George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Hanson Harrison, 7 October 1769

To Robert Hanson Harrison

Mount Vernon Octr 7th 1769

Dr Sir

I am informd that the Bill in Chancery exhibited against me by Mr Ross and others was presented and receivd last Court & an Order made for me to answer—I formerly told Mr Ellzey that, seeing no cause why he might not prepare the answer also (as I wanted nothing but my due, & not to procrastinate matters) he might do it accordingly but how far his ill health may suffer him to prosecute business I do not know & therefore I shoud be glad if you woud take the Affair in hand so far at least as to assist in putting in the answer and to see that no delay happens that can be avoided—For this purpose I furnish you with all the materials which I conceive to be necessary (to wit) His Conveyance of the Land & Bills of Sale one of which you will perceive is a Counter Security against Colo. Mason’s demand which was made eight Months ago in form—I also give you a Short Sketch of my claim on Captn Posey (Including Colo. Masons Debt) but as there is a small open Acct between Us I do not know precisely how the Balle stands and therefore mention this as I mean to be exact in my answer1—If it be judged necessary that this Balle shoud be ascertaind previous to my answering I will endeavour to do it tho. I believe it is no easy matter to find the Captn at home, and still more difficult to take him in a trim capable of business—and yet to do him Justice he came here on Monday last perfectly Sober and proposed of his own voluntary motion to sell his Estate finding it in vain to struggle any longer against the Torrent of Debt that oppresses him, and seeming desirous that I shoud be present at the Sale fixed it to the 23d Inst. as I coud not delay my Journey to Williamsburg longer than the 25th2—What Revolution may happen in the System of his Politicks between this and then I will not undertake to say but coud wish a final Decree (if now necessary under his present determination) coud take place this Court and the Sale depending confirmd, as it will be sufficiently promulged by its appearance in the Virginia and Maryland Gazettes & at most publick places in this Colony notwithstanding the short notice—I might also add that Mr Posey expects nothing else than a final determination of the matter next Court inasmuch as he told me that he neither had, nor intended to make, any defence to it, & was desirous of knowing the worst at once.3 I am Dr Sir, Yr Most Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington


1Robert Hanson Harrison and William Ellzey practiced law in the Fairfax County court. As appears in an order of that court on 17 Oct. 1769 (Fairfax County Order Book for 1768–70, 243–45, ViFfCh), both GW and John Posey answered the complaints of Posey’s creditors David Dalyell, George Oswald & Co., Neil Jamieson & Co., Hector Ross, and Vincent Lewis that Posey had mortgaged all of his real and personal property to GW. They asked that GW be ordered to reveal what property of Posey’s he held mortgages on and precisely what Posey owed him. When that had been done, they said Posey should be ordered to sell his mortgaged land as well as his “Slaves, Goods, & Chattels” to pay what he owed first to GW and then to them. GW revealed that Posey owed him at least £990.19.11 current money and £220 sterling. The sterling debt was to George Mason for which GW stood bond (see GW to Posey, 11 June, 26 July 1769). The court ordered that the sale of Posey’s property be held on 23 Oct., the day upon which Posey and GW had already agreed. See Posey’s advertisement of the sale printed in note 1, GW to Hector Ross, 9 October. For further information regarding Posey’s indebtedness to GW and what GW acquired at Posey’s sale on 23, 24, and 25 Oct. 1769, see the editors’ notes for GW’s diary entries on those days (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:189–90).

2Posey dined at Mount Vernon on 2 Oct. along with John Carlyle, Carlyle’s two daughters, and a Captain Brady. On 10 Oct. GW “Went to Captn. Poseys to run the Lines of the Land he bought of Mr. Marshall. Dined there” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:186, 187). GW’s “Plat of the narrow slipe of Land the property of Jno. Posey” (ViMtvL) is dated 10 October. For the land “bought of Mr. Marshall,” see John West, Jr., to GW, 26 April 1769, n.2.

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