George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Mary Harding Bristow, 5 July 1791

From Mary Harding Bristow

Spring Gardens London 5th July, 1791


I once more take the liberty of addressing a few lines to Your Excellency, as I am inform’d the Sale of my Son’s Brent Town Lands, was finaly set aside by the decree of Your Court of Appeals last december. there fore, the Claims of individuals upon it are entirely wiped away; leaving only that of the State under the Escheat and forfeiture Laws, made during the War.1 I some years ago, did myself the honor to write to you, and send a Copy of the Petition, and Memorial Myself, and the other Guardians of my Son had address’d to the Assembly of the States in his behalf, which you had the goodness to acknowledge the receipt of.2 I shall there fore not trouble you with sending over an other Petition to the Legislature; but rely entirely on Your Excellency’s, and their Justice, & Humanity in Restoring to my Son that part of his Estate which it now absolutely is in their power to do—as I am sure they will recollect my Infant Son, cou’d do no act to offend! and as the Moderation of Peace, has succeeded the Asperities of War; I will hope: from the known goodness of Your Heart, and the great influence You must have! that I shall be made happy in a favorable Answer to my Request, which will always be acknowledged with great gratitude by Sr Your Excellency’s Most Respectfull Humble Servant3

M: Bristow

P.St John Taylor Esqr. is in Possession of the affidavits of my Husband’s death and the Infancy of my Son. if you Sir shou’d think them of any Use.

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter’s cover is addressed to GW at Mount Vernon and is postmarked Norfolk, 5 Sept. 1791.

For previous correspondence concerning Virginia’s confiscation in 1779 of Robert Bristow’s Prince William County tract and his wife’s attempts to have it restored to her son, Robert, see Mary Harding Bristow to GW, 22 Oct. 1790.

1After the Virginia Court of Appeals confirmed a High Court of Chancery decree and the state’s title to Robert Bristow’s Prince William County lands in December 1790, the governor appointed Thomas Lee, Jr., agent to collect rents from the tenants of the remaining 7,000 acres that had not been sold during the Revolutionary War and to recover money from the former county commissioners of escheated property and, later, to sell the tract. In March 1794 Mary Bristow’s attorney, Richard Marshall Scott of Dumfries, Va., presented a memorial to the governor in the name of Robert Bristow requesting suspension of the sale of the property scheduled for 5 May 1794 until the High Court of Chancery considered an injunction bill presented by the Bristow tract tenants. An injunction was granted, and the sale was postponed, but the Bristows were ultimately unsuccessful. The tract was divided and sold at auction in the nineteenth century. See 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 5:257, 272, 278, and Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:257, 269, 6:643–44, 7:20, 63–64, 65–66, 79, 8:417–18, 9:392.

2Mary Bristow’s letter of 27 Nov. 1783, forwarded to GW by George William Fairfax on 9 Dec. 1783 and received on 10 June 1784, is in DLC:GW. See GW to Benjamin Harrison, 14 June 1784 and note 1. For GW’s acknowledgment, see his letter to Mary Bristow of 15 June 1784.

3GW answered this letter on 14 Nov. and enclosed the original of his letter of February 1791 (see Bristow to GW, 22 Oct. 1790, n.1), which had been sent to London and returned as undeliverable: “I have received another letter from you to the same effect as the former dated July 5th 1791. and as circumstances continue to be the same with me as when the enclosed letter was written, that will serve as a reply to both—I will take the liberty to add that if your application should be made to some Gentleman in Virginia, on whose good offices you could depend, it might be the means of satisfying your enquiries on that subject” (LB, DLC:GW). It was probably GW’s letter of February 1791 to Bristow that New York City postmaster Sebastian Bauman returned to GW on 20 Aug., writing: “I have taken the liberty to inclose to Your Excellency a letter which came to hand by the British Paket Duck of Cumberland. It appears somewhat Extraordinary that the Post Office in England should return a letter directed for London, when there is no such place on the Charts of the United States” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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