George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Martha Dangerfield Bland, 4 July 1790

From Martha Dangerfield Bland

Cawson [Prince George Co., Va.] July 4th 1790

I do not Sir write to you in your official character⟨.⟩ I write to you as the friend of Colonel Bland, and (will you permit me to say) my friend! Were it known that I address you it woud be thought obtrusive & arrogant, but I have tryd, to disunite for a moment, your domestic character from your high Station.

When Colonel Bland was by your orders on duty near Brunswick, Immediately upon the British Evacuating that place,1 he with one of his light horse men took possession of a boat laden’d with Negroes & Merchandize going down the river to New York, which boat he deliverd into the hands of an officer, who deliverd it over to the Quarter Master Genl—and it was Vallued at £41.810—he often declared that he woud Never Make a demand upon the United States for his right, while he lived but desired me if I survived him to endeavour to get your Influence in the recovery of what was his right & put the enclosed papers2 into My hands for that purpose, tis therefore Sir, that I ask of you, that friendship, & protection, which I have no doubt you will shew Me upon this occasion and if I have your influence what More Can I wish or desire⟨,⟩

I have another favour to ask of you Sir as a friend—amongst the papers transmited to me from N. York, is a letter from Mr Evelyn to Colonel Blan⟨d⟩ requesting returns for a Number of dollars put into his hands (I suppose) for the purchasing of horses to recruit the Cavalry of the United States, you know Sir⟨!⟩ that it was by your orders he undertook that business and the Number of Horses he sent on to Camp. There were several officers of his regt appointed to assist him in the business—I am totally Ignorant of these matters,3 or whether he Made up his Accounts, or for what other purpose he Might have public Money put into his hands his Character as a Man of punctuality and the Strictest Honor Must insure his having layd out all public Moneys, to the best advantage for his Country—our house was plunderd of Every article during Arnolds invasion while Colo. Bland was in Congress4 all his papers, both public and private were scatterd over the Country his books of accounts to of a large sum of Money intirely lossd and only a few detachd leaves & papers ever found—Surely Sir! if there Can be No receipts or Vouchers found—his Country will Not—can not think of making his Estate liable for the failure—I am unused to ask favors, this is the first that ever fell from My lips, or my pen, and surely it will be the last—shall I then Meet with the Mortification of being regected? No Sir! I trust in your goodness, and almost feel My self afrared that you will be My protector my friend!—but alas! What is there Certain in this Sublunary World⟨?⟩ I am left alone to Conduct all his private affairs5 with his Whole fortune perfectly independent and large enough for every rational wish, but if that fortune inherited intirely from our parents Shoud be Embarrass’d by public Matters what a dreadful Circumstance it woud be to me if you will not interfere ⟨on⟩ My behalf in these Matters do not Sir⟨,⟩ treat me with Silent Contempt but in a line writen by your own hand tell me you will not be My friend—and burn this letter—if I wrote less Confidential I woud beg you to present My affectionate regards to Mrs Washington. Adieu Sir May Every Felicity attend you6

Martha Bland


Martha Dangerfield (Daingerfield), daughter of Apphia Fauntleroy and William Daingerfield, married Dr. Theodorick Bland, who served under GW during the Revolutionary War as colonel of the 1st regiment of Continental light dragoons. She socialized extensively with the Washingtons at GW’s Morristown, N.J., headquarters in 1777. After the Revolution GW continued his acquaintance with the Blands despite Theodorick’s Antifederalist leanings. Two years after his death on 1 June 1790 Martha Bland married Nathan Blodget, who died sometime before 1795. She took as her third and final husband a sea captain named Corran and died in France probably after the turn of the century (Martha Bland to Frances Bland Randolph, 12 May 1777, N.J. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, description begins Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society. 84 vols. Newark, N.J., 1845–1966. description ends n.s., 51 [1933], 250–53; Campbell, Bland Papers, description begins Charles Campbell, ed. The Bland Papers: Being a Selection from the Manuscripts of Colonel Theodorick Bland, Jr., of Prince George County, Virginia. 2 vols. Petersburg, Va., 1840-43. description ends i:xx; WMQ description begins The William and Mary Quarterly: A Magazine of Early American History. Williamsburg, Va. description ends 1st ser., 9 [1900–1901]:189).

1After marching from New Brunswick, N.J., several times in June 1777 in unsuccessful attempts to draw the American army into a disadvantageous general engagement, Sir William Howe’s army finally evacuated the town on 30 June (GW to John Hancock, 20, 22 June, 1 July 1777, all in DNA:PCC, item 152).

2For comments on these enclosures, which have not been found, see GW to Clement Biddle, 9 Aug. 1790, and to Martha Bland, 25 Aug. 1790, both in n.6 below.

3Martha Bland assumed that the enclosed circular from Nicholas Eveleigh referred to money handled by her husband while recruiting, arming, and mounting his light cavalry troops in the spring of 1778, but it more likely dealt with charges Bland made as a member of the congressional committee on the Pennsylvania mutiny, to which he was appointed on 5 Jan. 1781 (see GW to Martha Bland, 25 Aug. 1790, in n.6 below; GW to George Baylor, 4 Mar. 1778, GW to Theodorick Bland, 5 Mar. and 18 April 1778, all in DLC:GW; GW to Theodorick Bland, 1 May 1778, owned by Mr. John F. Reed, King of Prussia, Pa.; GW to Stephen Moylan, 29 April 1778, DLC: MSS Collection, Philip Lansdale; JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 19:25).

4British troops under Benedict Arnold raided along the James River in January 1781, pillaging Farmingdale (Farmingdell), Bland’s Prince George County estate, and other exposed plantations. Gen. William Phillips’s raid three months later destroyed Bland’s furniture, crops, and livestock (“Campbell Papers,” description begins “Selections from the Campbell Papers.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 9 (1901–2): 59–77, 162–70, 298–306. description ends 163; Campbell, Bland Papers, description begins Charles Campbell, ed. The Bland Papers: Being a Selection from the Manuscripts of Colonel Theodorick Bland, Jr., of Prince George County, Virginia. 2 vols. Petersburg, Va., 1840-43. description ends 2:75).

5In his will of 5 Nov. 1789 Bland made his wife the sole executrix and primary heir of his estate (Va. Mag., description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 1893—. description ends 3:315–16).

6GW sent Mrs. Bland’s enclosures to Clement Biddle on 9 Aug. 1790 and requested him to ask former quartermaster general Thomas Mifflin about the transactions if Biddle could not recall them. GW remarked: “At such a distance from the period in which these transactions are said to have taken place, I am fully apprised of the difficulties of ascertaining the real circumstances or of doing justice in case it still ought to be done; I should, however, be very glad to render any service in my power respecting this affair to the Lady who has made the application. . . . I request that you will return the Certificate as early as may be in a letter addressed to me, in order that I may answer the letter which I have received from Mrs Bland” (LS, PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence).

Biddle replied from Philadelphia on 16 Aug. 1790 that he discussed GW’s enclosures with Thomas Mifflin and former deputy quartermaster general Jonathan Mifflin: “General Mifflin was not with the Army at the time and recollecting nothing of the business referred me to Colonel Mifflin—he was with me at Brunswick When the British Army evacuated it in June 1777, but recollects nothing of the Capture and thinks, if it came under Notice of the Quarters Masters Department that Colonel Lutterloh can give Information & he supposes that Gentleman to be in New York.

“At the Time of the Capture mentioned by the late Colonel Bland, I had quitted the Quarter Masters Department by taking Charge of the Forage Department & such Captures did not then come under my Direction or superintendence—I was at Brunswick at the time referred to and have some faint remembrance of the Capture of such a ship but do not remember any of the property, especially the Negroes, which I must have noticed at Camp by living with the Deputy Quarter Master Generals, having come to the Charge of the Quarter Masters Department. The German Officer alluded most probably was Colo. Lutterloh who had a few weeks before enter’d on the Duties of Quarter Master General and w⟨as⟩ at Brunswick on the Day of the Evacuation by the British.

“This is the best Information I can Obtain on the subject or which my memory enables to give at this Distance of time” (PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book).

GW’s reply to Martha Bland of 25 Aug. 1790 reads: “The letter which you did me the honor to write to me on the 4. of July, with its enclosures (which are herewith returned) has been received—This late acknowledgement of the receipt of it requires some apology, which I trust your goodness will perceive is well founded in the uncommon multiplicity of public business which pressed, on all sides, upon me towards the close of the session of Congress, and the time which it required to make the necessary enquiries into the subjects of your letter.

“In regard to the boat captured by Colonel Bland; as I had no knowledge of the circumstance myself, or, if I had when it took place, the length of time which has since elapsed has driven all recollection of it from my mind—I wrote to Colonel Biddle, (who was one of the persons mentioned in Colonel Bland’s certificate) for information on the subject, and I have the honor to enclose his answer to my letter, which contains all the information he is able to give or obtain; and the German Officer, (Colonel Lutterloh) who is mentioned, living in Wilmington North Carolina, prevented my getting any information from him so early as you could obtain it yourself, and which I am sure he will give as far as he is able, with pleasure, upon your application to him. You will, Madam, however, permit me to mention a circumstance which I think appears unfavorable to your recovering any thing from this capture—The length of time which has elapsed without any enquiry having been made into the subject, naturally involves in it that obscurity, to which all events of that nature were liable in those times of confusion and hazard, to say nothing of the want of proper documents, which are considered as necessary to substantiate claims on the public; And whatever may have been Colonel Bland’s motives, during his life, for withholding his claim, yet, as he was engaged in public business, and constantly in the way of gaining information on a subject of this nature it does not seem at all probable that any thing can be recovered from this source after his death.

“I have caused an examination to be made at the Comptroller’s office, relative to the subject of the letter, which Colonel Bland received from Mr Eveleigh, Comptroller of the Treasury—and find that the sum of money therein mentioned was deposited in the hands of a Committee of Congress in the year 1781, of which Colonel Bland was a Member—and by letters which have been received at the Comptroller’s office from several Gentlemen of the Committee in reply to the circular written to them by the Comptroller, it appears that they considered the sum placed in their hands as subject to such expenses as might arise in the course of the business which they were sent to transact, and that they were not expected to render in a particular account thereof; and further that they conceive the sum mentioned to have been returned by Colonel Bland into the Treasury, was all that remained after the necessary Expenditure of their mission.

“It would have been peculiarly pleasing to me, Madam, to have rendered you such service in this business, as would have been commensurate with your wishes; but your good sense will readily point out to you the necessity of confining myself to my private character in this matter, as any interference in my public capacity would be deemed improper.

“Before I conclude I pray you to accept my sincere condolence on your late and great loss—and the assurances of being, with great respect and esteem, Madam, Your most obedient humble Servant” (LB, DLC:GW).

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