George Washington Papers

Petition to the General Court, 4 May 1769

Petition to the General Court

[c.4 May 1769]

To the Right Honble Norborne Baron de ⟨Botetourt⟩ his Majestys Lieutenant and Governor General of Virginia and ⟨Vice⟩ Admirel of the same and the rest of the Judges of the General Court in Chancery.

The Petition of George Washington ⟨Esqui⟩re humbly sheweth

That in Right of his wife Martha late the Widow of Daniel Custis Esqr., he is siez’d and possessed among other things, of a Tract of Land containing about 1000 acres situate near the City of Williamsburg on which are two Plantations1mutilated 10 or 12⟩ Acres of Meadow Ground ⟨mutilated⟩ and about ⟨mutilated⟩ and about 100 Acres of Marsh with a valuable Water ⟨Grist⟩ Mill thereon which has upon an average of Seven years past ⟨Ern’d⟩ the Sum of £97.15.10 ⟨nett profit⟩ and will probably yield more hereafter, as she has been ⟨rebuilt within these⟩ four years and a ⟨Second pair of Stones added⟩ (for before she had but one pair⟨)⟩ since which the profits for the three Last years have averaged £119.4.0.

That your Petitioner living a great distance from these Lands, and having fresh Lands of his own2 which he can Work his Slaves on to greater advantage and more immediately under his own Eye hath come to a resolution to withdraw his slaves from the said Dower Land’s and to Rent ⟨out⟩ the same with the Grist Mill thereon, at an Annual ⟨Rent⟩.

That your Petitioner conceives it will be greatly to the advantage of John ⟨Parke Custis⟩ the ⟨Son⟩ and heir of the said Danl Custis to Rent the ⟨said⟩ Lands and Mill of your Petitioner for the following among other ⟨Reasons⟩.

First—That by adding the said ⟨mutilated slaves⟩ may be withdrawn from other Plantations ⟨mutilated greater⟩ advantages in point of profit as well as ⟨mutilated his Lands⟩.

⟨Secondly⟩ The Meadow ⟨mutilated⟩ enable him to raise greater Stocks and ⟨increase⟩ his ⟨Crops⟩ not only upon the Plantations on the Dower Lands ⟨but mutilateding⟩.

Thirdly Your Petitioner has ⟨hitherto contented⟩ himself with the use of the two Plantations ⟨without cutting down⟩ any Wood, except for firewood & Rails ⟨To⟩ have the 1000 acres laid off—which when done your Petitioner ⟨is⟩ satisfied would ⟨take in⟩ the ⟨mutilated⟩ part of the old Plantation hitherto occupied by the ⟨heir and⟩ subject him to great Inconvenience;3 and at the same time if your ⟨Petitioner⟩ was to lay the Lands off into small ⟨mutilated4 as he mutilated⟩ is able to ⟨mutilated⟩ it, the Wood Lands woud be ⟨Cut d⟩own and the ⟨Heir⟩ injurd in these particulars.

Upon these Consideration⟨’⟩s your Petitioner is ⟨mutilated to take⟩ from the heir the Annual Rent of £150 for the said Lands ⟨and⟩ Mill which ⟨he thinks below⟩ the real value: but as the ⟨said Heir mutilated Infant⟩ and your Petitioner his Guardian he does not choose to risque the Censure of having a view to his own Interest by Proceeding in that manner without the approbation of this Honble ⟨Court by⟩ whom he was appointed Guardian.

He therefore humbly submits the same to ⟨their consideration and⟩ prays their direction in the Premises.5

AD, ViLxW: Washington’s Guardian Accounts. GW entered this document in the account book with the notation: “The following is a Copy of the Petition exhibited to the Honble the General Court by George Washington, in May 1769—Their order appointing certain Gentlemen to examine into the allegations thereof—The Report in consequence—And the determination of the Court thereupon in October following.”

1The two dower plantations held by GW near Williamsburg were the Bridge Quarter and Ship Landing, both on Queens Creek in York County.

2GW must be referring to the 200–acre tract of land which on 29 April he had agreed to purchase from John West, Jr., and did purchase in 1770. See West to GW, 26 April 1769, n.2.

3This badly mutilated passage seems to indicate that the Bridge Quarter and Ship Landing assigned to Martha Washington in 1759 as part of her dower (see doc. III-A in Settlement of the Daniel Parke Custis Estate, 20 April 1759–5 Nov. 1761) did not in fact total the 1,000 acres in York County assigned to her and that the deficit would have to be made up by adding to these two small quarters a part of the large adjoining Great House plantation on Queens Creek where Daniel Parke Custis’s father, John Custis, had lived for many years before moving to Williamsburg. See also note 5.

4The word may be “tenaments.” See the report of the committee in note 5 below.

5Following this petition in his Guardian Account Book, GW has copied three other documents pertaining to this petition. The first, dated 4 May 1769, is an order of the General Court directing that “Peyton Randolph Robt Carter Nicholas and John Blair Junr Esqrs. Carter Braxton Philp Whitehead ⟨Claiborne⟩ & ⟨Geo. Webb⟩ Gentn or any three or more of them: do examine and ⟨enquire⟩ into the allegations of the said Petition and report the matter as it shall appear to them specially to the Court.”

The second document, the report of the committee on 16 May signed by Peyton Randolph, Carter Braxton, and Philip Whitehead Claiborne, reads: “In Obedience to the Order of the General Court bearing date the fourth day of May 1769 We the Subscribers went upon the Land mentioned in the Petition of Colo. George Washington which were shewn to us by Joseph Valentine Manager of the Estate of the heir of Daniel Parke Custis and also for the said George Washington; but not having time to measure the said Land can only guess at the quantity ⟨no⟩w held by the Petitioner for ⟨the⟩ Dower of his ⟨wife⟩ which we think is considerably ⟨less⟩ than ⟨1,000⟩ and that it will take some p⟨art⟩ of the old Plantation, now ⟨held by⟩ the heir and will be very injurious to him to compleat that number of acres. We ⟨find⟩ the Marsh very fine and ⟨exten⟩sive, and are of ⟨opinion that stock belong⟩ing to the said Daniel Parke cannot be well ⟨supported mutilated the⟩ said Washington’s 1,000 acres will include a ⟨mutilated⟩ 250 acres the ⟨de⟩stroying of wch will be a ⟨great disadvantage mutilated⟩ the other Land ⟨is⟩ very indifferent. ⟨Mutilated⟩ in the said ⟨Petition⟩ and examining Colo. Washing⟨tons mutilated that⟩ may be valued at £100 pr Ann: and upon the whole ⟨are of opinion mutilated a⟩nd be a ⟨prudent measure⟨ to let the premise to the Heir rather than ⟨to mutilated Tenam[en]ts at the Rate⟩ proposed by the said Petitio⟨ner.⟩”

The third document is the determination of the General Court, dated 6 Nov. 1769, giving GW leave “to Rent to the said Jno. P. Custis the Tract of Land conta⟨ining⟩ about 1000 acres with the Meadow Ground and Marsh ⟨together with⟩ the water Grist Mill thereon in the County of York” for the yearly rent of £150 current money, “during the Infancy of the said John Parke in case the ⟨Interest⟩ of the said George therein shall so long continue.”

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