George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Tobias Lear, 21 March 1796

To Tobias Lear

Philadelphia 21st Mar. 1796

My dear Sir

Your letter of the 14th Instant did not get to my hands before Saturday. Mine dated the 13th acknowledging the receipt of your favors of the 26th Ulto & 2d Inst. must, I presume, have been received in due course of the Post, and therefore to repeat the contents of it is unnecessary.1

A Mr Summers of Alexandria, is very desirous of purchasing my vacant lot in that Town, and having been told that nothing short of a high price would induce me to sell it, makes the offer contained in the enclosed letters2—Whether this offer is high, or otherwise, depends upon comparison, the means of doing which is not within my reach, but through the medium of another; & therefore I give you the trouble of making some enquiry into the matter at any time when you are in Alexandria. I have no wish to part with the lot unless I can do it upon advantageous terms; and can dispose of the money in a more productive manner. I had thoughts of building on it, but this would be attended with trouble, and perhaps a good deal of imposition; as it could not be properly attended to in the execution of the work. And besides, workmens wages and materials are very high at this time.

A thought has run through my mind (since I began this letter) whether, as I have a prospect, from the high price of flour, of raising five or six thousand dollars from the sale of it; it might not be eligable with that sum, and the sale of the vacant lot (to Summers) to make the purchase suggested in one of your former letters to me?3 If that property is in an eligable place (and I wish to know where it lies) or whether or not, if it would bring ten prCent on the purchase money, it would certainly be more immediately advantageous to me than to let a part of the sum, necessary to command it, lay dead in a vacant lot; which, when built on, would only be to let. Mr Dandridges answer to Mr Summer’s, enclosed, is left open for your perusal; and may be delivered to him, or not, and at any time you may find convenient.4

As the Post hour is at hand, & I have many letters to close, and prepare for the Mail I hardly know what I have written, or whether you will be able, fully, to comprehend my meaning. My love in which Mrs Washington unites, is presented to Fanny & the Children, and I am—Dr Sir Your Affecte Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (photo reproduction), Skinner, Inc., catalog #1434 (1992), item 135; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1Lear’s letters of 14 March and 26 Feb. have not been found. The previous Saturday was 19 March.

2The enclosures have not been identified. William Summers (d. 1797) served as sheriff and clerk of the court at Alexandria. He wrote GW’s secretary Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., on 24 Feb. (not found), and Dandridge replied on 29 Feb. that he had “mentioned to The President your wish to purchase or lease forever a lot of his in Alexandria. He directs me to inform you that leasing forever is out of the question, & that he is not disposed to sell unless for a very high cash price. The President is not at present acquainted with the value of the property you want; but if you think proper to let me know the highest cash price you will give for it, I will let you know whether the President will take it” (ViMtvL).

3GW is referring to Lear’s letter to him of 2 March.

4In his letter to Summers of this date, Dandridge reiterated that GW would require “a very high cash price” for the lot and reported that GW “does not think 3,000$ anything like what the Lot will produce him & therefore he declines taking your offer.” In a postscript, Dandridge referred Summers to Lear for any further negotiations (transcript, DLC: Toner Collection).

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