George Washington Papers
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[Diary entry: 14 March 1797]

14. Dined at Mr. Laws & lodged at Mr. Thos. Peters. Day warm.

mr. laws: Thomas Law (1759–1834), son of Edmund Law, bishop of Carlisle, was in India from 1773 to 1791 in the service of the East India Company, where he held several important administrative positions and acquired a sizable fortune. Apparently sometime during his stay in India, Law was married, for when ill health forced his return to England, he brought his three Indian sons with him. In 1794 Law and his children came to America. He met James Greenleaf in New York and purchased from him a large section of lots in the new Federal City. Law came to the Federal City on 23 Feb. 1795 to inspect his newly acquired property, located south of the Capitol between the Potomac River and the Eastern Branch (Anacostia River). In 1796 he married young Eliza Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s eldest grandchild. Law built numerous houses in the city for speculation and for his own use, but at this time he was probably living at the northeast corner of Sixth and N streets, S.W., near Greenleaf Point (DOWNING [3] description begins Margaret Brent Downing. “Literary Landmarks. Being a Brief Account of Celebrated Authors who have Lived in Washington, the Location of their Homes, and what they have Written.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society 19 (1916): 22–60. description ends , 27). The Englishman Thomas Twining, who visited the Laws in 1796, wrote of his difficulty in finding the isolated house several miles from the Capitol: “His house, built by himself, was only a few yards from the steep bank of the Potomac, and commanded a fine view across that river, here half a mile wide. In the rear of the house Mr. Law was building a street, consisting of much smaller houses than his own. . . . The position at least was favorable, being on a point of land between the Potomac and a tributary stream called ‘the eastern branch,’ thus offering a double waterfront” (TWINING description begins Thomas Twining. Travels in America 100 Years Ago: Being Notes and Reminiscences. New York, 1893. description ends , 104). Thomas Law, aside from his land activities in the capital, was a strong advocate of the need for a national currency and wrote numerous addresses and pamphlets promoting it. Law lost much of his fortune in his land speculations and spent his later years in relative poverty. Always eccentric, he became more so with age, and his marriage to Eliza Parke Custis ended in a much publicized separation and divorce.

mr. thos. peters: Thomas Peter was the son of Robert Peter, a prominent merchant and first mayor of Georgetown. In Jan. 1795 Thomas Peter married Martha Washington’s granddaughter Martha Parke Custis. The couple lived in Washington in a house located near Rock Creek on the south side of K Street between 26th and 27th.

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