George Washington Papers
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https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-23-02-0395

To George Washington from George William Fairfax, 5 December 1779

From George William Fairfax

December 5th 1779

My Dear Sir.

I have lately received a Letter dated 13th of July last, from our worthy friend Mr Nicholas, informing me, that our Assembly had very unexpectedly past an Act to Confiscate the property of British Subjects, and of all Persons, in any part of the World, other than the united States of America.1 This my good Sir, you must suppose is truely alarming, as at this instant of writing, I may not have a single Acre of Land in the Country I have so much espous’d; however I trust, and hope, that the Legislature has not as yett proceeded to the Sale of all Absentees Estates; and when they come to Consider, and make inquiry into my Conduct here, that I shall not come under the Description & meaning of the Act.

When I received your Letter, advising me to appoint another Attorney, I really thought it needless, and would be of little avail. even if I had, had an opportunity of doing so:2 as by the Sequestring Act (which I chearfully acquiess’d in) the Legislature took the Sole, and whole direction, of such Estates themselves,3 But now, as this unforeseen Event is likely to take place, I think it absolutely necessary (if not to[o] late, as you are at so great a distance, and certainly must have business enough, of much greater importance, to employ your utmost attention) To send a power to Mr Nicholas, (being I hope luckily the very first opportunity I have had, of getting two Gentn to Witness, that will also prove it in the Country) in Case it should be necessary to Petition in my behalf, and to see how my affairs stand in the Treasury. If it’s necessary my good Friend, to have more proff of my Conduct, than what the bearers conveys, I must intreat, and beg the favor of you, to refer to Sir James J—— bro: to the P—— of C——s,4 who knows me perfectly well, and I shall take care to point out to my Friend to the Southward, who may be called upon there, and I flatter myself, if occation, that you’l be so good as to Vouch, that I was not a Fugitive, nor withdrew myself to avoid taking the Oaths &c. &c., or any thing else, you may be pleas’d to represent in my behalf. Tho’ from the Extract I have seen, I am hopeful, I am not comprehended in the dreaded Act,5 yett it is perplexing to think how tottering my Estate stands, for want of their knowing what a steady, and faithful Adherent, I have been from the very beginning, and how many innocent Individuals, (now residing in their State) will suffer by the Sale of my property.

I trust my Dear Friend, that it will not be long before you return from the great Toil, and danger, you must have been exposed to, and sett down quietly, and enjoy a Series of uninterrupted Domestic happiness, being truely the ardent prayer, and wish of Dear Sir Your Affecte and ever Obliged humble Servant. Our united Comp[limen]ts and best wishes attend your worthy Lady. [as well as] Mr & Mrs C——s.6

I hope you’l excuse my directing this as I have, being more likely to gett to hand, than directing immediately to your E——y.7

AL (two versions), DLC:GW. Each letter includes a cover addressed to Lund Washington at Mount Vernon.

1No letter dated 13 July from Robert Carter Nicholas to Fairfax has been identified. Fairfax and Nicholas had married sisters (see “Nicholas Family,” description begins Victor Dennis Golladay. “The Nicholas Family of Virginia, 1722–1820.” Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1973. description ends 102–6).

The troubling measure was “An act concerning escheats and forfeitures from British subjects,” which the Virginia General Assembly had passed during its May 1779 session (Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 10:66–71).

2For GW’s power of attorney for Fairfax, see GW to Nicholas, 2 Nov., and notes 1 and 4 to that document.

3Fairfax is referring to “An act for Sequestering British Property, enabling those indebted to British subjects to pay off such debts, and directing the proceedings in suits where such subjects are parties,” which the Virginia General Assembly passed during its October 1777 session (Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 9:377–80; see also Fairfax to GW, 25 May 1779).

4Fairfax meant James Jay, the brother of John Jay, former president of Congress. James Jay had lived in England since the 1750s and had been knighted in 1763.

5Additional text at this place on the other version of this letter reads: “& that there will be no occation to give you the least trouble.”

6Fairfax is remembering GW’s stepson, John Parke Custis, and his wife, Eleanor Calvert.

7The other version of this letter reads “Ex——y” at this place and clarifies that Fairfax intends “Excellency” for this word.

For another effort to secure a new person to undertake power of attorney for Fairfax, see GW to Fielding Lewis, 2 March 1780 (DLC:GW). Lewis declined in his letter to GW dated 4 April 1780 (PPRF).

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