George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Ross, 2 February 1798

From James Ross

Philadelphia 2d Feby 1798


In consequence of your letter of the 22d Ulto I lodged your bonds in the Bank of Pennsylvania & received the enclosed receipt, so that in future there will be no difficulty when the debtors offer money to the Bank.1

Your lands on the Kenhawa are well sold if the purchaser is an industrious & wealthy man. Altho the lands are certainly of the first quality & the credit very considerable, yet I cannot be persuaded that he will be able to subdivide & sell for such a Sum as will yeild him a profit. The Country beyond the Ohio is now opening, Adventurers who have money will seek a Settlement there, & purchase public lands of the first quality at a Moderate price. This must greatly retard the sale of high priced lands upon the Kenhawa and on this side of the Ohio. In the mean time interest is running upon the purchase money & adding every day to the first cost, And probably an Additional capital must be employed in furnishing provisions or making improvements—I have lately had some experience as to difficulties and expence in the improvement of new lands. My agents were skilful, honest and industrious, but the result was not such as to incourage me in the prosecution of a system I had partly adopted. I have resolved to sell without improvements, or to effect by leases on conditions of clearing lands &c.2

The legislature is as much divided, and the parties in it, as much embittered against each other, as it is possible to conceive. The more our danger encreases, the factious, discontented spirit seems to become bolder, & to assume a more desperate attitude. One party or the other must obtain a decisive Victory before the Machine of Government can move with any efficacy. The sooner this is decided the better. At present the House of Represts. is engaged in a deep, learned discussion of a knotty question—whether spitting in the face of a member while attending his duty in the house is an insult or not. Those who know the house best seem to think that the ruffian who was guilty of this rudeness, will be protected by his party.3 With most sincere respect I have the honour to be Sir your most Obedient & most humble Servant

James Ross


1The enclosed receipt from the Bank of Pennsylvania dated 1 Feb. reads: “Whereas James Ross Esquire has deposited in this Bank for safe keeping a Bond of Mathew Ritchie to George Washington Esqr. dated the 1st of June 1796 Conditioned for the payment of Eight thousand eight hundred & twenty Dollars in certain Instalments therein fixed, & made payable at this Bank, one of the Instalments appears to have been paid by the receipt of the said George Washington endorsed on the said Bond. Also a Bond of Israel Shreeve to the said George Washington dated the 31st July 1795 conditioned for the payment of Three thousand Pounds Pennsylvania currency in certain Instalments therein fixed and made payable at this Bank two of the Instalments appears by an endorsment on the Bond to have been paid—It is hereby declared that in case the parties shall make payment of the Instalments as specified, at this Bank, that then the Money received shall be carried to the Credit of George Washington Esquire and remain subject to his draft at sight. Jona. Smith Cas[hie]r” (PHi: Etting Papers).

2GW replied from Mount Vernon on 12 Feb.: “Dear Sir, For the meer purpose of acknowledging the receipt of your favor of the 2d instant, covering a receipt from the Bank of Pennsylvania for the Bonds of Colonels Shreve & Ritchie, deposited therein for Collection, is this letter written.

“I will add however, while the Pen is in my hand, that with you, I think it is vain to expect any change in the sentiments, or political conduct of those who are, in every form it can be tried, opposing the measures of the Government, & endeavouring to sap the foundation of the Constitution. A little time now, must decide what their ulterior movements will be, as they have brought matters to a crisis. ⟨With very great esteem & regard I am Dear Sir Your Obedient Hble Servt Go: Washington⟩” (AL [closing and signature clipped], NN: U.S. Presidents; letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW).

3James McHenry wrote GW about this spitting incident on 1 February. See note 2 of McHenry’s second letter of that date.

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