George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Parke Custis, 5 July 1773

From John Parke Custis

Kings College [New York] July 5th 1773

Hon’d Sir

Pardon me for having thus impos’d upon your good Nature by not writeing to you sooner, I neither could nor had it in my power to say any thing with certainty concerning my establishment here till now. It gives me Pleasure that I now have it in my Power to inform you how agreably every thing is settled. there has nothing been omitted by my good Friend Doctor Cooper which was necessary to my contentment in this Place, And Gratitude as well as Truth oblidges me to say, that the other Professors are not the least remiss in their Duty but give all the assistance they can consistant with the Duty, they owe to the other students. I attend at stated Hours the Professors, in Mathematicks, Languages, moral and experimental Philosophy. & I Hope the Progress I make in ⟨the⟩se useful branchs of knowledge will redown not only to my own Credit, but to the Credit of those who have been instrumental in placeing me here, & in particular render you some compensation & Satisfaction for the parental Care and Attention you have always & upon all occasions manifested towards me, & which demand my most grateful thanks & returns, to make which shall be the constant Care of J. P. Custis.

I found great dificulty in disposing of my Grey Horse. his Colour made so much against him that I was oblidged (to avoid expence) to sell him at public Vendue for only 34 pounds this Curr[enc]y a price tho. below his value I was oblidged to take. The Bay I have kept & shall keep unless I hear from you to the contrary. He is a Horse I know to be good, & one I have a vast effection for & except riding; there is no other exercise to be us’d here, which makes it necessary either for me to keep a Horse or hire a poor miserable hack to take an airing twice or thrice a Week, the distance of 4 or 5 miles into the Country for the Benefit of my Health.

There is nothing now, which interrupts my tranquilyty, but the melancholy Subject of your last Letter, & the uneasiness I fear my poor Mother suffers on that account, I myself could not withstand the Shock, but like a Woman gave myself up entirely to melancholy for several Days, I shou’d most gladly have answer’d your Favor when Doctor Cooper did,1 & have endeavoured to administer some comfort to my distrest Parent, but my Mind was too much agitated to admit a thought, & was illy capable to give others what it stood so much in need of itself. But I am perswaded your Goodness left no stone unturn’d to render this Shock as easy as possible, and I think the only & most effectual means to remove from Her Mind the Impressions of my Poor Sister, is to carry her from home for some considerable Time, for every thing at Mount Vernon must put Her in mind of her late Loss. shoud this thought of mine be approv’d of, the seeing of you at this Place would render me extremely Happy and answer fully the end of Her Comeing. Doctor Cooper was speaking to me on this Head the other Day, & said then, that He would write to you to that effect, and recommend it as strongly as He could. if you should approve of this Scheme, & will let me know beforehand I will exert myself in getting you Lodgeings, & every thing else convenient. Dr Cooper has some thoughts of takeing a tour to the Southward & of makeing you a Visit this Fall, which if he does I shall accompany him, as there is a Vacation then of four or five Weeks.

before I conclude I must beg you to write me immediately on the receipt of this Letter, as I am extremely anxious to hear how my Mother bears this Misfortune, & of your own Health, & be certain that I shall do every thing in my Power; to prevent your good advice being thrown away upon me.2 I am with sincere regard & effection your’s

John Parke Custis


1See Myles Cooper to GW, 2 July. GW’s letter to Custis has not been found.

2John Parke Custis also wrote a letter to his mother on this same date: “My dear Mamma, I have at length the Pleasure of informing you that I am settled in every respect according to my Satisfaction. There has Nothing been omitted by the Professors, which could be in any means condusive to my Happiness, & contentment; during my residence at this place, and I beleive I may say without vanity that I am look’d upon in a particular Light by them all, there is as much Distinction made between me, & the other Students as can be expected. I dine with them (A liberty that is not allow’d any but myself) associate & pertake of all their recreations, & their Attention to my Education keeps pace with their other good offices, and from their Words, as well as, Actions I have reason to form the most pleaseing Hope of Pleasure & entertainment in the pursuit of my Studies. It does not become me to Speak much in praise of my own attendance but I assure you that I have done as much or more in 2 months than in the eight Months before, and I flatter myself you will never hear any thing but what is agreable from Doctor Cooper or any other of the Professors.

“It is now time to give you a short plan of my apartments, & of my way of living. I have a large parlour with two Studys or closets, each large enough to contain a bed, trunk, & couple of chairs, one I sleep in, & the other Joe calls his, my chamber & parlour are paper’d, with a cheap tho. very pretty Paper, the other is painted; my furniture consists of Six chairs⟨,⟩ 2 Tables, with a few paultry Pictures, I have an excellent Bed, & in short every thing very convenient & clever. I generally get up about Six ⟨or⟩ a little after, dress myself & go to chappel, by the time that Prayers are over, Joe has me a little Breakfast, to which I sit down very contentedly & after eating heartyly, I thank God, & go to my Studys, with which I am employ’d till twelve than I take a walk & return about one, dine with the Professors, & after dinner study till Six at which time the Bell always rings for Prayers they being over college is broak up, & then we take what Amusement we please.

“Things My dear Mother were going on in this agreable Manner, till last Thursday, the day I receiv’d Pappa’s melancholy Letter, giveing an account of my dear & only Sister’s Death. I myself met the Post, & brought the sad Epistle to Docter Cooper, who I beg’d to open his Letter immediately, the Direction I did not know, but the Seal I knew too well to be deceiv’d, my confusion & uneasiness on this occasion is better conceiv’d than exp[r]esst. Her case is more to be envied than pitied, for if we mortals can distinguish between those who are deserveing of Grace & who are not, I am confident she enjoys that Bliss prepar’d only for the Good & virtuous, let these considerations, My dear Mother have their due weight with you, & comfort yourself with reflecting that she now enjoys in substanc what we in this world enjoy in imagination & that there is no real Happiness on this side of the Grave, I must allow that to sustain a Shock of this kind requires more Philosophy than we in general are possest off, my Nature could not bear the Shock. but sunk under the load of oppression, and hinderd me from administring any consolation to my deare⟨st⟩ & nearest relation, this Letter is the first thing I have done since I receiv’d the malancholy News, & could I think my Presence wou’d be condusive to the Restoration of your Tranquillity neither the distance nor the Fatigue of traveling cou’d detain me a moment here. I have put myself & Joe into deep Mourning & shall do every Honour in my power to the Memory of a deceas’d & well belov’d Sister, I will no longer detain you on a Subject which is painful to us both, but conclude with beging you to reme[m]ber you are a Christian & that we ought to submit with Patience to the divine Will & that to render you happy shall be the constant care of your effectionate & dutiful Son John Parke Custis” (DLC:GW).

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