George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Charles Carter of Ludlow, 14 September 1790

To Charles Carter of Ludlow

Mount Vernon, September 14th 1790.

Dear Sir,

Your favor of the 2. instant1 met me on the road to this place.2

I beg you to be assured of my sensibility and gratitude for your friendly wishes respecting my health, which, since I overcame the severe attack in May last,3 has been better than I had enjoyed for twelve months preceding—for within that time I experienced more, and severer indispositions than I had felt in 25 years before, all put together; owing, I presume, to the change from an active life to one more sedentary and thoughtful.

To be instrumental, in any degree to the accomplishment of the object, which is mentioned in your letter, would, I do assure you, give me pleasure; but with truth I can add that I know no person who has either money to lend, or who seems willing to part with it—The most conclusive proof of which I shall give you: I was much in want of a sum, to answer some calls upon me, which I did not care to have unsatisfied, when I sat out for New York the Spring before last; but was unable to obtain more than half of it, (though it was not much I required) and this at an advanced interest with other rigid conditions—After this I took an occasion to sound Mr Carroll of Carrollton, as the most likely, being the most monied man, I was acquainted with—but without success—He assured me that he could not collect the interest of the money that had been loaned, by his father and himself, and his other resources were not more than adequate to his own occasions—thenceforward I made no further attempts, not knowing indeed where to apply.

At all times I shall be glad to see you; and, with Mrs Washington’s compliments to Mrs Carter, yourself, and family, in which I most cordially join, I am, my dear Sir, Your most obedient, and affectionate, humble Servant

G. Washington.


Col. Charles Carter (1733–1796) of Ludlow, Stafford County, was the eldest son of Mary Walker and Charles Carter of Cleve (1707–1764). The grandson of Robert “King” Carter of Corotoman, Carter married Elizabeth Chiswell (1737–1804), daughter of Hanover County burgess John Chiswell and Elizabeth Randolph Chiswell. Carter himself served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from the 1760s through 1790, representing King George County and then Stafford County. His reckless extravagance earned him the contemporary nickname of “The Blaze,” as well as the lasting disappointment of his father, who in his will left Cleve to a younger son and exacted Charles’s written acknowledgment that he had already received “ample provision” from his father. Carter bought the 2,200–acre Nanzatico estate in King George County from Thomas Mann Randolph in 1767 but was forced to sell it in the 1770s and he removed his family to the Ludlow quarter he had inherited from his father. His pressing creditors forced Carter to sign the title to the property over to trustees in 1788, but he continued to reside there (Shackelford, “Nanzatico,” description begins George Green Shackelford. “Nanzatico, King George County, Virginia.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 73 (1965): 387–404. description ends 394–95, 401–2). Carter provided GW with experimental seeds on various occasions, and the two often exchanged visits (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:326–27, 4:326, 5:132, 144, 149, 340).

1Carter’s letter to GW of 2 Sept. 1790 reads: “I most sincerely congratulate you, on the prospect you have of a few months retirement, from the busy Sceen, that must have occupied, your whole time; I hope it will be the means of restoring you to perfect health. I hope I shall be able, to pay you a short visit at Mt Vernon; and once more enjoy, the pleasure of seeing my respected Friend. I must now beg leave, on the strength of a long acquaintance, to address you on a private matter, to do wch I have waited, for a time when I hope, I shall not intrude by the decision of my Suit, with the Honble Robert Carter, I am possessed of a valuable tract of Land, containing 5552½ acres of Land valued, by the adjacent tax men (under the present circumstances) to 20/ pr Annum in addition to my Ludlow Estate between 3 and 4000 acres, and by the goodness of my Friend and relation Chs Carter of Shirley (to whom I had mortgaged, for money lent, a number of Slaves) Mr Carter is possessed of between 50 and 60 fine Slaves, by his deed from his wife and to such of his Children, as the law well directs. My devoting all my attention to publick service, during the long and Bloody War we were engaged in and always looking upon paper money payments as unjust I find myself involved in such a manner that unless I can by some means promise the loan of 3000£ I shall be obliged to dispose of my Ludlow Estate immediately for one half its value I assume I can ⟨illegible⟩ get 3000£ for a Farm that (exclusive of productive crops of Grain and Tobo) this year yielded near 100 ⟨Ton⟩ of good Hay, and is capable of a great addition to the meadows, not more than one third laid to Grass, that is fit for meadow. The Goose Creek Estate is at present, so encumbered with Crops, that it woud sell to a greater disadvantage than Ludlow, add to this 10 slaves my own property. Thus situated could I by any means procure the loan of the above mentioned sum I could extricate my self in a few years, & have my Family in happy circumstances, my Ludlow Farm is getting in to excellent order and as we have every reason to expect a number of emigrants, I should hope such a Farm within from 11 to 15 miles of three thriving Towns; Fredburg, Faith & Dumfries; woud command double the money, that coud be got for it, at this day. The married man, woud certainly prefer, so convenient a Farm, to a remote situation. The only favour I have to ask of you is that of aiding me, in this business. I do not mean, that you should become security for me, no sir. my intention is to procure if possable, the wanted sum, on a Mortgage of these Estates, as a security, in such manner, as will be satisfactory to the person from whom, the money is obtained. if you can oblige a Friend, in distress (from experience) I flatter myself you will pardon my Friend the liberty, I have taken and be assured, I feel much embarrassed, at having presumed, to ask so great a favour” (DLC:GW).

2After minor mishaps GW arrived at Mount Vernon in the evening of 11 Sept. 1790, having left Baltimore about six o’clock the previous morning. The presidential party had spent the night of 10 Sept. 1790 at Bladensburg and had reached Georgetown by eight o’clock a.m. on 11 Sept., where GW presided over a business meeting of the Potowmack Company at John Suter’s before continuing on his way (see Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 10 Sept. 1790; Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 16 and 23 Sept. 1790; New-York Daily Gazette, 22 Sept. 1790).

3For GW’s illness of the previous spring and his subsequent recovery, see William Jackson to Clement Biddle, 12 May 1790, editorial note.

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