George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Parke Custis, 24 July 1776

To John Parke Custis

New York July 24th 1776.

Dear Sir,

I wrote to you two or three Posts ago, since which your Letter of the 10th Instt is come to hand.1 with respect to the proposed exchange of Lands with Colo. Thos Moore, I have not a competent knowledge of either Tract, to give an opinion with any degree of precission; but from the situation of Moore’s Land, and its contiguity to a large part of your Estate, and where you will probably make your residence, I should, were I in your place, be very fond of the Exchange; especially as the Land you hold in Hanover is but a small Tract, & totally detached from the rest of your Estate. what local advantages it may have I know not—these ought to be enquired into, because a valuable Mill Seat, or &ca often gives great value to a poor piece of Land (as I understd that of yours in Hanover is). I have no doubt myself, but that middling Land under a Mans own eye, is more profitable than rich Land at a distance; for which reason I should, were I in your place, be for drawing as many of my Slaves to the Lands in King Wm & King & Queen as could work on them to advantage, & I should also be for adding to those Tracts if it cd be done upon reasonable terms.2

I am very sorry to hear by your Acct that Genl Lewis stands so unfavourably with his Officers—I always had a good opinion of him and should have hoped, that he had been possessed of too much good sense to Mal-treat his Officers and thereby render himself obnoxious to them.3

We have a powerful Fleet in full view of Us—at the Watering place of Staten Island—Genl Howe and his Army are Landed thereon, and it is thought will make no attempt upon this City till his reinforcements which are hourly expected, arrives—when this happens it is to be presumed that there will be some pretty warm Work—Give my love to Nelly and Compliments to Mr Calvert & Family—& to others who may enquire after Dr Sir Yr Affecte

Go: Washington

ALS, ViHi. GW addressed the cover “to John Parke Custis Esqr. near uppr Marlboro Maryland,” and in the lower left corner he wrote: “Free Go: Washington.”

1Neither GW’s letter to Custis of 8 July nor Custis’s letter to GW of 10 July has been found.

2Thomas Moore of King William County, Va., was a financially troubled planter who had already been forced to sell much of a once prosperous estate. In the mid—1750s he borrowed a large sum of money from the widowed Martha Custis. In 1760 the amount due on Moore’s bond and the accrued interest totaled £1,005.13.5, and the debt was not paid in full until 1770 (see John Robinson to GW, 8 June 1760, and note 2, and Moore to GW, 9 June 1760, 24 Oct. 1766 and note, in Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends .

In addition to the several large tracts of land which John Parke Custis had inherited in the York River area of Virginia, he owned two large plantations in nearby King and Queen and King William counties, which had been bought for him in 1773 by his guardian: Pleasant Hill in King and Queen County and Romancoke across the Mattaponi River in King William County. The former evidently was meant to be used as his seat. For descriptions of these two plantations, see GW to Robert Cary & Co., 10 Nov. 1773, and notes 3, 4, and 6, ibid.

The 911-acre tract in Hanover County, Va., was part of the land inherited by young Custis from his father, Daniel Parke Custis. Shortly after Daniel Parke Custis’s death in 1757, the personal property on the Hanover plantation, including sixteen slaves, was appraised at £474.17.6. Since this plantation was some distance from the rest of the Custis lands, it had been rented for a number of years. In 1773 the rental was only one hogshead of tobacco (see docs. III-A-1 and III-A-6 in Settlement of the Daniel Parke Custis Estate, 20 April 1759–5 Nov. 1761, ibid.). The land, which was located about twelve miles from Richmond, was not exchanged with Colonel Moore but was advertised to be sold at the Hanover courthouse in 1778 (Virginia Gazette [Purdie; Williamsburg], 21 Aug. 1778).

3Although Gen. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Continental troops in Virginia, drove Lord Dunmore’s forces off Gwynn’s Island on 9 July, he remained a rather unpopular figure in the state, and in a letter to publisher Alexander Purdie dated 29 July, a writer who styled himself “RECTOR” remonstrated against the “grave censures which were formerly passed on col. W[oo]df[or]d, and the present ones on general L[ewi]s, in the late affair of Gwyn’s island” (Virginia Gazette [Purdie; Williamsburg], 16 Aug. 1776). For GW’s favorable opinion of Lewis, see his letter to John Augustine Washington, 31 Mar. 1776.

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