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To George Washington from John Parke Custis, 14 January 1778

From John Parke Custis

Mount Vernon Jany 14th 1778

Hond Sir

I am really ashamed of my long Silence: which has been owing altogether to the Want of Meterials worthy of communicating to you, the same Cause still subsists; but the Fear of your imputing my Silence to the Want of regard & respect; compels Me at present, to intrude a few Lines upon that short Moment, you are allowed by the Multiplicity of your Business, to devote to Freindship, and Society.

I am happy in informing you of the safe Delivery of my dear Nelly of a fine Daughter, both She and the Child are well—Nelly desires to be remember’d to you, in the most Affectionate Manner, and sincerely wishs you every Success.1

I have lately disposed of my Estate in King & Queen, to a Mr Henry on the Eastern Shore for 5500£ ready Money; I do not think the Price so great as I had a right to expect, six Thousand Pounds was the sum I had fixt upon, but as Mr Henry’s was the only offer (excepting old Black’s) that was made to Me, I by the advice of Uncle Bassett accepted of It. I was induced to do It on another Account, the Assembly has laid an Assesment of 10/ on every Hundred pounds worth of Property in the State: The assesment of that House & Land would probably have been much higher than I have sold It for, and very Expensive as I could not live there, I therefore thought it best to sell immediately, and having no immediate Occasion for the money, have diposited It in the Continental Loan Office where it will be useful both to my Country and Myself.2

The Proceedings of our Assembly are kept more secret than the Congress. I have heard of Nothing certain but the Assesment, tho I beleive they have voted an indiscriminate Draught, of all single Men to fill up our regiments, so as to take the Feild early in the Spring, and that They have agreed to the Confederacy as proposed by Congress: Commissioners are appointed to meet others from Maryland, to settle the Jurisdiction of the Bay and Potowmack, viz. Colo. Mason Toms Lee & Mr Henry—This is all that I know of their Proceedings They did not break up for the Holy days and are still Sitting.3 They will I hope do a great Deal of Good, in this long Session.

I am afraid I shall not have the Pleasure of escorting Mamma to Camp, as She Proposes to set off so soon, Nelly will not be in such a Situation as I could leave Her, and My Toe is not recovered from an ugly Frost Bit I got some Time ago I will however do myself that Pleasure as soon as it is in my Power. I must now conclude with intreating you to beleive Me Yr most Affecte

J. P. Custis

ALS, ViHi.

1Eleanor Calvert Custis gave birth to Martha Parke Custis (“Patsy”; 1777–1854) on 31 Dec. 1777.

2The assessment to which Custis refers was imposed in “An act for raising a supply of money for publick exigencies” on 22 Jan. 1778 (see Richard Henry Lee to GW, 2 Jan., n.8). Custis’s estate in King and Queen County, known as the Pleasant Hill tract, was one of two that GW had purchased for £5,500 in March 1774 from William Black (c.1720–1782) on Custis’s behalf (see GW to Robert Cary & Co., 10 Nov. 1773, James Henry to GW, 2 June 1784; and GW to James Henry, 20 Nov. 1790). Custis advertised the tract for sale in Dixon & Hunter’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) on 10 Oct. 1777: “To be sold for ready MONEY, THAT beautiful Seat on Mattapony River, where the late Speaker [John] Robinson lived; there are 1381 Acres of high Land and 600 Acres of Marsh, equal to any in the Country, and may be reclaimed at a moderate Expense; besides the Marsh there are about 20 Acres of Swamp, which may easily be converted into a valuable Meadow; on the above Tract there is a Mill, which is rather out of Repair at present, but may be made without much Expense as valuable as Mills generally are. The Plantation is under good Fences, and in proper Order for Cropping, with a young Orchard of choice Fruit, the Dwelling-House is of Brick, as convenient and well built as any in the State, two Stories high, with 4 large Rooms and a Passage on each Floor, and good Cellars under the Whole, a very convenient Brick Kitchen, Servants Hall, and Wash-House, the Stables, Coach House, Granary, &c. are large and in good Repair, and a Garden walled in with Brick. No Situation can exceed this in Beauty, and few in Convenience.” Custis’s purchaser was James Henry, who secured a deed to the tract in 1779 (Vi, no. 24715, Va. Misc.).

3The “indiscriminate Draught” to which Custis refers was provided for in “An Act for speedily recruiting the Virginia Regiments on the continental establishment, and for raising additional troops of Volunteers” (see GW to James Innes, 2 Jan., n.1). The Virginia house of delegates unanimously resolved on 15 Dec. 1777 to approve and ratify the Articles of Confederation, and the state senate concurred two days later (Va. House of Delegates Journal description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Monday, the Twentieth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Richmond, 1827. description ends , Oct. 1777–Jan. 1778 sess., 79–81). The Virginia delegates to Congress reported on 25 June 1778 that they were “empowered to ratify [the Articles of Confederation] as they now stand” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11:652).

On 10 Dec. 1777 the Virginia house of delegates resolved “That George Mason, Thomas Ludwell Lee and James Henry, Esquires, be appointed commissioners on behalf of this Commonwealth, to meet commissioners to be appointed by the State of Maryland, to consider of the most proper means to adjust and confirm the rights of each, to the use and navigation of, and jurisdiction over, the Bay of Chesapeake, and the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke”; the state senate agreed to the measure on 19 December (Va. House of Delegates Journal description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Monday, the Twentieth Day of October, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Seven. Richmond, 1827. description ends , Oct. 1777–Jan. 1778 sess., 73–74, 85). On 22 Dec. the Maryland state senate also appointed commissioners to meet with representatives from Virginia (see Md. Senate Votes and Proceedings description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of the State of Maryland. October Session, 1777. Being the First Session of this Assembly. [Annapolis, 1778]. description ends , 22 Oct.—23 Dec. 1777 sess., 29–30). The appointment of these commissioners had no result, however, with Maryland and Virginia postponing discussion of the subject because of the more pressing concerns of wartime. A conference of representatives from both states that met at Mount Vernon in March 1785 finally brought the issue to resolution (see Rutland, Mason Papers description begins Robert A. Rutland, ed. The Papers of George Mason, 1725–1792. 3 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1970. description ends , 2:812–23).

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