George Washington Papers

James Keith to Tobias Lear, 15 July 1793

James Keith to Tobias Lear

Alexandria [Va.] July 15th 1793

Dear Sir

The Line you did me the favor to drop me from George Town was not delivered untill Fryday Noon,1 I would have answered it immediately, but The Commissioners had not then taken the Accounts under Consideration, the next day was appointed for the purpose, untill this was done the exact Ballance could not be ascertained, as the Quantum of some Charges still to be made was to be determined by them. This has been done, and I now inclose you a Copy of that Account, in which the Ballance still due is struck. I also inclose you the other Accounts relating to John Colvill’s Estate.2 The Gent., in determining what allowance woud be proper to make the attornies, thought it might not be amiss to apply to Colo. Hooe for Sentiments in the Business, as the Allowance, which they should make, would ultimately fall upon Mr Bennett.3 He declined paing upon any Sum, but said he thought the Gentlemen intituled to Liberal Fees, they in consequence stated them at ten Guineas apiece in each Suit.4 after this was settled I mentioned to the Gent. that it had been proposed, both by his Excellency and myself, to submit to them the Compensation I might merit for the part I had taken in the Business. Upon their desiring to be made acquainted with the Accounts which had passed through my hands, I briefly mentioned them and the State in which I had found them and withdrew. They have stated their Opinion which I inclose you. The Sum is large and more than I looked for, whatever part of it his Excellency may think me intituled to I shall with Satisfaction receive.5 Whenever the Ballance which appears to be due is settled with Colo. Hooe, I intend to get from him a full Release of all Claims of Mr Bennett against the two Estates of John & Thomas Colvill and have it Recorded. As soon as you transmit me the Receipt for Miss Anderson’s Legacy I will have the accounts of T. Colvills Estate examined by the Commissioners, Copys of which I will transmit you as soon as they are inspected.6 I am Dear Sir with great Respect & Esteem your most Obedient Servant

Ja. Keith


1Keith received Tobias Lear’s letter on Friday, 12 July. The unidentified letter may have been written at Georgetown on either 7 or 8 July when Lear and GW stopped there on their way to Philadelphia (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 190).

2Alexandria merchants John Fitzgerald and William Herbert were the men hired to review the accounts for the Colvill estate (see note 5). According to the financial statement titled “The Estate of John Colvill deceased to George Washington Surviving Executor of Thomas Colvill deceased who was Executor of the said John Colvill,” 4 Jan. 1772–25 May 1793, the “Ballance now due to H. A. Bennett payable to his Agent Colo. Hooe” was £443.18.8 sterling (DLC:GW). The other enclosed accounts contains entries from September 1761 until 25 May 1793 (DLC:GW). On the entangled estates of brothers John and Col. Thomas Colvill, see Thomas Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, source note. For a final account for the Colvill estate, see Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 13–17.

3Col. Robert Townsend Hooe, among others, held a power of attorney to act for Henry Astley Bennett and his brother Charles Bennett, fourth earl of Tankerville, who were the major heirs of the Colvill estate (GW to Hooe, 7 Feb. 1793, and notes).

4For previous discussion of the appropriate legal fees for Alexandria attorneys Charles Lee and Charles Simms, see GW to Keith, 7 Feb., 8 May, and Keith to GW, 7 Mar., 3 May 1793. According to the enclosed financial statement for the John Colvill estate, on 25 May 1793 Simms received £28 Virginia currency for “his extraordinary Trouble and Services in prosecuting two Actions against [John] Semples Securities,” and Lee received the same amount “for the same Services.” Simms also was paid £3 Virginia currency on this date for “his trouble in defending a suit brought by the Administrator of Mary Foster to recover her Legacy,” which with interest totaled £58.4.1½ sterling (DLC:GW). On Mary Foster’s legacy from John Colvill, see Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, source note.

5The statement of 15 July signed by John Fitzgerald and William Herbert reads: “We are of Opinion that James Keith Esqr. is entitled to the Sum of One Hundred & forty Pounds Curr[enc]y in Consideration of his trouble in examining & Settling the Accots of the Estates of John & Thomas Colvill, the Accot of Thomas Colvill with the Earl of Tankerville, the Settlement of the Accot between Colvill’s Executors & Semple’s Trustees, & attending Court & Arbitrators on said business—also the settlement of Accots of John West as Executor of Thomas Colvill” (DLC:GW). For GW’s approval of this sum, see note 6 of Lear to Keith, 6 Aug. 1793.

6According to GW’s financial accounts, payment was made on 1 Jan. 1791 to Harriot Rebecca Anderson’s “Legacy of £80. Stg. with Interest to this date reduced to Va. Cy. @ 33⅓ the par of Exchange is £234.13.4” (Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 14). On this legacy from Thomas Colvill, see James Tilghman, Sr., to GW, 6 Oct. 1790, and notes, and Keith to GW, 6 Nov. 1790, GW to James Tilghman, Sr., 6 Nov. 1790, and note 2.

Lear replied to Keith from Philadelphia on 6 August: “I have been duly favored with your letter of the 15th of July, enclosing, for the President, copies of the Accounts between the Estate of Colo. Thomas Colville & of John Colville—and the opinion of the Commissioners as to the Compensation which should be made you for your trouble in settling the Accounts of Colo. Colville’s estate.

“The President directs me to inform you that he is perfectly satisfied with the decision of the Commissioners as to your compensation—and you have enclosed a draught upon Colo. Hooe for the amount—vizt for one hundred & forty pounds Virginia Currency. “I had transmitted to you the receipt for Miss Andersons legacy before your letter came to hand—and as soon as the Accounts of T. Colvilles Estate are inspected by the Commissioners, you will be so good as to transmit a copy thereof to the President, as he wishes to know what the balance of that estate is remaining in his hands, that he may take the proper steps to have it deposited in the hands of the Chancellor [George Wythe] or if such other Character as he may be advised for those to whom it may be found to be justly due” (ViMtvL). For the payment made to Keith, see GW to Hooe, 7 Aug. 1793, and note 2. For the final settlement of the Thomas Colvill estate, see the decree of the Virginia court of chancery of 25 July 1796 (D, NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers; D, NHi: Rufus King Papers); see also Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 15, 25.

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