George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Howell Lewis, 19 April 1794

From Howell Lewis

Philadelphia April 19th 1794.

Dear Sir,

It is with extreme regret that I am under the necessity of informing you that I intend leaving your family on the 15th of next month, as at that time I shall have been with you two years.1 The reason why I have taken this resolution is because I find that 300 dollars does not support me here by two hundred; my property also in Virginia through bad management is running me in debt, & I do not make enough to pay you my rent & other expences which are necessary; My Brother Robert wrote me the other day,2 that my Overseer had not paid the rent nor was there produce of any kind on the farm sufficient to discharge the Same; my negroes Clothing unpaid for, so that I am now obliged to sell some of them (the negroes) to pay what I owe there and here; I have sunk 300 dollars since I have been here, & about £45 in Virginia. & have with the advice of my mother & Brothers taken this step; & also have determined to give up the place which I have of yours, & move with the small remains of my fortune which are but a few negroes, the next spring with my Brother George to Kentuckey, & there try if I can make something, or at least have it in my power to look after my lands which I have in That Country.3

For your attentions to me whilst in your family I hope it is unnecessary for me to say I entertain the deepest sense of gratitude. To dwell on this subject & to make a long acknowledgment of the obligations under which I feel myself laid by your & family’s kindnesses must to a mind like yours be tedious and painful. I will only add that, it has made an impression on my mind which, I trust time itself cannot obl⟨i⟩terate. I am Dear Sir your affe[ctiona]te Nephew

Howell Lewis


1On GW’s employment of his nephew Howell Lewis as a recording secretary for a salary of $300 per year, see GW to Betty Washington Lewis, 8 April 1792. He served briefly as the temporary manager of Mount Vernon during the latter half of 1793, returning to Philadelphia in early January 1794 (GW to William Stuart, Hiland Crow, and Henry McCoy, 14 July 1793; and to William Pearce, 12 Jan. 1794). The entry for 5 May in GW’s Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends recorded that $263 was delivered to Lewis “when he left Philada to pay off his bills & bear his expences to Virginia.”

2The letter from Robert Lewis has not been identified.

3Howell had received seventeen slaves and 15,000 acres in Kentucky from the estate of his father, Fielding Lewis, Sr. Neither Howell nor his brother George settled permanently in Kentucky (Felder, Fielding Lewis description begins Paula S. Felder. Fielding Lewis and The Washington Family: A Chronicle of 18th Century Fredericksburg. [Fredericksburg, Va.], 1998. description ends , 300, 312–15).

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