George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Tilghman, Sr., 6 November 1790

To James Tilghman, Sr.

Mount Vernon November 6th 1790.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 6. ultimo came safely, but not expeditiously to hand.

Since my return from the army in 1785, and finding myself under the necessity (being the surviving Executor) of closing the business of the estate of the deceased Colonel Colvill, I have never lost sight of the just claim of Miss Anderson upon that estate; but the suspension of our courts of justice in this State during the war, and being obliged to bring suits for the recovery of money due to that estate, since they were opened has put it out of my power till now to comply with her demand. And even now I ought to add that it depends on a Gentleman, who has had the collection of money for the purpose of discharging a debt due to the estate from the Assignees of Mr John Semple1—But as he has informed me that there will be no disappointment I venture to assure you payment of the legacy with interest up to the 9 of October, which will be 24 years, and, at 5 per cent, the legal interest of this State will make the whole sum £176 Sterling.2

It is far from my wish, Sir, to throw obstacles in the way of Miss Anderson receiving her legacy—But as Colonel Colvill (after directing his debts and legacies to be paid) did leave the residue of his estate to—the Lord knows who, by description, which has stirred up a number of vexations and impertinent claims—and, as the legacy to Miss Anderson is also by description—not by name—I am informed that it is necessary for my own security that there should be proof of her being the person meant—When this is done, and I hope there will be no difficulty in the way, I will pay the above sum in Georgetown, Potowmac, to her Attorney properly authorised to receive the same provided the demand is made before the 22nd instant—If not I will take the money with me to Philadelphia, and shall be ready to pay it there as above.3 I am dear Sir Yours &ca.

G. Washington


For the background to and previous correspondence about GW’s involvement with Harriot Rebecca Anderson’s legacy under Thomas Colvill’s will, see James Tilghman, Sr., to GW, 6 Oct. 1790 and notes.

1For Thomas Montgomerie and the other Semple assignees, see John Semple to GW, 8 Jan. 1770, source note, Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, source note, and James Keith to GW, 6 Nov. 1790; Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:11, 3:78.

2James Dunlop wrote to GW from Georgetown on 1 Nov. 1790 that he received GW’s letter of 29 Oct. and would comply with its request by paying GW £220 whenever the president chose to draw on him. Dunlop added: “I did myself the honour of writing to you at Newyork 15th July 1789 advising that I was prepared to discharge £500 Ster.” as part of Montgomerie et al.’s bond due the Colvill estate, but “since that time I have made very indifferent collections from the purchasers of the Merryland tract and am yet only prepared to pay about £600 Ster.—this with the £700 Ster. already paid to Colo. Hooe will discharge £1300 Ster. of the principal of the Debt when you shall be pleased to call the whole of the £600 Ster. out of my hands” (DLC:GW).

GW replied to Dunlop from Mount Vernon on 8 Nov. 1790: “Your letter of the 1st instant in answer to mine of the 29th ultimo came duly to hand, and it is with pleasure I perceive that you can enable me to pay the demand which has been made upon me as Executor of the will of the deceased Colonel Thomas Colvill.

“The legacy mentioned in my last is to Miss Anderson and is eighty instead of £100 sterling, as I had conceived—This sum with the legal interest of this State amounts to £176. And the Lady, through her friend (James Tilghman Esquire of Chestertown) is requested to give a power of attorney to receive it, and to apply to you therefor—provided the application can be made before the 22nd instant, if not, I will, on that day, receive the money from you myself in Georgetown, or in Philadelphia, if you can make it convenient to pay it at that place on my arrival there.

“As the above legacy was given in the words of the enclosed memorandum, it is necessary (as I have informed Mr Tilghman) that proofs should accompany the power of attorney, purporting that the Lady applying is the person described by the Testator: If this is done to your satisfaction (and I do not wish to be scrupulously exact in obtaining the proof) the money may be paid as above, upon the passing of such a receipt as I have enclosed, to be endorsed on the power of Attorney, for which I will exchange my receipt to you in the manner you have requested.

“Should the proof and the power be defective in your judgment, I would thank you for referring both to me before payment” (LB, DLC:GW).

3Montgomerie wrote to GW from Dumfries, Va., on 17 Nov. 1790: “Mr James Dunlop of George Town was here lately, and tells me there has been upwards of Seven hundred pounds Sterling in his hands ready for your call for a considerable time, in regard to which you had been advised long ago, but which I suppose had escaped your observation—You will please order this money as you see cause—I do not now meddle in business matters, but you may rely there shall no unnecessary delay attend the issue of your suit agt me as admr of Colville, in which the interest during the War is the only matter in dispute, the principal of the Bond with the interest arising before and after, I expect will be paid up in a very short time, by collections from the Sales of the Land, which are altogether faithfully applied to that purpose. It is true I am bound to pay the whole should these collections fail, but not being one third personally interested, I am not inclined, for others, to advance the whole.

“I intended to have done myself the honor of waiting on you and Mrs Washington at Mount Vernon, during your short stay in this part of the Country, but I have been confined ever since I returned from the Sweet Springs” (DLC:GW).

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