George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Craik, 19 March 1789

To William Craik

Mount Vernon March 19th 1789

Dear Sir,

This letter will be handed to you by Mr Dunnington (my tenant in Charles City)1 who can, more fully than I, explain to you the nature and circumstances of some disputes in which the land he lives on is involved.2 To enable him to do it more clearly I enclose you a plot of the Land. Two matters it seems will call for your attention—namely to dispossess one Perry of part of my property which he holds under a younger Patent—and to secure for my benefit vacant land within the heart of my tract, which one Stromat has surveyed;3 but not having complied with the tenor of your Laws is subject to a Proclamation warrent—by which I may still avoid the evil which his possession of the Land would incur. To effect the last, will require secrecy and dispatch; for should it transpire that I am about to take out a Proclamation Warrent he would no doubt be beforehand with me.4 I submit these matters to you, under the uncertainty of not knowing what Steps are proper for me to take—and indeed, circumstanced as I am at this moment, because I have not time to take them—The Proclamation Warrent Mr Dunnington says will cost 31/3 but as I have no certainty that it can be obtained; as I mean to proceed upon sure ground in both cases; and for a stranger reason than either, because I have it not; I send you no money at this time, to prosecute these matters if in your Judgment it shall appear advisable to prosecute them—For the fact is, it would have been for my interest to have sunk my demand altogether upon Adams rather than to have taken his Land having paid more than5 the worth of it to others to relieve it from the Incumbrances which were on it. Under these circumstances I feel sore and very unwilling to open more sources of expenditure.6 I am Dr Sir Yr Friend & Obedt Servt

Go: Washington


William Craik (b. 1761), the son of GW’s old friend Dr. James Craik, began to practice law in Port Tobacco and Leonardtown, Md., around 1783 and later moved to Baltimore. The younger Craik and his father accompanied GW on his trip to the west in 1784 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:14). During the 1790s Craik served as chief justice of the fifth district in Maryland and represented the state in Congress from 1796 to 1801.

1The copyist evidently meant to write “County.”

2George Dunnington was GW’s tenant in Charles County, Md., on land that GW acquired as settlement in a dispute with Daniel Jenifer Adams (b. 1751). In the 1790 census Dunnington is listed as head of a household of 10 whites and 15 slaves (Heads of Families, Md., 49). In 1772 young Adams was taken into a trading partnership with GW, Samuel Brodie, and John Carlyle in which Brodie as captain of the brig Fairfax would carry flour refined at GW’s and Carlyle’s mills to the West Indies while Adams would sail with the brig as supercargo and handle the trading transactions. It was soon evident to GW that Adams’s incompetence doomed the venture, and by June 1773 he had attached Adams’s property in Charles County for the sum, now exceeding £500, that Adams owed him. For GW’s problems with “that worthless young Fellow” Adams, see his letter of 10 May 1774 to Robert McMickan, the Jamaica merchant who handled the partnership’s business in the West Indies. GW’s account with Adams, including a description of the tract of land in Charles County of 552⅓ acres—“all I am likely to get for my debt”—is in Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 99. The deed for the property, dated 4 Dec. 1775 and recorded 5 Jan. 1776, is in the Charles County Land Records, vol. 3 (1775–82), ff. 60–61, Maryland Hall of Records, Annapolis.

3This is probably Capt. John Stromatt of Charles County, who is listed in the 1790 census as head of a household of 8 whites and 8 slaves (Heads of Families, Md., 54).

4On 25 Jan. 1790 Craik wrote GW from Port Tobacco: “I informed you some time ago that I had immediately upon the receit of your letter, obtained a Proclamation warrant to secure to you the Land which had been surveyed by one Stromatt and which I considered as subject to Proclamation, he not having complied with the terms of his warrant—Having no doubt, from the Information of Mr Dunnington and the register of the Land Office, that the Land was thus Circumstanced, I a few weeks ago offered to put your warrant into the hands of the County Surveyor to be executed, when he informed me he had some time before received a special warrant of resurvey from Stromatt to survey the same Lands included in his former survey—As the force and validity of a warrant ⟨ta⟩kes place from its date, I found upon examination that Stromatts warrant was dated about fifteen days prior to yours—The only question then was whether a special warrant of resurvey could affect Land which had been previously surveyed under a former warrant and a Certificate of survey thereof returned to the Land Office; or whether a Proclamation warrant was not the only means of securing it—I am of Opinion that your Proclamation warrant is effectual to secure the Land tho’ of a subsequent date to the special warrant of resurvey, as I conceive in that situation it was liable to no other warrant but a Proclamation warrant—Stromatt however alleges that there are some Circumstances attending this Case to disting⟨uish⟩ it from the common one—The reason which prevented his complying with the terms of his first warrant was, that the surveyor had committed an Error in the survey, which Error he intended to have had corrected on the Execution of his second Warr⟨ant.⟩ As the surveyor finds some difficulty in deciding upon the question, and Stromatt is disposed to dispute the Point, I have thought it proper, before I engage you in a Controversey which at any rate you consider as disagreeable, to write you upon the subject and state the propositions made by Stromatt—He says he never intended to deprive you of any Land that might injure your Tract or which lay contiguous thereto—The truth of this I very much question—He now speaks the Language of a man alarmed—He is willing to give you up all the Land which affects your tract and which is situate contiguous thereto; to be at the expence of the survey, on Condition that he be allowed to hold such part of the Land as is immediately connected with his original Tracts—I have had some Conversation with Mr Dunnington as to the situation of the Land proposed to be given up by Stromatt who seems satisfied with the proposition I could probably be a better Judge of the terms upon seeing the Land surveyed, which if you please, I will attend—As the warrant must be executed before the 20th of March I shall be happy to have your directions upon the subject as soon as possible—In the several Conversations with Stromatt I have never expressed a doubt of your right, on the contrary have allways asserted it to be clear and indisputable and that any relinquishment on your part must be considered as matter of favor—I was in hopes I should not have been obliged to have troubled you again upon this subject but my reluctance in involving you in a dispute must apologize for this Communication—I have obtained a Judgment on the Ejectment against Perry and ha⟨ve⟩ directed a writ of Possession thereon—Whatever may be your ⟨de⟩termination or directions with respect to the other subject I will with pleasure take the most immediate steps to ca⟨rry⟩ them into effect and shall be tryly happy on this as well as on every other occasion to render you any service in ⟨my⟩ Power” (DLC:GW).

5In MS this word reads “that.”

6GW’s difficulties with his Charles County tenants continued until the late 1790s (see GW to Daniel Jenifer, Jr., 7 June 1797).

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