Posey has fully answered your predictions of him, he has long since lost all sense of shame, and altho I was guarded against him, yet I could not prevent (even with much trouble), his injuring the Estate greatly in many respects. I am still pursuing such methods as I can to bring him to Justice, but his cuning is considerable, and his villany more than I can describe or you can conceive.3

If you should ever Visit this part of the Country I hope for the pleasure of seeing you, if not I hope I shall be able to wait on you (about June next) when we may finally conclude what is best to be done with Mr Custis’s Affairs. I have not heard from Doctor Stuart or his Lady since their Marriage. I have wrote to him & refered him to Mr Washington for an Account of the situation of the Estate, & expect soon to know his views & Intentions.4 The Estate in Fairfax & all transactions there I have always left to the management & care of Mr Washington who has been kind enough to comply with every request I have found it necessary to make to him.

My Mother and all our Family desire to be joined with me in a tender of their Esteem, Respect & Affection for you. I am Dear Sir Your most obedt Servt

B. Dandridge

Sir I imagine you can tell Mr Custis’s situation with Cary & Co. I have reed no Letter from that House.5

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter came by “Favour of Col. [Burwell] Bassett.”

Bartholomew Dandridge (1737–1785), who lived in New Kent County, Va., was the brother of Martha Washington.

1John Parke Custis died in New Kent County on 5 Nov. 1781 at the end of the Yorktown campaign. Dandridge wrote GW four days later offering in GW’s absence to join his sister, Martha Washington, as coadministrator of her son’s estate, but at GW’s insistence he qualified in February 1782 as sole administrator. See GW to Dandridge, 19 Nov. 1781, and GW to Peter Wagener and others, 20 Nov. 1781, and Dandridge to GW, 22 Feb. 1782. The ravages of war, John Parke Custis’s own ineptitude as a man of affairs (see, for instance, GW to Custis, 26 May 1778), and the malign influence of John Price Posey (see note 3) combined to bring the once great Custis estate to the brink of ruin and left it heavily burdened with debt. For GW’s and Dandridge’s comments on this sad state of affairs during the year after Custis’s death, see Dandridge to GW, 7 Jan., 22 Feb., 20 Mar., and 5 Nov. 1782, and GW to Dandridge, 20 April, 13 May, 25 June, and 18 Dec. 1782. Apparently there was no correspondence between the two from December 1782 until March 1784.

2In a long letter to Dandridge on 20 April 1782, GW gave him “every information in my power respecting the State of my Accts with Mr Custis.” GW’s account with the estate of John Parke Custis, including a record of the transactions between GW and Custis from 3 Nov. 1773 when the General Court approved the closing of GW’s guardian accounts with his young ward until Custis’s death in 1781, is to be found in Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 217–19, 224, 226, 272. GW’s ledger indicates that at this time, in 1784, John Parke Custis’s estate owed GW £5,360.9.11, current money. By June 1786 it had been reduced to £1,119.18. Most of the payment came in the form of Custis’s accrued credits in London which Wakelin Welch, of the firm that had been Robert Cary & Co., assigned to GW. See note 5, and GW to Welch, 27 July 1784. But GW also credited the estate with £300 for Leonidas, the young stud horse referred to here, and £500 for the well-known Arabian horse named Magnolio, when the two animals became GW’s property.

3John Price Posey, the son of GW’s old companion and neighbor John Posey, was the boyhood companion of John Parke Custis. He followed Custis down to New Kent County to become the manager of Custis’s plantations. Dandridge writing GW at great length on 5 Nov. 1782 descants on “the villany and cunning of Posey,” who, with Custis “in his power,” pushed him “to turn every part of the Estate he possibly could into Money.” With Custis “keeping no Accounts of his transactions,” what profits that did arise from the selling of Custis’s property, both Dandridge and GW believed, went to Posey, not to Custis. Armed with Custis’s “general Power of Attorney,” Posey had, according to Dandridge, “disposed of at least 24 Negroes, several Horses & a number of Cattle without Mr Custis’s consent or knowledge and without intending to render any Account of the Produce of them, besides this he has generally had the Crops, and I suppose many other Things.” See also GW to John Price Posey, 7 Aug. 1782. GW continued to press Posey to render what was due John Parke Custis’s little son and heir, George Washington Parke Custis, almost up to the time of Posey’s death (see, for instance, GW to Posey, 12 Jan. 1787). Posey was hanged in January 1788 for having destroyed the New Kent County clerk’s office and jail by fire.

4Dr. David Stuart (1753–c.1814) was married late in 1783 to John Parke Custis’s widow, Eleanor Calvert Custis. They lived at Abingdon near Mount Vernon, and he practiced medicine in Alexandria. At Dandridge’s death in 1785, Dr. Stuart took over the complete management of Custis’s business affairs.

5GW received in 1784 from Wakelin Welch an accounting of what was owed to the estate of John Parke Custis by Robert Cary & Company. See GW to Wakelin Welch, 27 July, n.3.

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