George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Priscilla Beale, 2 April 1797

From Priscilla Beale

April 2d 1797


I have been called on repeatedly by Mr Hezekiah Veach your Collector for the Rents Due you I have Long since sent some wheat to Baltimore for the Purpose of paying you the Rents due you. But when I sent it there wheat had fallen in Consequence of which I stowed it for a better markett. since Then I have been Afflicted with a very sick Family. one of my sons have been Down with the Consumtion for some time and I Expect will Expire Every day also most all my family Lies Very much afflicted Col. Deakins advised me to notice you of my situation and Request you to wright to Mr H. Veach whatever price You thought Just & Equeateble To take for the Tobacco as I Cant make it on the Land I must pay you in Money when wheat was up I was so situated that I Could not send for my money at Baltimore which is for you and no other purpose your honor will please to wright to Mr Veach not Distress1 as I mean you Shall be paid shortly I am sir with Rept your mos. Hbl. St

Priscilla Beale


After finally taking over in April 1794 the tract of 519 acres in Montgomery County, Md., which John Francis Mercer (1759–1821) had assigned to him in 1792 to settle the longstanding debt of his father, John Mercer, GW was told in June 1794 that “the widow Beall the widow McDaid & John Warring are the three Tenants” on your land (Francis Deakins to GW, 12 June 1794; see also John Francis Mercer to GW, 5, 13 April 1794). The rent was 1,500 pounds of tobacco a year from each tenant. Until 1795 the rent was collected by Benjamin Jones and paid to the Georgetown merchant William Deakins, Jr. (1742–1798), for GW; since that time it had been collected by Hezekiah Veatch and paid to Deakins. GW’s tract of land was the half of Woodstock Manor in Montgomery County that Sophia Sprigg Mercer, wife of John Francis Mercer, had inherited from her wealthy father, Richard Sprigg. See William Deakins, Jr., to GW, 30 April, 23, 31 May, 22 Sept. 1794, GW to William Deakins, Jr., 1 June, 30 Sept. 1794, GW to Francis Deakins, 1 June, 1 July 1794, 13 Nov. 1796, and Francis Deakins to GW, 12 June 1794, 12 Oct. 1796.

John Francis Mercer in 1785 took over from his brother James Mercer the management of the debt-ridden estate of their father, John Mercer (d. 1768), the attorney who handled the first settlement of Daniel Parke Custis’s estate in 1761 after GW’s marriage to Custis’s widow. John Mercer had earlier borrowed £2,100 from the Custis estate, and by the time Martha Washington took over Mercer’s bond at the death of her daughter in 1773, the Mercer debt had grown to more than £3,300. GW’s persistant efforts in the 1780s to induce John Francis Mercer to pay the interest due on this debt of his father’s estate may be followed in GW’s letters to Mercer from 1785 to 1792.

1“Distress” is the common law remedy by which property is taken for payments due.

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