George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Henry Lee, Jr., 4 November 1798

To Henry Lee, Jr.

Mount Vernon 4th Novr 1798

Dear Sir

Your letters from Fredericksburg and Stratford, have both been received; and their contents will be attended to when the list of applications come under consideration.1

Tomorrow (being requested thereto by the Secretary of War) I shall set off for Trenton. This, of course, will deprive me of the pleasure of seeing you, while you are on the promised visit to this County. It is necessary therefore I shd inform you that, no report (as indeed I expected would be the case) has been made by Mr Jesse Simms relative to Major Harrisons Land, adjoining my mill.2 And that, to my surprise, when I came to examine the details of your City property, more attentively than it was in my power to do in the hurried manner in wch the list of it was presented, and to make enquiry into the value thereof. I found that instead of lots of the Standard size (as I took it for granted they were) that each of those lying on Pennsylvania Avenue have been split into two parts (having only 25 feet front to them) and for these half lots, that I am asked more than lots equally convenient sell at. To receive payments on such terms, when my object was solely to accomodate you, could hardly be expected.3

If you are disposed to part with your land near Harpers Ferry; Your land in Loudoun; any unincumbered property in the City; or, in short, almost any other that can be rendered productive—at a reasonable valuation by disinterested men of good character, I would accept it in payment rather than make difficulties, or be involved in disputes; although you well know that nothing will answer my purposes like the money, of which I am in extreme want, and must obtain on disadvantageous terms. But it is not to be expected from hence that I will receive the former at an arbitrary price, which every well informed person knows it cannot command.

The Deeds which passed between you and me in the month of April last, I sent to Mr Bushrod Washington to have recorded; asking him at the sametime if they were not defective in proper recitals? Enclosed, or rather with this letter, Mr Anderson will, when he hears of your being in Alexandria present you with his opinion thereon with a Deed ready drawn, according to my Nephews directions for your signature. The one from me to you, I have acknowledged before Evidences, and request you will do the same by that from you to me.4 With great esteem & regard I am—Dear Sir Your Obedt & Affecte Servt

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1Lee’s letters have not been found.

2For GW’s negotiations with William B. Harrison to rent from him his tract of land adjoining GW’s Dogue Run farm at Mount Vernon, see GW to Harrison, 4 Nov., n.1. For the involvement of Lee and Jesse Simms in GW’s attempts to procure this land, see Henry Lee, Jr., to GW, 28 Feb. 1799, n.2.

3For the correspondence regarding Lee’s lots in the Federal City, see GW to Lee, 29 Sept., n.1.

4On Bushrod Washington’s advice, GW in April 1798 signed a deed conveying back to Henry Lee the tract of land on Rough Creek in Kentucky which GW had acquired from Lee in 1789, and at the same time he had Lee sign a deed reconveying the land to him. When Bushrod examined the deeds, he found Lee’s deed faulty and provided GW with a revised deed for Lee to sign. See Bushrod Washington to GW, 13 Mar. 1798, n.4. For earlier steps taken beginning in 1795 to secure for GW a clear title to this Kentucky land, see Alexander Spotswood to GW, 22 Mar. 1797, n.1.

Before leaving for Philadelphia on 5 Nov. 1798, GW on 1 Nov. instructed his farm manager to deliver this letter to Lee when Lee arrived in Alexandria, as he was expected to do, and also to show Lee a copy of Bushrod Washington’s letter of 13 Mar. 1798. The deed enclosed for Lee to sign was a copy of the revised deed reconveying the Rough Creek tract to GW, now dated 5 Nov. 1798. Unable to deliver the letter and its enclosures to General Lee, Anderson apparently forwarded it to him. On 31 Dec., having received no response, GW wrote to Lee from Mount Vernon: “Dear Sir, Presuming you have not received the letter [of 4 Nov.], of which the enclosed is a copy, I trouble you with a duplicate of it. And have sent to Mr Bushrod Washington the Deeds to, and from you, for Execution; and pray you to acknowledge before Evidences that from you to me—Now, also out of date. With great esteem & regard I am—Dear Sir Yr Obedt & Affecte Servt Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW; LB DLC:GW).

In a postscript to a letter of 31 Dec. to Bushrod Washington GW said he was enclosing his letter of that date to Lee “open for your perusal” and asked him to forward it and the enclosure to Lee and also to get Lee’s deed proved in the General Court. On 28 Feb. 1799 Lee wrote GW: “Last Monday evening Mr b. Washington presented me with yr favor covering a duplicate of yr let. of the 4th novr & accompanying deeds for the land given for Magnolio. The deeds have been executed agreably to desire.” The new deed conveying the Rough Creek land in Kentucky back to GW, dated 5 Nov. 1798, was witnessed by Corbin Washington and others and was certified by the Westmoreland County court on 25 June 1799 (ICU). See also Wilson Allen to GW, 29 May 1799.

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