George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Robert Lewis, 7 October 1795

To Robert Lewis

Mount Vernon 7th Oct. 1795.

Dear Sir,

Upon my return to this place from Philadelphia, about the middle of last month, I found your letter of Sepr 1st and the sum of Four hundred and seventy five pounds ten shillings & two pence which you had deposited in the hands of Mr Dandridge on account of your collection of my Rents which will be placed, as desired, to your credit.

I am sorry you should have been so unsuccessful in purchasing in my life leases; but if I do not misunderstand your meaning, when you say I had limitted you to too distant a day—viz.—the first of Septr to make these purchases, there surely never was such a mistake as you have committed in this business, or I must have been out of my head when I wrote the letter.1 So far from restraining you in making purchases until the first of last month you were told, or at least meant to be told that if you could not apply the money which was in your hands to this purpose by a certain day (I suppose the first of Septr) that then, and in that case I should call for it as I wanted it for other uses—How this could be deemed limitting you to too long a day I have no conception when the money was left in your hands for the sole purpose of buying in the leases. I request you to look at my letter again and inform me if it will admit of such a construction as you have given it if I understand the meaning of yours.

What money you may yet pay, agreeably to the assurance in your letter may be deposited in the hands of Mr Pearce or in the Bank of Alexandria—giving me an acct of the sum.

As Land has risen so much, and so suddenly in its price, and my rents bear no kind of proportion thereto; I shall insist, and beg that you will see, not only that the rents are punctually paid, but that all the covenants in the leases, with respect to buildings, planting Orchards, making meadows reserving certain proportions of the Land in wood, &ca &ca are strictly complied with—and I further desire that in cases of life leases, where the Occupant can give you no satisfactory evidence of the existence of the lives of the persons therein named, that ejectments may be brought, in order to make them come forward with their proofs: for these leases will never expire if vague information is received & credited, of the lessees being in Kentucky, or the lord knows where. Another thing too I would have minutely looked into, and that is, where there has been a change in the occupants from the original Lessees, to know by what authority it has happened; for if I recollect the tenure of my Leases, there can be no alienation of the property without the consent of the Landlord, under his hand (and I believe) Seal.2

You say you have repossessed two or three lots in Frederick; and have conditionally rented out two for £35 pounds per ann[um]; but you do not say whether this is the rent for each, or for both. If the latter, I should think it inadequate. If the former, I agree to and ratifie the same for the term of ten years—but when leases for that term are given, you should stipulate for reasonable & proper improvements, that the tenements may be restored with some advantages. I do not recollect what the quantity of Acres in the Frederick lots are, and therefore my opinion of the adequacy—or inadequacy of the rent of £35 is mere guess work.3 all I want, is as much as others get for lands of the same quantity [&] quality thereabouts. Whenever you make out a Rental have a column for the quantity of Acres contained in each lot. Give my love, in which your Aunt & the family join, to Mrs Lewis and be assured of the friendship and regard of Your Affectionate Uncle

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Washington MSS; ADfS, PPRF; LB, DLC:GW.

1For GW’s prior instructions about the purchase of leases, see his letters to Lewis of 18 May, 18 July, and 31 Aug. 1794, and 22 Feb. 1795.

2Such language was usually included in GW’s leases; all twelve of the leases that he made on 17 March 1769 contained an agreement “that no Assignment Transferrance or other Conveyance whatsoever of the hereby demise Land and Premesis or any part thereof shall be made … to any Person or Persons whatsoever without the Consent of the said George Washington his heirs or Assigns first obtained under his or their hand and Seal otherwise such Assignment Transferrance or Conveyance to be void and of no Effect” (Lease to Francis Ballinger, 17 March 1769, and source note to that document, Papers, Colonial Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 8:171–77).

3In the schedule of property that accompanied GW’s 1799 will, he reported 571 acres in Frederick County, Va. (Papers, Retirement Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends 4:513). When Lewis listed GW’s tenants as of 25 Dec. 1795, he recorded three leases totaling 565 acres in the county. Lewis evidently had repossessed three of the four tracts that were leased in 1785 and 1786—those leased to Joseph Windsor, Joseph Hickman, and John Williams—and rented the approximately 390 acres out in two parcels, to William Clayton and Ewel Ship. The rent for those two tracts totaled £39.1 (see GW to Battaile Muse, 28 July 1785, n.1, in Papers, Confederation Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends 3:160–61; and List of Rentals, 1795, ViMtvL).

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