George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Trent, 4 August 1775

To William Trent

Camp at Cambridge Augt 4th 1775

Dr Sir,

Your Letter of the 22d Ulto came to my hands a few days ago1—the hurry of business in which General Gates necessarily got Involved immediately upon his arrival at this Camp put your Memorandum out of his head; which was a matter of no consequence, as Colo. Mercer is already fully advertised of every circumstance relative to the Sale of his Estate.2

As I have none of the Papers with me, I cannot from Memory, recollect the particulars, or give answers to the sevl queries you have propounded; but, as I have before observed, a circumstantial acct was transmitted to the Colonel before I left Virginia in May. His Estate to the best of my recollection sold for upwards of £14,000 & was thought scarce sufficient to answer the Mortgages upon it in England & Virginia—it was sold at 12 Months Credit in November last, so that no Money will be due till next Novr; consequently none can be remitted sooner; & whether, in these times of publick distress & confusion, there can be any collection made I am unable to say. I am very glad to hear of the acquisition of Powder in So. Carolina3—& am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Etting Collection. The cover is addressed “To William Trent Esqr. at Trenton.”

William Trent (1715–1787), an Indian trader and land speculator whom GW had known on the Pennsylvania frontier during the 1750s, was in London from the spring of 1769 to the spring of 1775, attempting to obtain royal confirmation of a large western land grant, first for the Indiana Company and later for the Grand Ohio or Vandalia Company. Those efforts failed, and on 21 April 1775 Trent sailed from London for Philadelphia. Formerly a resident of Lancaster and Carlisle, Pa., Trent made his home between 1768 and 1784 at Trenton, New Jersey. In 1776 the Indiana Company was reorganized, and Trent spent the remainder of the war years trying to make good the company’s claim. He unsuccessfully petitioned the Virginia general assembly in 1779, and between 1779 and 1783 he presented several appeals to the Continental Congress, again without avail.

1Trent’s letter of 22 July 1775 to GW has not been found.

2GW’s friend and former comrade in arms George Mercer (1733–1784) now lived in England, where he had long been involved in various land speculation schemes. During the French and Indian War, Mercer served GW as both aide-de-camp and company commander. He became lieutenant colonel of Col. William Byrd’s 2d Virginia Regiment in 1758 and participated in the Forbes campaign of that year. In 1763 Mercer went to London as agent for the Ohio Company, a position he held until 1770. He returned to Virginia in the fall of 1765 to be Stamp Act officer for the colony, but popular opposition to the act soon forced him to give up any hopes of carrying out his duties. Mercer subsequently decided to live in England and appointed GW trustee for his affairs in Virginia. In that capacity GW presided over the sale of Mercer’s lands on Bull Run and in Frederick County during November 1774. See GW to George Mercer, 5 April 1775. Trent was interested in the sale of those lands, because he hoped that some of the proceeds would be used to repay the several hundred pounds that he loaned to Mercer earlier this year. That debt was never repaid. Mercer moved in August 1776 to Paris, where he lived at least until 1779. He died in London in April 1784.

3South Carolina and Georgia Patriots captured a British vessel laden with gunpowder near Savannah between 8 and 10 July 1775. See Benjamin Harrison to GW, 21–24 July 1775, n.11.

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