George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Parke Custis, October 1777

From John Parke Custis

[October 1777]

Hond Sir

I have intended for several Letters past, but as often forgot It, to ask whether It would be agreabl⟨e⟩ to you, to admit Colo. Baylor a Partner in the Sha⟨re⟩ We have of the Privateer. He was very desirous to become an Adventurer, and I promised to acquaint you of It, but forgot It untill Now. The Share I own is divided into four Parts. Mr Lund Washington has one Fourth, the remaining three Fourths are divided between you & Myself. If you have no objections, I am willing to oblidge Colo. Baylor with a Fourth Part of the Share. I would not be understood by This, that I think I have a bad Bargain. on the contrary I think we have every reason to expect great Success. I propose It altogether to oblidge Colo. Baylor, as he was very disirous of being concernd in the Ship. if It is agreable to you, you will please to acquaint Colo. Baylor, that We shall look upon Him as a Partner, and that I should be glad to know on Whom I shall draw for his Proportion of the Expence: you will I hope Sir excuse this Liberty, and believe me Hond your ever Affecte

J. P. Custis

ALS, ViHi. The text in angle brackets is missing from the right-hand edge of the page.

In July 1777 Lund Washington paid John Parke Custis £168.14.3 “being in part of the Generals proportion of the Privateer G[eneral] W[ashington]” (Lund Washington’s Mount Vernon account book, f. 61, ViMtvL). The master of the General Washington in 1778 was Francis Speake (born c.1750) of Charles County, Md., who had previously been master of the schooner John and the sloop Potomack and who later clashed with GW over a ferry on the Potomac (Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 6:184). The General Washington, for which Lund Washington paid £300 in August 1777 and another £300 in October 1777 to the firm of Jenifer & Hooe, may in fact have been the renamed Potomack, which had originally been commissioned in October 1776 under Jenifer & Hooe’s ownership as a ship “mounting twelve carriage Guns” (Lund Washington’s Mount Vernon account book, ff. 63, 66, ViMtvL; Md. Archives description begins Archives of Maryland. 72 vols. Baltimore, 1883–1972. description ends , 12:401). On 18 Mar. 1778 Lund Washington wrote GW conveying his concerns about the vessel, which was either under construction or undergoing a refit and appeared subject to British capture, and expressing the fear that “my little Fortune will not well bear that she shoud be lost” (ViMtvL). The ship was not captured, and expenses for its maintenance continued throughout 1778. In September 1778 the ship set sail for France, remaining stationed near Nantes until its return to the United States in March 1779 with at least one prize. The ship made more voyages until at least 1782, apparently netting more profits from the capture of British vessels. For more on the activities of the privateer, see Lund Washington’s Mount Vernon account book, ff. 63, 66, 76, 79, 81, and 109, ViMtvL; an account of its arrival in Philadelphia with a captured cargo in Clarkson and Davis’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), 19 Aug. 1780; and the declaration of William Dove, a crew member on two voyages of the General Washington, in Stanard, “Revolutionary Pension Declarations,” 175–77. Although GW agreed to Custis’s proposal to include George Baylor in the partnership, no record of any investment by Baylor in the General Washington has been identified (see GW to Custis, 14 Nov.).

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