George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Bryan Fairfax, 6 April 1789

To Bryan Fairfax

Mount Vernon 6th April 1789

Dear Sir,

Sometime ago Mr Muse informed me by letter—that he expected an order for the delivery to him of the Papers belonging to the Estate in my possession1—I answered they were subject to, and ready for that order whenever presented but as a friend I would advise him to let them remain in your hands and draw out such only as he might want. To this he seems perfectly agreeable and I mention the matter before I leave home, that if you incline to take charge of them they will be delivered by my Nephew Majr George A. Washington at any time you may call for them.

Old as the date of the enclosed letter is, it has been but lately received. It is my sincere wish that this tedeous and irksome business could be brought to a close; but less then ever2 will it be in my power now, to afford any aid towards the accomplishment of it. Mrs Bomford must therefore turn her attention to some others as an Attorney, for the purpose of receiving her money, if it ever should be recovered3—With best wishes for Mrs Fairfax and your family, and with sentiments of sincere regard and friendship. I am Dr Sir, Yr Most Obedt & Affect. Sert

Go: Washington


Bryan Fairfax (1737–1802) was a half brother of GW’s old friend George William Fairfax. After a fairly irresponsible youth Fairfax married Sarah Cary Fairfax’s sister Elizabeth Cary and settled at Towlston Grange in Fairfax County. In 1789 he was ordained a minister. In May 1798 Fairfax went to England for his health and petitioned Parliament successfully for certification as eighth Baron Fairfax of Cameron to succeed his deceased cousin Robert Fairfax, seventh Baron Fairfax of Cameron. Fairfax was GW’s close friend and fox-hunting companion, and in 1769 GW stood godfather for Bryan’s son Ferdinando.

1For the discussion between GW and Battaile Muse concerning the papers relating to George William Fairfax’s estate, see Muse to GW, 1, 6 Nov., 19 Dec. 1788, 7 Feb. and 8 Mar. 1789, and GW to Muse, 7 Nov. 1788, and 19 Feb. 1789.

2In the letter book this word reads “our.”

3Fairfax had also been involved in the Savage affair. It is uncertain what letter GW enclosed in this letter, but it clearly concerned the complicated affairs of Mrs. Margaret Savage, which had plagued GW since the 1760s. See John Dixon to GW, 5 Mar. 1789, n.1. Sometime after Mrs. Savage’s arrival in Ireland in the late 1760s she was apparently abandoned by her husband and left almost destitute. She sought shelter with Mrs. Sarah Bomford, the wife of Isaac Bomford, who lived on Fishamble Street in Dublin. Mrs. Bomford apparently cared for her friend until ill health forced her to move to Bath in 1776 (Sarah Bomford to GW, 27 Sept. 1773, 25 May 1774). When she announced her departure from Ireland, Mrs. Bomford informed GW that she could “not afford to maintain this unfortunate woman from under my own roof,” from whom she had “neither expected nor received one shilling” (Sarah Bomford to GW, 28 April 1776). Although she frequently pointed out in her letters to GW that she had taken in Mrs. Savage only as an act of charity, Mrs. Bomford nevertheless pursued assiduously the bequest left her by Mrs. Savage’s will. And, as GW wrote Bryan Fairfax, 6 Jan. 1790, her claims now included payment “for the diet, lodging &ca of that unfortunate woman for upwards of four years. . . . I have informed Mrs Bomford that circumstances have put it out of my power to pay particular attention to the affairs of Mrs Savage—and that I should transmit her letter to you, not doubting but you would give it that attention which it deserved.” See also GW to Sarah Bomford, 6 Jan. 1790.

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