George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Armistead, 17 April 1786

To John Armistead

Mount Vernon 17th April 1786.


It has been my hope since my return, that it would be unnecessary for me to remind you of the debt due to me from the Estate of your deceased Father; the speedy payment of which, at different times I have received assurances of from your self. Besides standing much in need of the money (which alone will, I persuade myself, be a stimulus to the discharge of my claim) it may be well for you to consider the nature of it, and with what rapidity a protested Bill encreases the original sum.1 This is no inducement however for me to let it lie; for, as I have just hinted, I can with truth declare to you that my want of the money is more essential to me, than the interest arising therefrom. I am Sir &c.

G: Washington


John Armistead, the son of William Armistead (d. 1755) of Gloucester County, became before the Revolution a large planter in Caroline County where he served on the county court, in 1775 became captain of one of the new militia companies, and served as sheriff in 1780.

1In the final settlement of the estate of Daniel Parke Custis in November 1761, a debt of £132.1.8 sterling at 5 percent interest owed to the Custis estate by the estate of William Armistead was assigned to Martha Washington. Despite two payments totaling £260.12.2, the debt stood at £104.3.3 at the end of 1772. See doc. III-B, n.14, in Settlement of the Daniel Parke Custis Estate, 20 April 1759–5 November 1761. Receiving no response to this letter, GW wrote Armistead again on 29 Dec. 1786, declaring that he would have to resort to the courts if he did not receive what was owed him “without more delay.” More than two years later, on 17 Mar. 1789, GW wrote his attorney John Marshall about the Armistead debt and enclosed “a protested bill of Exchange drawn in 1765 by the Exts. of William Armsted Esqr. in my favor,” which Marshall was “to take the necessary steps to recover.” (For reference to a protested bill drawn by the Armistead executors, see 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 , 6:259, note 14). Marshall’s reply of 8 April 1789 has not been found, but apparently he reported that the executors claimed the debt had been transferred from William Armistead’s estate to John Armistead. GW responded to Marshall on 11 April 1789 that he had “been lately informed that Mrs Armsteads sons are dead and have left their families in not very good circumstances. If this is the case—and the payment of the debt due to me would distress them,” Marshall was not to “proceed any further in the matter.” No earlier letters to or from John Armistead have been found.

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