George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Hannah Fairfax Washington, 1 April 1791

To Hannah Fairfax Washington

Mount Vernon, April 1st 1791.

My dear Madam,

The letters with which you were pleased to honor me dated the 24th of February and 12th of March came duly to hand—The last at George-Town, the other at Philadelphia—but neither before arrangements had been taken (by letter) with the Supervisor of the Virginia District respecting the appointment of proper characters for collecting the duty on ardent Spirits and Stills.1

At all times it would give me pleasure, as far as is consistent with my public duty, to comply with any request or wish of yours—To fill offices with characters best qualified to discharge the duties thereof (as far as I am able to judge of them) must always be the primary motive to every appointment with me—When, happily, such considerations as you have urged in favor of Mr Norton can be combined therewith it would be highly pleasing to my mind to give them their due weight—but, as I have just observed, measures had been taken previous to the receipt of either of your letters for fixing on proper persons as receivers of the above duties—how far the choice of them is made I am unable to inform you.2

Mrs Washington, I can answer for it, will be much pleased by your friendly recollection of her—and if we should once more enjoy in retirement this peaceful mansion, it would add to the pleasures of it to see you under its roof. I will not conclude without offering my condolence on the occasion of your late loss—and the strongest assurances of the affecte regard, with which I am &ca



Hannah Fairfax Washington (1742–1804) of Fairfield, Clarke County, Va., was the daughter of William Fairfax of Belvoir and sister to GW’s friend George William Fairfax. In 1764 she married GW’s first cousin Warner Washington (b. 1722), who died on 23 June 1790.

1Hannah Washington’s letters of 24 Feb. and 12 Mar. 1791 to GW recommended George Flowerdew Norton (b. 1751) of Winchester, Va., for a position in the excise service (DLC:GW). Edmund Pendleton also recommended Norton to GW, on 9 April: “the mercantile Assistance of the House [John Norton & Sons] (of which this Gentn was a member) to the State, has been signal & beneficial. The first Instance was before the dispute with Britain, when, through their Agency, Mr Nicholas defeated a combination of the Merchants here to depreciate our old paper on the death of Mr Robinson. In the Fall of 1774, their Ship (instead of being loaded with tobacco, which would have been a proffitable remittance & considerable diminution of their debts here that have been ever since a dead stock & may be finally lost) narrowly escaped being burnt, & was compelled to sail empty, or what was nearly equal, because some tea had made part of a Cargoe imported in her for a Native Merchant, ordered before, & not countermanded after the Association. Notwithstanding this stroke from the intemperance of the times, the very next year in Our necessity & anxiety for powder, that House, Advanced £5600. Sterling to procure us that Article, wch money being repaid here in depreciated paper when there was no mean of remittance, was in a manner ⟨j⟩unk to them.” Pendleton added that after his father’s death, Norton “resolved to remove wth the Family to this his native Countrey, but being obliged to accomplish it through the British West Indies, the death of his worthy mother, & loss of considerable property there were added to the other misfortunes of the Family, so that on his Arrival he was reduced to depend for Subsistance principally on a list of outstanding debts, the stability of which, even if their payment could have been legally inforced, your excellency is too well acquainted with to need information, and will I am sure commend him (who had been accustomed to & had reason to expect a State of ease & plenty if not of Opulence) for wishing by some honest emploiment, to place himself in a less precarious situation” (DLC:GW). GW replied to Pendleton on 14 April.

2Norton himself wrote GW on 19 Feb.: “You must well remember Sir, that my Father, Brother & Self at the commencement of the late war with Great Britain advanced to this State a loan of £5,600 Sterling at the peril of our lives and fortunes which Sum I actually accepted the bills drawn for by Mr Ro: C. Nicholas, and paid the amount—Since which I returned to this Country with the relicks of my family, in very reduced Circumstances indeed, totally out of the line of business I have been bred to, & owing to some unfortunate Circumstances that have attended me, I am renderd incapable of resuming my former station in life” and referred GW to Edmund Randolph for his “moral and political Character” (DLC:GW).

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