George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 4 November 1768]

4. In Ditto. Dined with several Gentlemen at Ayscoughs. Colo. Byrds Lottery began drawing.

Christopher Ayscough and his wife Anne (both died c.1772) had recently opened a tavern on Francis Street about 100 yards south of the Capitol. Before Governor Fauquier died in March, Christopher had been a gardener at the palace, and Anne had cooked for the governor, performing her duties so well that she was rewarded with a bequest of £250 from Fauquier’s estate. That sum was probably used to buy and stock the tavern, the chief attractions of which were Mrs. Ayscough’s cooking skills and a supply of fine liquors (Va. Gaz., P&D, 6 Oct. 1768; gibbs description begins Patricia Ann Gibbs. “Taverns in Tidewater Virginia, 1700–1774.” Master’s thesis, College of William and Mary, 1968. description ends , 147–48).

Col. William Byrd III, in a desperate attempt to pay his debts, was raffling off much of his property, including “the intire towns of rocky ridge and shockoe, lying at the Falls of James river,” valued at over £50,000, at £5 per ticket (Va. Gaz., R, 23 July 1767). Besides owing gambling losses, Byrd was the largest single debtor to the estate of the late Speaker-Treasurer John Robinson. Upon Robinson’s death it was discovered that he had loaned out personally over £100,000 worth of retired notes which had been issued by the Virginia government to finance the French and Indian War. The paper notes were supposed to be destroyed as they were collected by the treasurer in payment of taxes and fees to the government, but Robinson privately had made loans to dozens of large and important but financially pressed planters, many of whom were burgesses or council members. To settle Robinson’s estate and satisfy his creditors (mainly the government), his administrators had to force the sale of the land and slaves of a number of Robinson’s debtors. Some debtors, like William Byrd, turned to lotteries. Besides causing financial confusion, the “Robinson affair” created an unsettling effect on the political life and social fabric of Virginia in the late years of the colonial period (see mays description begins David John Mays. Edmund Pendleton, 1721–1803: A Biography. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1952. description ends , 1:174–208).

GW, who, unlike Byrd, did not gamble for high stakes, lost £1 at cards today (General Ledger A description begins General Ledger A, 1750–1772. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , folio 281).

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