George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Edmund Pendleton, May 1770

To Edmund Pendleton

[c.May 1770]


Receiving the above Letter in answer to one I had wrote to Mr West, I went to him three days after and entered into the written Agreement which I now lay before you1—At this time (as recited in the articles) a Suit was depending in Fairfax Court for Six Acres of the Land, with all the Improvements belonging to the whole Tract, which prevented an absolute conveyance at that time—Since this, the Suit has been determined in favour of Posey, but Mr West not satisfied therewith, hath brought or intends to bring another Ejectment in the Genl Court—Knowing that this matter woud not come to a speedy conclusion there, I proposd to pay Mr West for the indisputed part, and leave the rest to the final determination of the Suit, when to my great surprize he askd 40/ an Acre for it; and, conceives, that if I do not choose to give it, that the agreement is avoided, & he at liberty to dispose of it to another—I should be glad therefore of your opinion in this matter; but before you give it, it may not be amiss to observe further that, tho. I have absolutely refused to allow 40/ an Acre for the indisputed part of the Land, yet, that I have made Mr West two offers, as proofs that I was disposed to do every thing that Reason and justice coud require on my part, and to remove any plea arising from the disadvantage of keeping the Land, on his—The first was, to leave the valuation of the Six Acres, and appurtenances, to any impartial Men of his own choosing; the amount of which to be deducted out of the total sum at two pistoles an Acre, and the Balle to be paid him; leaving the ascertaind value of the sd Six Acres & Improvemts to be paid for, or not, at the determination of the suit for, or against him—to this he objected, because others he said, might set a higher value upon the Improvements than he did in considering the total value of his Land—I then proposed to have the Land valued in the same manner, the amount of which I woud now pay, & the Balle (whatever this shoud fall short of the total sum at 2 pistoles an acre) whenever he shoud recovr possession of the Six Acres aforesaid; but this he also objected to, saying he choo⟨se⟩ to be the valuer of his own Land.

Now Sir, under this State of the case, I desire to know whether Mr West, if he chooses, and doth actually go on with his Ejectmt against Posey is at liberty (notwithstanding the Suit has been determind since our Agreemt in the County Court) to sell the Land to another, or not? And whether, if the Suit is finally ditermind in his favour I can not, in case he shoud not be disposed to do it other wise, compell him to convey it to me at the price Stipulated in the Agreement refered to?2


1The “above” letter from John West, Jr., is dated 26 April 1769. The articles of agreement between West and GW regarding GW’s purchase of 6 acres of land from West are printed in note 2 of the West letter.

2GW wrote his letter to Pendleton on the same sheet that West used for his letter of 26 April 1769, and Pendleton wrote the following response, dated 6 June 1770, on the same sheet below GW’s letter to him: “By the Agreement, If Mr West cannot recover the Land, a proportionable deduction is to be made for the six acres & the Houses, to be settled between themselves if they can agree; if they can’t, neither is obliged to come into any new terms, but the consequence is fixed, ‘the agreement is to be void.’ considering then a determination of the suit agt Posey, as proof that Mr West cannot recover that part of the Land, the plain & obvious consequence of the parties disagreement about the Value of the residue, would be an end to the whole agreement. But as Mr West is not barred of bringing another suit & may yet recover the Land; by commencing such suit, he shews his consent to continue the agreement, and will be bound to convey the whole Land if he succeeds in recovering that, unless Colo. Washington should now give him notice that he will not stand to the agreement, wch I think he has a right to do upon the determination of the first suit: As he ought not to be compelled to wait, under an uncertainty whether he is to purchase or not, the event of as many suits as Mr West might think proper to bring; but if he chooses it, Mr West will be bound & there will not be any inequality, since in him is the election to sue or not. I think the method proposed by Colo. Washington, very reasonable, as the Gentn chosen would no doubt make the value of 2 pistoles an Acre for the whole, their Rule in settling the proportion of the Six acres.” On the cover of the letter, GW drew a sketch of John Posey’s land, showing the river and the location of the buildings.

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