George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Polson, Jr., 25 July 1788

From John Polson, Jr.

London 25 July 1788


I did myself the honor of writing you the 2d September 1783 and took the liberty of puting under your Cover a letter for my old friend and Attorney the late Mr Alexr Craig of Williamsburg: a freedom I would not have taken if I knew how to direct to him if living, and was then uncertain whether he was dead or alive. I am sorry if you were offended at it, which I have reason to fear was the Case as I never received any Answer from you, tho’ I earnestly requested it, particularly as Mr Craig was dead, and I had no one to inform me, what was done with the 6000 acres of Land granted me as heir to my Brother Willm Polson who was killed with Genl Braddock.1 The want of information on this point may have been very prejudical to my Interest: for if my land is still at my disposal and not Confiscated by any Law of the State of Virginia, It may have been encroached upon and destroyed; if it was Confiscated by any Law of the State, I fear I have lost the chance I might have had of applying to the Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament for a Compensation. I remain yet in this State of uncertainty, for tho’ Mr Jefferson the Minister from the united States to the Court of France, wrote to General Stephen (who is one of my Partners in the Kanhawa Tract) in the Summer 1785, and to some other Gentleman in Virginia to know what was done with my land, he had not received any answer to his letters in April 1786 when I had the pleasure of seeing him here.2 The Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament to examine into the losses and Services of American Loyalist are to finish their duty, it is said, about the latter end of this year. And if I am unfortunate enough to have had my lands Confiscated because I was in the Service of Great Britain, where I had been for twenty years before, but had not been within any of the States since novr 1772, I cannot claim a Compensation unless I can prove that my Property was Confiscated and Sold, and the time is now so short that I can hardly expect to have these Vouchers transmitted to me from the State of Virginia before the Commissioners ⟨mutilated⟩ close their accounts: besides that I do not know who to apply to to obtain the Necessary information. I therefore once more take the liberty to address you as a Gentleman to whom I have been under great obligations, and to request the favor, that you will inform me whether my lands were Confiscated and Sold, and if they were so, to put me in the way to have the Account Sales properly certified, & sent home to me to this place under Cover to Messrs John & George Whitehead, Bankers in Basinghall street, and any Expence that will attend the geting the proper Vouchers from the different offices will be chearfully paid by Mr Samuel Milford Master of the Ship Friendship now bound for York River in your State.3 And if my Land has not been forfeited, I will esteem it a very great favour that you will recommend some fit person to be my Attorney to whom I will sent a Power.4 It is with the utmost regret that I trouble you on this Subject, but I hope you will excuse it from the necessity I am under, of producing proofs incase my lands were forfeited, otherwise I lose my land, and the money I advanced for them, which is something considerable including Interest to this time. But I have such a high Opinion of the Justice of your State, that I hope the lands are left at my own disposal.

Though its the General Opinion that our Commissioners will finish their business before next Jany, If the Vouchers can be sent home as early as that, I shall be glad to have them, in case my lands were Confiscated, any time before the Month of June but my best Chance is to have them soon. I write to General Steph⟨en⟩ on this subject, but I have been told that he lives so far back in the Cou⟨ntry⟩ that it will be long before I can hear from him.

I must again beg your pardon for the Liberty I ha⟨ve⟩ taken with you, and I am with great regard & Esteem Your most obedt and most humble Servt

Jno. Pols⟨on⟩


A man named Samuel Milford brought this letter from London and forwarded it from Richmond with his own letter to GW of 24 September.

1Lt. William Polson served under GW at Fort Necessity in 1754. He was killed at the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755 when Gen. Edward Braddock’s army was routed by French and Indian forces. When Polson’s father, John Polson, Sr. (d. 1778), wrote to GW in 1771 from Georgia about the land due his son under the terms of Dinwiddie’s Proclamation of 1754, GW replied on 24 June 1771 suggesting that he engage Alexander Craig to act for him in this matter.

GW responded to John Polson on 28 Sept. 1788 and to Samuel Milford on 29 Sept. 1788. The Milford letter is printed in Papers, Presidential Series, vol. 1, but a partial facsimile of the letter to Polson turned up after that volume was in print. This letter reads: “Sir, Your letter of the 25th of July by Captn Milford, came duly to hand; but I do not recollect to have received one dated septr 2d 1783, spoken of therein. At that period I was with the Army in the State of New York and did not return to Virginia until the beginning of the succeeding year. all foreign letters to me, therefore, must either have passed the British Lines or taken their chance in Merchantmen—Both, were hazardous conveyances.

“Every information (and small indeed it is) that I can give respecting your Land on the Great Kanhawa, is communicated to Captn Milford; with a request that he would transmit a copy of it, with this letter, to you. His ship lays near Williamsburgh where your late attorney Mr Craig, lived, at the time of his decease—and where I presume his Executors (from whom the best information I conceive is to be had) must now live. Besides, in this situation Captn Milford is not far distant from Richmond, the Seat of the government and information, on account of the general resort to it for the purposes of attending the Courts—the Assemblies—Public offices—&ca—&ca. From me, this place is far removed; and one to which I seldom or never go. Indeed I rarely stir from home, and having made no enquiry into the matter, am entirely ignoran⟨t⟩ as to the disposition of any of the Lands which were granted to the Virginia Regiment raised in 1754, after Patents were obtained for them except [those of my own—and those were within an ace of being sold for the payment of Taxes due on them, before I received information thereof. . .]” (ALS [facsimile], Sotheby’s catalog no. 6250, item 44, 12 Dec. 1991). The lines in square brackets are taken from a quotation in the descriptive entry for the item. Polson’s letter of 2 Sept. 1783 and its enclosure to Alexander Craig are in DLC:GW.

2Polson wrote Thomas Jefferson on 13 May and 1 July 1785, and Jefferson wrote Adam Stephen about Polson’s claims on 19 June 1785 (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 8:152, 258, 237–38). Polson wrote Jefferson again c.20 July 1788, and Jefferson replied on 29 July 1788, saying that he had written to Joseph Jones of King George County as well as to Stephen and had heard from neither (ibid., 13:388–89,433–34).

3GW consulted a lawyer who told him: “it is not likely that his [Polson’s] property is comprehended in any Confiscation Law of this Commonwealth” but acknowledged that the land may have been sold for taxes (GW to Samuel Milford, 29 Sept. 1788).

4GW told Milford that Polson should get someone in Richmond to act as his attorney but declined to name anyone.

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