George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from James Ross, 3 August 1795

From James Ross

Pittsburgh 3d august 1795.


Colo. Shreve came to this place on the 31st of July and on the next day paid to me 2693 Dolls. & 33 cts being the first payment & Interest thereon from the first of June last. As there would be some risque in forwarding this money by Post, I have paid it into the hands of the Contractors & taken their Bill upon a house in Philadelphia where their money affairs are transacted. My agent will collect & place it in the Bank of Pennsylvania in four days after the Arrival of this letter. I enclose an order for that Sum in your favour.1

Articles of agreement are executed acording to the original bargain Interest commencing upon the money yet due, upon the first day of June last.2 Platts of the land which you delivered to me are given to Colo. Shreve in order to trace the lines of the lands sold.3 I have taken a Judgment Bond securing th⟨e⟩ payment of interest upon the ballance due, together with an Installment of £600. yearly on the first of June at the Bank of Pennsylvania.4 An obligation has also been given to pay all Arrearages of rent due for these lands up to the first of June, as soon as the sum is Ascertained. This I apprehend will amount to near £200. & Colo. Shreve would have paid it over to me now, but for a difficulty which arose from his having given his notes to Colo. Canon last Spring for the ballance then estimated as in arrear. I will endeavour to get these notes out of the hand of Colo. Canon & receive the money myself, as a payment to him might delay considerably the transmission of the money to you. The Articles of agreement & Bonds I will deliver to you in the beginning of December next at the meeting of Congress.

Your letter to Colo. Canon was forwarded some time ago, but I have not seen either him or Charles Morgan since my return.5 At this busy season of the year few people are out in quest of new Settlements & no proposals have offered for your lands in Washington County. Since the receipt of Your letter of the 15th July no opportunity offered of notifying Mr Bingham that I would attend to any terms which he might think proper to propose for the lands down the Ohio. As Yet I have not seen him, nor can I believe that it is likely his present circumstances will enable him to do any thing more than propose what cannot be accepted.

We have had our day of tumult & insurrection, happily for there is now every appearance of quiet & submission to the laws.6 But our eastern brethren & the people of the sea-coast seem to be deeply infected with that turbulent, discontented spirit which generated & disgraced the proceedings of last Summer in this country. The transition from tumultuous meetings to riots; & from burning in effigy to the actual destruction of property & life is so easy & so frequent; that it is matter of surprize to find any sober well meaning man lending either his presence or his name to either. With the highest respect I have the honour to be Sir your most obedient humble Servant

James Ross


On this date, GW and Martha Washington signed a deed to George Washington Parke Custis for lands in King William County, Virginia. GW had purchased the lands on 27 Dec. 1773 from William Black for Custis’s father, John Parke Custis, who died in October 1781 before GW could complete a conveyance. The deed signed on this date conveyed three properties to George Washington Parke Custis, heir to his father, for £5,500 current Virginia money—the amount specified in the deed that GW gave Black, and which had since “been repaid by the said John Parke Custis” to GW—and the additional sum of five shillings paid by George Washington Parke Custis to GW. The transaction included the tract called “Romonkock” of 1,125 acres, the tract “called Gooches,” which contained 550 acres, and 100 acres with a water gristmill. The deed was proved at a Fairfax County court on 19 Oct., ordered recorded at a court in King William County on 25 July 1796, and also ordered recorded at the General Court in Richmond on 16 Nov. 1797 (DS, Vi).

1On 15 Aug., GW recorded a check on the Bank of Pennsylvania from Israel Shreve to Ross for $2,693.33 and “by the latter transmitted to me—It being the first payment with interest thereon from the 1st of June until the 1st of Augt for the land I sold the said Shreve in Fayette County.” GW noted that he had given the money to Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr., “to be transferred for my use to the Bank of the U. States” (Cash Accounts, 29 Sept. 1794–17 Aug. 1797, RPJCB). GW’s check to Wolcott for that sum, dated Sept. 1795, is at NUtHi. See also Ross to GW, 8 June.

2The “Articles of Agreement” between GW and Shreve are dated 31 July. For £4,000 Pennsylvania currency “to be paid and Secured to him by” Shreve, GW sold 1,644¼ acres in five surveys. The land, which Shreve currently possessed and occupied, was located “on the Waters of Washington run” in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Shreve agreed to pay GW “immediately upon the execution of these Articles” £1,000 with interest “from the first day of June last (that being the time when this Contract was entered into, but not formally reduced to writing).” Shreve also agreed to give judgment bonds to GW for the remaining £3,000 with interest “from the first day of June last” at 6 percent annually, payable in five yearly installments at the Bank of Pennsylvania beginning 1 June 1796. In addition the deed required “the Interest of the whole sum due to be paid yearly” by Shreve on 1 June until he paid the entire amount. Shreve was to pay “all taxes, charges and impositions” and “all Arrearages or rents” he owed GW for the lands before “the first day of June last” as soon as they were determined. Ross signed for GW. Shreve’s signature is in his own hand (DS, presumably in private hands after being offered by Heritage Auction in May 2011 during its Dallas Grand Format Americana & Political Memorabilia Auction #6060 as lot 38017; copy, PPi: Nevill Papers; copy, PPiHi). According to a description of the agreement for a previous sale, GW endorsed the document, “And by him [Ross] paid over to me, G. Washington” (Sotheby, Parke-Bernet, 20 March 1973, item 223).

3The plats have not been identified.

4At the bottom of the second page of the Nevill Papers copy of the articles of agreement is an undated statement by Ross: “Received the day of the date here of from Colonel Israel Shreve the sum of One thousand and ten pounds in full for the first Payment and the Interest due thereon, and also his Judgment Bond in the penalty of Six thousand pounds … for the payment of three thousand Pounds and the Interest thereon, according to the writen Article” (PPi).

Shreve failed to make prompt and regular payments. In his last known letter to Shreve, dated 10 Jan. 1799, GW reluctantly agreed once more to delay foreclosing on Shreve’s bond (see 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 3:314–15).

5For GW’s efforts to obtain the rents from John Canon, see Charles Morgan to GW, 23 April, and GW to Morgan, 28 June and n.2 to that document.

6Ross referred to the insurrection in western Pennsylvania during the summer of 1794 against the excise on domestically distilled spirits.

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