George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Newton, Jr., 12 October 1789

To Thomas Newton, Jr.

New York Octr 12th 1789


A variety of avocations has prevented my giving an earlier acknowledgment to your letter of the 17th of July. I will now thank you, Sir, to furnish me with an Acct of the quantity & cost of the materials which have been placed on Cape Henry by the Commissioners appointed by the Assembly of Virginia, for the purpose of building a Light-house—as you have been so obliging as to offer to do it.1

I am sorry that you have not yet recd any of my outstanding debts, but am not without hope that you will be able to collect at least some part of them shortly. this case is hard, and I believe singular. I am, Sir, Your most Obedt Sert

G. Washington

Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1Virginia was in the process of erecting a lighthouse on Cape Henry in the summer and fall of 1789. “An Act for the establishment and support of Lighthouses, Beacons, Buoys, and Public Piers,” enacted by Congress into law on 7 Aug. 1789, provided that the federal government would assume responsibility for such construction within the limits of the United States and that the Treasury Department would pay the expenses involved provided that all such installations would be ceded to the United States by the states (Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends , 1:53–54). Virginia conveyed jurisdiction over the Cape Henry lighthouse to the United States in November 1789. See “An Act authorising the Governor of this Commonwealth, to convey certain land to the United States, for the purpose of building a light-house” (13 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 3–4; Journals of the Council of State of Virginia, description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends 5:144–45). The legislature spent considerable time in the fall of 1789 deciding what disposition to make of the large amount of building supplies that had been assembled for the lighthouse. See, for example, Journal of the House of Delegates, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates, of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, on Monday, the nineteenth of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Eighty-Nine, and of the Commonwealth the Fourteenth. Richmond, [1789]. description ends 1789, 127; Journal of the House of Delegates, description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol in the City of Richmond, in the County of Henrico on Monday, the Eighteenth day of October in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety. Richmond, Va., 1828. description ends 1790, 12.

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