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To George Washington from Elizabeth Whiting, 12 July 1789

From Elizabeth Whiting

Virginia Gloucester July 12th 1789


You will no doubt be surpriz’d to receive a letter from one entirely unknown to you, on a Subject that after a long conflict I have ventured to address you—the unfortunate situation to which I am reduced in the decline of life with two young Sons and a neice I have long had under my care, impels me to ask relief of a stranger, as I have liv’d to se my family sink before me, and have ⟨no⟩ alternative before me but to beg or starve. The remains of a shatter’d Estate to which I became Execeutrix (not knowing it was so much involv’d, as I have found it,) must all be sold in the course of a few Months, when I must be reduced to miserable want—had my situation been brought on by extravigance I could never have prevail’d on my Self to take this step, but it is well known it originated from misconduct in Mr Beverley Whitings Execors, since added too by loss of property, Securitiships, and a Sereis of misfortunes,1 these facts my freind Mr Page in Congress can Certify,2 if you can conveniently contribute in a small degree to my relief, it will ever be acknowledg’d. I have the honour to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obt & Hble Sert

Eliza. Whiting


Elizabeth Burwell Whiting was the daughter of Lewis Burwell (1710–1752) of Carter’s Creek, Gloucester County, Virginia. A graduate of Cambridge who studied at the Inner Temple, Burwell served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and was acting governor of the colony in 1750. Mrs. Whiting’s husband, Beverley Whiting, was probably the son of Peter Beverley Whiting (c.1707–1755) of Gloucester County. Peter Beverley Whiting may have been the son of the Beverley Whiting who was one of GW’s godfathers. For GW’s connection with the family, see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:34.

1Mrs. Whiting’s difficulties arose from the legal proceedings brought by the state of Virginia against Sir John Peyton, high sheriff of Gloucester County, for taxes and interest for several years’ back taxes during the early 1780s. The discrepancies arose from the failure of several of Peyton’s deputy sheriffs to make scheduled payments to the high sheriff. Peyton in turn brought suit and obtained judgment against Elizabeth Whiting as executrix for her deceased husband who had signed security bonds for several of Peyton’s deputies. Near the end of 1789 her plight was brought to the attention of the Virginia general assembly which remitted the interest and damages obtained by Peyton against her, allowed credit for the amount of the interest and damages to Peyton, and deferred proceedings on the judgment to the next year (Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Holden in the City of Richmond . . . on Monday, the Nineteenth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-nine [Richmond, 1828], 119). In December 1790, however, Mrs. Whiting was ordered to sell her slaves to settle the debt (13 Hening 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 136–44; Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:140–41).

2Mrs. Whiting’s letter was forwarded to GW by John Page. See Page to GW, 31 July 1789.

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