George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Spotswood, 22 March 1797

From Alexander Spotswood

March 22d 1797

Dr Sir

I most Sincerely Congratulate you & Mrs Washington on your Return, to Mt Vernon—and to that Domestic & Rural life, in which Real happiness & peace of mind is only to be found—and you both have my Sincere wishes, that the Remainder of yr days may be long, and that they may be enjoyed, in an uninterupted sceene of health & felicity.

On the 3d day of april I take my departure for Kentucky—if you have any instructions to Send me about your Ruff creek lands—be pleased to forward them, and for fear of a miscarriage, you had better write duplicates, & forward one to Winchester to lay in the office until my arriveal at that place—which will be on the 6th day of april, from whence I shall not depart until the 8th—I shall be on Ruff creek about the 10th of may—and so soon as I return to lexington will write you fully—from whence I will proceed to marshals—and to frankfort & find out the course of yr lands being advertized in Lees Name.1 Mrs Spotswood & family Join me in our most Affectionate love to you & Mrs Washington & am dr sr yr Sincerely Affectionate frd

A. Spotswood


Alexander Spotswood (1751–1818), GW’s friend and frequent correspondent, lived with his wife Elizabeth Washington Spotswood, the daughter of GW’s half brother Augustine, and their numerous children on his plantation New Post, on the Rappahannock River in Spotsylvania County.

1In the fall of 1794 Alexander Spotswood received words of encouragement from GW after telling GW that “a Fortune much curtailed,” which he valued at £20,000, had “determined” him to “remove immediately to the State of Kentucky” (Spotswood to GW, 14 Oct. 1794; see also GW to Spotswood, 23 Nov.1794). The following February Spotswood bought three tracts of Kentucky land from Henry Lee (1756–1818). After buying the land from Lee, Spotswood went out to Kentucky in preparation for his removal. Later in the spring of 1795, GW’s nephew George Lewis traveled from Fredericksburg to Kentucky, taking with him the plats and descriptions of two tracts of land on Rough (Ruff) Creek in Jefferson County, Ky., which GW had acquired in 1789 from Henry Lee in exchange for GW’s famous horse Magnolio. Lewis was to inspect GW’s holdings and provide GW with a description of them (GW to George Lewis, 18 Jan. 1795; Lewis to GW, 6 Feb., 18 July 1795; see also GW to Henry Lee, 30 Nov. 1788, and references in note 1 of that document). There Lewis encountered Alexander Spotswood, and the two men soon discovered that two of the tracts that Spotswood paid Henry Lee cash for in February 1795 were the same two tracts that GW had bought and secured title to from Lee in 1789. When upon his return to Fredericksburg in July 1795 Lewis reported this to his uncle, GW at first assumed that Spotswood and Lewis were mistaken, that the tracts purchased by Spotswood were in fact others in the area owned by Lee, but Spotswood was at pains to make it clear to GW that this was not the case (GW to George Lewis, 27 July 1795; Spotswood to GW, 21 Sept. 1795; GW to Spotswood, 4 Oct. 1795). Lee came to Mount Vernon in September to deal with the matter, and GW decided to help him out of his “hobble, in his sale of Lands to General Spotswood.” GW agreed to accept Lee’s offer of “land of better quality—greater value—and more interior in lieu of those of mine, which he has sold,” provided that upon inspection George Lewis was “decidedly of opinion that the land which he offers in exchange, is of more—or at least of equal value, taking every circumstance into consideration which is valuable in both—such as—Situation—Soil—Timber—Water—&ca &ca” (GW to George Lewis, 28 Sept. 1795). In the end it was Spotswood not GW who gave up his claim to the land on Rough Creek: Spotswood reported in January 1797 that “General Lee and myself have Cancelled our bargain for the three tracts of land Laying in Kentucky, & which I purchased of him last year, (on certain Conditions,) two of which tracts had been previously Sold to you” (Spotswood to GW, 24 Jan. 1797; see also GW to Spotswood, 1 Feb. 1797). Henceforth until his death, GW’s correspondence regarding his land in Kentucky dealt either with securing and maintaining his title to the two tracts or with his fruitless attempts to purchase a 300–acre parcel of land on Rough Creek from Abraham Hite in order to give himself uninterrupted possession of a long stretch of the creek bank (Spotswood to GW, 31 Mar., 23 June, 22 July, 13 Sept.,4 Nov. 1797, 23 Mar., 6 July, 11 Sept., 24 Dec. 1798, 15 Mar., 25 July, 4 Aug. 1799; GW to Spotswood, 26 Mar., 1 Nov. 1797, 9 Jan., 11 Feb., 30 Mar. 1798, 25 Mar., 31 July 1799; GW to Peyton Short, 16 July 1798, 31 July 1799; Peyton Short to GW, 22 July, 1 Nov. 1798; GW to Thomas Marshall, 30 Mar. 1798; GW to Thomas Marshall, Jr., 22 Oct. 1798; Thomas Marshall, Jr., to GW, 4 Aug. 1798; GW to Bushrod Washington, 22 April 1798; Bushrod Washington to GW, 26 April 1798, 10 April 1799; GW to Richard C. Anderson, 30 July 1798; Rawleigh Colston to GW, 6 Oct. 1798; GW to Colston, 21 Oct. 1798; Indenture, 5 Nov. 1798; Henry Lee to GW, 28 Feb.–3 Mar. 1799; Wilson Allen to GW, 29 May 1799, 28 June 1799; and GW to Wilson Allen, 17 June 1799; but see also especially Spotswood to GW, 31 Mar. 1797, n.1. For earlier correspondence regarding GW’s Kentucky landholdings, see GW to Thomas Marshall, 2 Jan., 6 Feb. 1796, GW to George Lewis, 8 Mar. 1796, and George Lewis to GW, 9 April 1796). By “marshals” Spotswood means Thomas Marshall’s place.

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