George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Bryan Fairfax, 21 September 1777

From Bryan Fairfax

From Colo. Thompson’s at the Conestogo Waggon about 18 Miles
below Lancaster [Pa., 21 September 1777]1

Dear Sir,

I am very sorry to disturb Your Excellency at this time with a Letter upon private Business; but when I set out from Home I did not expect it would have been so difficult to get to Camp as I have found it, having rode round a great ways & being still at some distance from it.

Your Excellency knows that I have had the Misfortune to differ in Opinion from many of my Countrymen, and I am sure have more Generosity than to be displeased with any Man merely for his Sentiments, & therefore freely lay my Case before You still hoping for a Continuance of Your former Friendship. For two years past I have had a stronger Desire to enter into Holy Orders than ever I had before, tho’ frequently in my Life have had the same, yet generally suffered worldly considerations to interfere. This Desire and the not finding myself at Liberty to concur in the Public measures make me very anxious to get to England, and I have been in Hopes of obtaining a Pass from the Congress to go to N: York for that Purpose. There has appeared to me but one Objection, and that is, the giving Intelligence, but I would not only enter into Engagements in that respect if required but it may [be] considered that what I might say would be of little Consequence, but if of any it would rather be in Favour of America because I really think that it would be the Interest of Great Britain to let her enjoy her Independence, for if successful in this Struggle which is very doubtful it might all be to do over again at another Time.

I intended to have seen Your Excellency before I left the warm Springs the last of August where were Colo. Lewis, Your Brother & Mr W. Washington and to have brought my Son Tommy with me. when I came home I found they had put him on the Militia Roll and draughted him tho’ under the Age required and therefore I had him excused. He is now with me, and I intended to have taken him with me, choosing to superintend his Education.2

Now Having explained the Case I earnestly intreat Your Excellency’s Consideration with regard to those of Scrupulous Minds. By our own Consciences we must stand or fall and I wish & strive to die with a clear one. Not but what I believe & am persuaded that it is the same with Your Excellency & many others. I hope You will befriend me in this Matter. And if Your Excellency can give me a Pass that I might come & see You I shall be very glad to do it whether I succeed in the other matter or not for You are often in my Mind & I have often sympathised with Yr Ex. in regard to the great & labourious Undertaking You are engaged in.

Colo. Lewis bought two Lots for Yr Excellency at the Place you desired and as I was appointed to receive the Money by the Trustees, and as I expected to see Yr Excellency Colo. Lewis referred me to You.3 Thinking that I might find it difficult to pass to the Camp and being fatigued I have tryed to get a Messenger to carry this Letter, hoping he may [be] detained till a little Leisure may be obtained if possible that I might be favoured with a Line. I remain with great Respect & Regard Yr Excellency’s most obedt & obligd hl. St

Bryan Fairfax


1GW docketed this letter: “Bryan Fairfax Esq. Sep. 1777.” Fairfax says in his letter to GW of 25 Sept. that this letter was written on 21 September. The Sign of the Wagon Tavern was on the Lancaster Road in Chester County just west of the western branch of Brandywine Creek and about twenty-five miles east of Lancaster. James Thompson lived between the two branches of the Brandywine a short distance east of the tavern. He may be the Col. James Thompson who became wagon master general in December 1777.

2Thomas Fairfax (1762–1846) was the eldest son of Bryan and Elizabeth Cary Fairfax. He became ninth Lord Fairfax on his father’s death in 1802, although he never claimed the title.

3For the purchase of these lots, see GW to Samuel Washington, 27 Oct., PHi: Gratz Collection. While Fairfax was at GW’s headquarters in Philadelphia County on 1 Oct., GW wrote and signed a promissory note regarding the purchase of the lots that reads: “It appearing to me by a Certificate of Fielding Lewis Esqr. that he had purchased two Lotts for my use in the Town of Bath in Berkeley County, Virginia No. 58 & 59; and that the same had not been paid for to Bryan Fairfax Esqr. who had been appointed by the Trustees of Said Town to receive the purchase money; and it being the request of the said Bryan Fairfax that the amount, or value of the said Lotts to wit One hundred and Ten pounds fifteen Shilling should be paid to Jno. Parke Custis Esqr. to whom he stands Indebted; this is to acknowledge that I consider myself Indebted to the said Custis in the above Sum of One hundd and ten pounds fifteen Shillings Virga Curry, & that the said Bryan Fairfax Esqr. is consequently released from the payment of so much to Mr Custis” (ADS, PHi: Gratz Collection).

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