To John Dandridge
Mount Vernon October 2. 1791.
Your letter of the 6th ultimo found me at this place—but not until it had travelled to Philadelphia and back again.1
As I never entertained a suspicion of your having any intention to impose upon me by a misrepresentation of the assets of your Father’s estate—So you and your good Mother may rest assured that I have no disposition to contribute to her distresses by withdrawing from her the use of those negroes which were purchased on my account (under the friendly judgment which had been obtained at your desire in my behalf) and left in her possession—When I want the negroes she shall have such timely notice of it as will prevent inconvenience.
All I require at present is that the property in them may stand upon such clear and unequivocal ground as to admit of no dispute hereafter.2
Your Aunt and all the family (except my nephew Major Washington) are well, and join me in every good wish for yourself and Mother, and the rest of the family. With great esteem and sincere regard, I am dear Sir, your &ca
For background to this letter from the nephew of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington and brother of GW’s secretary Bartholomew Dandridge, see John Dandridge to GW, 21 Sept. 1790. See also John Dandridge to Martha Washington, 18 Jan. 1788, in Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, description begins Joseph E. Fields, ed. “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington. Westport, Conn., and London, 1994. description ends 202–5.
1. Dandridge’s letter of 6 Sept. from New Kent County, Va., reads: “When I wrote to my Aunt in Janry 1788. respecting the Debt due you from my Father’s Estate, I thought it impossible that I should not have Assetts more than enough to discharge all his Debts: However, upon a conclusive view, I find that I have been mistaken, & it is therefore necessary for me, in honesty, to inform you that neither myself or my Mother will probably ever be able to pay for the negroes which you have hitherto kindly left in her possession—The Sales of property which I have made, have fallen far short of my first expectations, & every attempt towards a collection of Debts due to my Father in his lifetime has been fruitless, for want of sufficient vouchers on my part & for want of honesty on the part of his Debtors—As the number of negroes, purchased under your Judgements & now in my Mother’s possession, is too considerable to expect a loan of them for her support, you will be so good as to notify your wish with regard to the disposition of them, to me, & it shall be executed as soon as possible—It is very lately that I have been convinced of my Father’s insolvency, & I take this early opportunity of informing you of it; for believe me, when I Say, that it was not my design to relieve my Mother’s distresses by any false representation of a prospect of paying for the property you have lent her. H[arry] Innes esqr: of Kentuckey, on whom I relied to discharge the Debt to Mr Custis’s Estate, has repeated his assurances of paying me this Fall: As soon as he does so, I will forward his payments to you under Doctr [David] Stuart’s direction” (DLC:GW).
Mary Burbidge Dandridge (d. 1809) had lived at Pamocra, New Kent County, Va., with her eldest son, the executor of his father’s estate, since the death of her husband, Bartholomew Dandridge, Sr., in 1785.
2. Dandridge replied from Richmond on 17 Oct. that “the property which my Mother holds as the purchase made under your executions against my Father’s estate never was considered otherwise than as yours, & as purchased for you by your directions; & that it will give me pleasure to attend to the execution of any act, which shall be proper to secure beyond dispute at any time your right of property & right of possession to the negroes &c. so purchased” (DLC:GW). At his own death GW released the estate from the debt and allowed Mrs. Dandridge free use of the thirty-three slaves during her lifetime, after which they were to be freed (see George Washington’s Last Will and Testament, Papers, Retirement Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends , 4:484–85).