George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Roger West, 19 September 1799

To Roger West

Mount Vernon 19th Sepr 1799


Sometime ago the Servant who waits upon me, named Christopher (calling himself Christopher Sheels) asked my permission to marry a Mulatto girl belonging to you. As he had behaved as well as servants usually do, I told him I had no objection to the union, provided your consent (which was necessary) could be obtained.

This I presume happened⟨,⟩ because I understand they are married. I was in hopes that this connexion (as ⟨I heard⟩ the ⟨Girl⟩ well spoken of) would have been some ⟨illegible⟩ ⟨up⟩on his future conduct; but the reverse is to be apprehended from the enclosed note, which was found in my yard; dropped it is supposed, by him. Whether the girl can write, or not; and whose writing it is, are equally unknown to me; but it undoubtedly came from her to the Husband, from the purport of it.

He is unacquainted ⟨with illegible⟩ my possession, as I think his wife ⟨ought to be,⟩ until proper measures can be ⟨taken illegible⟩ matters upon them; which, from ⟨the contents⟩ of the letter, your vicinity to Alexandria ⟨illegible⟩ friends in that place, you will be enabled, much better than I to do; I mean, particularly, the discovery of the Vessel, they contemplate to escape in.

I have made this communication, my good Sir, on the supposition that you, would be equally desirous to arrest their project; but if, as some say, she is free; and as others, that you are about to make her so, our cases differ; except in the example. But in either case I would thank you for any information you can ⟨give me respecting⟩ this matter, by a line left at ⟨illegible⟩, goes through the med⟨ium of⟩ Doctr Craik, to avoid the suspicion that might arise by sending a messenger with ⟨it to your⟩ house. The Doctr is made acquainted with the contents; but the fewer that are so, ⟨illegible⟩ts, in the business of detection, the better.1

I heard with pleasure, that you had received much benefit in your health, from your journey to the Springs; and I sincerely wish you the perfect restoration of it, being ⟨illegible⟩—Sir Your most Obedt Humble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), NN: Washington Papers.

1Christopher, or Christopher Sheels as he was sometimes called, was a young dower slave about twenty-four years old at this time. GW had taken him to New York in 1789, his old body servant William Lee being crippled. In 1797 Christopher was bitten by a rabid dog at Mount Vernon and GW sent him to Dr. William Stoy in Pennsylvania for treatment (GW to Stoy, 14 Oct. 1797). Nothing further has been found regarding the young couple’s escape plans, but Christopher was at Mount Vernon at GW’s bedside at the General’s death. See Tobias Lear’s Narrative Accounts of the Death of George Washington, printed at the end of this volume.

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