George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Parke Custis, 26 March 1778

From John Parke Custis

Mt Airy [Md.] March 26th 1778

Hond Sir

I did Myself the Pleasure to write you two Letters before my Departure for Williams[bur]g by a Capt. Brookes, who was taken unwell on his Way to Camp, and oblidged to return;1 He says the Letters were delivered to an Officer, who promised to take leave of them, but I am suspicious by Mamma’s last Letter, that they have never got to Hand. I am therefore under a Necessity to trouble you again, on the same Subject.

Mr Henry who purchased my Estate in King & Queen is extremely anxious to have the proper Titles made Him to the Land, and I am no less anxious to gratify Him, according to your Directions to Me last Fall. Mr Wythe was applied to; to draw the Deeds between Us, his answer was, that He could not do It; unless He had the Papers that passed between you and Black; I should be oblidged to you, if you have not answered my other Letter on this Head, to inform Me where the Papers may be had, as early as you conveniently can.2 I believe I have as keen a Hand to deal with as any Person ever had, and the most impatient. you will please to direct to Me in Williamsburg, whether I set off next Week, to stand my Election in N. Kent. I have every reason to think I shall be Elected, & I am determined to discharge my Duty as an honest Man, and a true Friend to the Independency of America, I do not offer Myself, because I think Myself properly qualified for the Post, but because I think I may say, and not be thought vain either, that I am as well Qualified as my Competitors, except my Uncle Dandridge; I shall add one to the Number who are for giving you effectual assistance, and have laid aside every Thought of returning to our former Masters; Those Men who had great Weight in our Assembly, and who wanted Vigour adequate to their Understandings, to act decisively, are now provided for in the Government, where they will shine.3 In my former Letter I mentioned to you that the Assembly was very popular,4 I am now to contradict that assertion, and to assure you they are the reverse. They publish’d fine sounding Titles to their Bills, which gave great Pleasure; but the Execution renders some of their Bills, the reverse of their Titles, particularly the Bill for sequestring British Property. It is, I am informed by the best authority, an absolute Security to the Tories for their Property. I have never seen the Bill, the Scarcity of Paper has prevented the Printers publishing all the Bills, as soon as I can get It, I will transmit It to you.5 I herewith send you the Assesment Bill. It is generally thought that this Plan can’t be carried into execution, but will be altered in the Beginning of the next Session, which meets the Tenth of May,6 and an Extract of a Letter from Mr Harrison to Colo. Hooe, the vessell which brought It arrived last Saturday.7 the Intelligence is very pleasing, and I hope will prove true—I have nothing more to add but that I am afraid We are agoing to lose our old Neighbour Mr Diggs. He is very unwell.

I shall carry your Mare down to my Horse next Week, and you may depend that every Care shall be taken of Her. I think I may venture to insure you a fine Colt from Her. the Horse is very much admired, I could get any Number of Mares I would choose to Him. He is ful fifteen Hands high a beautiful blood Bay, and as well bred as any Horse on the Continent. I had a very great Bargain in Him. I gave £78.10 for him, and as Horses sell He is worth £2000, I would not give Him for a Horse that sold for that Price, apollo sold the other Day for £4000 ready Money8 Mamma talk’d of sending her Mare, She may be carried down very conveniently when Nelly goes down. you will please to mention whether you would have her or any other of your Mares sent down, to Mrs Washington. I am Sir with sincere regard your most Affecte

J. P. Custis

ALS, ViHi: Custis Papers.

1See Custis to GW, 12 and 17 February.

2For discussion of Custis’s sale to James Henry of land that GW had purchased for Custis from William Black, see Custis to GW, 14 Jan. 1778, and note 2. GW’s directions to Custis “last Fall” were apparently conveyed in a letter from GW to him of 28 Sept. 1777 that has not been found (see Custis to GW, 26 Oct. 1777). Custis’s “other Letter on this Head” was his letter to GW of 12 Feb. 1778. On 11 May 1778 Custis sent for GW’s signature a deed of the land from GW to Henry; on 26 May, GW refused to execute that deed and instead sent Custis a deed conveying the land title to Custis.

3In April, Custis won election to one of two Fairfax County seats in the Virginia house of delegates (see Lund Washington to GW, 22 April), and he served until his death in 1781. Custis’s uncle Bartholomew Dandridge was elected to a seat from New Kent County but soon left the legislature to take a judgeship.

5Custis is referring to “An act for Sequestering British Property, enabling those indebted to British subjects to pay off such debts, and directing the proceedings in suits where such subjects are parties” (Hening, description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 9:377–80). The preamble to the act stated that the property “should not be confiscated on our part.”

6The enclosed copy of the assessment bill, “An act for raising a supply of money for publick exigencies” (Hening, description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 9:349–68), has not been found. “An act to amend an act intituled An act for raising a supply of money for publick exigencies” was passed in the October 1778 session (ibid., 547–52).

7The extract, which has not been found, probably was taken from a letter written by Richard Harrison (1750–1841) of Maryland to Robert Townsend Hooe, his partner in the Alexandria, Va., firm of Hooe & Harrison. Early in the Revolution, Harrison had been sent to Martinique as a commercial agent for Virginia. From 1780 to about 1786 he acted as an unofficial consul for the United States at Cadiz. During GW’s presidency he refused an appointment as consul at Cadiz (see Harrison to GW, 8 May 1789, and note 2 to that document), but he served as auditor of the U.S. Treasury, 1791–1836. The previous Saturday was 21 March.

8Custis purchased Leonidas, foaled in 1774, along with his dam and another foal from former Maryland governor Horatio Sharpe. Leonidas was sired by Lloyd’s Traveller. For more on the horse’s pedigree, see Custis’s advertisements in Purdie’s Virginia Gazette, 27 Mar. 1778, and Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, 5 Mar. 1779 (see also Harrison, Early American Turf-Stock description begins Fairfax Harrison. Early American Turf-Stock, 1730–1830. 2 vols. Richmond, Va., 1934–35. description ends , 1:75, 86). Apollo (or Spotswood’s Apollo) was foaled in 1767 and sired by the famous stallion Fearnaught. He was owned in 1777 by Richard Elliott of Brunswick County, Va., and in 1779 by John Tanner of Bute County, North Carolina.

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