Mount Vernon 3d Augt 1796
I am directed by the President of the United States to acknowledge the receipt of your letter to him, dated the 24th of July. To express his concern that your prospect of recovering the Estate, which you are in pursuit of, is so unpromising; and to add, that Mr Erdman who Interpreted between you, either greatly misunderstood him, or you have greatly misunderstood Mr Erdman; for that so far from promising to have any Agency in the business, he requested that Gentleman to inform you, in explicit terms, that he could not meddle in the affair at all. That the Courts of Justice (over whom he had no controul) were alone competent to decide on the justice and equity of your claim, and that it was to one of these if the person in possession would not surrender the Estate you would be obliged to resort for the purpose of establishing your title if good. This he directs me to repeat to you again—and to assure you that it is Law alone not men that govern in this Country.
His advice to you however, is to lay all your title papers before some eminent Lawyer in Richmond,, (of whom there are many)—and as you are not in Cash to fee him well (which in this, as in most other countries is essential) to inform the Gentleman you employ (if he thinks your title good, & worth prosecuting) that he shall receive a certain sum—or a certain proportion of whatsoever he shall recover if he succeeds—but that you are unable to pay any thing if he does not.
This, at the same time that it will involve you in no expence, will be a stimulus to his exertions; and seems to be the best, indeed the only mode (in your circumstances), by which the business can be prosecuted. I am &ca &ca.
DLC: Papers of George Washington.