George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Battaile Muse, 21 March 1789

From Battaile Muse

Berkeley County [Va.] March 21st 1789

Honorable Sir,

Your Letter of advice dated the 19th of Last month by Major Willis I received by that Gentleman with three Counter Part of Leases—I shall attend to your Instruction and act in all Cases To the Best of my Knowledge and as tho for my Self. the Laws and Costoms of this Country must be on another Footing to Compel Tenants or others To fulfill their Engagement than they are in at this Time, I do not Expect To See this a happy Country in my Time—I do not Know where To Find a Lawer whose advice I can depend on—I am this day Seting out To your Estate in Fauquier and while their I shall Try To get advice respecting one or Two Leases and act acordingly, unless I should think Colo. Charles Simms the Best Councller & the district Court of Dumfries the Best Court To Try the Cases before,1 I am of opinion that Colo. Simms is the best Counceller & that the Circuit Court the Proper place for Tryal, therefore I shall wait I Beleave untill I see Him on that Business.

Scott desires a Suit may be Brought To Fauquier Court on Him respecting the Line, To may Court, To make the Business Perfect. the Court may, He Sayes, Grant and order Immediatly for the Following Gentlemen To Settle the matter—Colo. Peyton & Powell Capn Moffitt & Turner and Mr Morze—I think they may Settle the matter & the sooner I suppose the Better2—Please To advise me & say how Long I Shall Grant Leases for that Land as well any Vacant Lotts in Fauquier; the Lands there are not Very Valuable nor durable; I suppose 21 years would be the Best. as For the Lands in Berkeley and Frederick a shorter Time would be more advisiable unless and addequate rent should be offered. In order To have the renting of the Lands fixed To a Certainty Leases should be given on the spot To Prevent any dispute or unnessary Trouble, therefore I wish you To Sign a few Leases before you go to Congress Least Some should be wanting the Summer and Leave them (authenticated) with Mr Lear I have not altered any Covenant in the Leases on acct of their Paying Land Taxes—I only Excused them To Such a Time, on their Paying the Land Taxes, for not makeing their Orchards & Fulfilling their Leases—I considerd it was for your Interest—for during the war they Complained of Such distress was what prevented their compliance—Since which they have no reasonable Excuse—yet they will not do it—as To my Visiting them once or Twice a year—I have many of them Four & five Time yet they will not Comply—Perhaps your Letter may have some weight with them, I wish it may, To Prvent a Law suit Perhaps of Ten years when I shall be draged as a witness on the Business—which ⟨illegible⟩ Sent will not Compensate me—a commission of 10 per Sent is not in my opinion Extravagant or unreasonable I have sufficiently Experienced To the Contrary—therefore I expect you will think as I do and allow it to me on the present Collection as well for next year, yet it’s not and object I shall Contend about the Mr Mercers gave me 6 per Sent for many years3—Exclusive of waggess for Lookeing after their Personal Estate—Docr W.C. Selden gave the same4—all this Business I Kept as Long as I wanted and have given up many Estates under that Commission—and So I would all if I could do without it—their is Men that will do business for Less—no Doubt but the Gentlemen I have Served Found me Worthy of that Commission or they would not have Continued me as Long as I thought Proper to Serve them—I am now obliged to attend your Suit in Frederick Court agt Charles Rector 5—which will Put me much out of my way besides Very Fatigueing, and after all I Fear he will not be able To Pay should He be Cast—the Bond of Covenants with David Kennady6 & Speake is a Proof of the acct you Sent me some years ago I Suppose—I have Kennadys assumed for £28. He is not able To Pay—& His Liveing in the Prison Bounds Prevented my seeing Him—I never heard of Speake—I will Enquire for Him—and if He is able I will do as you direct—I have applyed & thretned Kennady at Least Ten Times—the Advertisement shall be Sent to the Printer at Winchester—I expect I shall get my price for my Flour as well Warrents before the 1st day of June—I received a Sum of money yesterday From Mr Ariss7 & a Man From Fauquier makes me Stand in your Debt about £47—in order To be before hand (as I am Genly with Every Man) I enclose a Draft on Mr Josiah Watson for £100.8 Should He Fail the money will be Paid to your order at my House the 1st day of april—if not, the Sum £100 shall be Paid the 1 st day of may To any Person you will direct To receive it in Alexandria on that Day I expect To receive a Sum in that Town—I ex⟨pect⟩ Mr Watson will Pay—Perhaps Capn Geo. Slacum is in Town9 if I desire my Letter to Mr Watson may be presented To Him in Case Mr Watsons Fails Payment as Perhaps He can Take it up.

I wish you To allow Mr Lear or your Manager To Shew me your Line between you & Colo. Fairfax when I run Colo. Fairfax Line as I am directed To Lott of & rent out the Belvoir Lands10 I am Sir with Every Sentiment of Regard your Most obedient Hble Servt

Battaile Muse


1Charles Simms (1755–1819), an Alexandria lawyer, was lieutenant colonel in the 6th Virginia Regiment during the Revolution. He was in the Virginia legislature in 1776, 1785, 1792, and 1796 and was a member of the Potowmack Company. GW occasionally used his legal services (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 275).

2For Robert Scott’s boundary dispute with GW and the arbitration committee, see Muse to GW, 7 Feb. 1789.

3Muse had probably acted as agent for the Mercer family in looking after some of their extensive landholdings in Fauquier, Frederick, and Prince William counties.

4Wilson Cary Selden (c.1761–1835) served as a surgeon in the Revolution and after the war farmed and practiced medicine in Loudoun County, Virginia. In 1793 he was a member of the Virginia general assembly.

5Muse wrote GW, 26 Nov. 1786, that “one Charles Rector that Took the place Let To Enock Ashby run away . . . £93.2.0. in Debt—He has moved To Frederick County.” Rector occupied land on GW’s Goose Creek tract. “He is Very Poor,” Muse wrote on 15 Oct. 1787. “I am a Fraid To Sue Him—Perhaps if He was Sued He would give security To Pay Twenty Pounds at some Future day.”

6For David Kennedy’s debt to GW, see GW to Muse, 12 Mar. 1789.

7John Ariss (d. 1799) leased 700 acres on GW’s Bullskin tract in 1788 (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 281). A successful architect and contractor, Ariss may have worked on Mount Vernon in 1757–59 and 1773–87 (see Waterman, Mansions of Virginia, description begins Thomas Tileston Waterman. The Mansions of Virginia, 1706–1776. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1946. description ends 243–300,419):

8Josiah Watson was an Alexandria merchant. On 21 Mar. 1789 Muse wrote to Watson that “Capt. George Slaucm has Drawn a Bill on you In my Favour for one hundred and Forty Pounds Virginia Money Payable Six days after Sight—the Bill is dated Charles Town South Carolina Jany 28th 1789. . . . I request the Favour of you To Pay To General Washington One hundred pounds Virginia Money—His receipt for that Sum or any Part (if the whole Cannot be Paid) Shall have Credit on the above noted Bill If its Possable I wish you To Pay to the General as requested—I shall be down the Middle of april with Capt. Slacums Bill” (NcD: Battaile Muse Papers).

9George Slacum is probably the ship captain who sailed in the coastal trade, usually between Norfolk and Alexandria (see GW to Thomas Newton, 1 Aug. 1788). Slacum’s endorsement of the bill to Muse, 27 Mar., and Tobias Lear’s receipt to Watson, 6 April are in NcD: Muse Papers.

10For GW’s comments on this line, see his letter to Muse of 31 Mar. 1789.

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