George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Parke Custis, 20 November 1778

From John Parke Custis

Williamsburg [Va.] Novr 20th 1778

Hond Sir

Your Favours of the 26th and 30th Ulto are received, and for which I am very thankful. I shall cheerfully comply with the requests containd in Them. Mr John Washington is not a Member of the Assembly. I shall deliver his Letter to Colo. Lewis who is in Town and will contrive It to Him. My Vessell shall always be at your Service, to convey any thing you desire, from this Part of the Country, to Mt Vernon, and what ever Articles you have, shall be taken Care of and sent the first Time She goes up. your Letter to Hill was delivered yesterday.1 He is not much pleased with the Contents, and promises to Clear up every thing to your Satisfaction. Colo. Bassett has sold all your Corn to Finnie for five Pounds pr Barrel.2 He is to take It away as soon as It can be delivered. this will, I think answer as well as if I had taken It. Davenport shall be directed to loose no Time in getting the Corn ready for Sale, the wheat shall likewise be disposed off, tho I beleive It is ruined by the Weavle; the Fodder, shucks, &c. I shall (I beleive) want, as I am not determined whether to drive the Cattle (I take) up this Fall or not. The Tobacco shall be attended to, as you direct.

According to your request, I called on Mr Mercer. He informd that Deeds were made, but He was not certain whether they were recorded in Fairfax Court, or the General Court, tho He beleived they were recorded in the latter. I shall take the first Opportunity of having the Deed lookd for in the Secretary’s Office, which is now kept at Richmond. Mr Mercer promised to write to you fully on this Subject, I hope He has complied with his Promise.3

You have perhaps before this heard of the Sale of my Williamsburg Estate, for the Sum of twenty thousand pounds, payable before the first Day of January. Carter Braxton is the Purchaser. He has lately made a prodigious Sum, by buying and Selling. The Price I think a good One, if our Money can be made of Value. the Depreciation still increases, but I think It has got to such a height that it must fall. We shall not emit any Money this Session, being able to borrow as much as is wanting. the Tax will be very heavy next year, nearly treble what it was last. which together with a Bill to prevent monopolizeing, will check the Depreciation and stamp a Value on our Money.4

We have just had an Account of the Success of an Expedition against the Ilinois, under the Command of a Colo. Clark, (formerly an Overseer to Colo. N. Harrison) who with only one hundred and seventy Men, penetrated through the Indian Country about five hundred Miles, and surprized and took fort St Vincents, fort & post, and some other trifling Forts. the Governor of St Vincents is now in Town. The French who live on the Ilinois have taken the Oath of Allegiance to the States and have embodied Themselves to defend the Country against the British Arms. nearly four thousand Inhabitants have taken the Oath, and Peace is made with a Number of Indian Tribes. Clark has discovered great Ingenuity, Perseverance, and Bravery, in this Expedition, and acquired great Honour and reputation to Himself and little Party.5 I have just left the House to write this Letter. We are now on the Bill for recruiting the Army. I would give you the Plan, had not Colo. Wood informd Me He sent It to you last Post.6 the Colo. has done every thing in his Power to expidite this Matter: We have allowed 200 Acres of Land over and above the Bounty given by Congress. with Compts to the Family I remain with unfeign’d regard your most Affecte

John Parke Custis

ALS, ViU: Garnett Family Papers.

3For a discussion of GW’s acquisition of approximately 1,200 acres on Four Mile Run in Fairfax County from James Mercer in December 1774, see GW to Mercer, 12 Dec. 1774, and n.3 to that document (Papers, Colonial Series, 10:201–5; see also GW to Mercer, 26 Dec. 1774, [Papers, Colonial Series, 10:211–14]). Mercer did write to GW, but his letter has not been found; for a description of that letter and GW’s explanation of why he was interested in learning about the deed to the Four Mile Run tract, see GW to Lund Washington, 17 Dec. 1778.

4For Custis’s sale of Martha Washington’s dower lands in and around Williamsburg, Va., see Custis to GW, 15 July, notes 5–6, and GW to Custis, 3 Aug., and n.1 to that document. On 27 Nov., Dixon and Hunter’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) printed this advertisement by Custis: “To be SOLD for ready money, by public auction, on the premises, on Monday the 14th of December, MY HOUSE and LOTS situated on the back street, and one of the most retired and agreeable situations in Williamsburg. The house is in tolerable good repair, having two good rooms and a passage on the lower flower. The offices are a kitchen and a large stable, with a meathouse, &c. There are about four acres enclosed in one lot, and will be sold with the house.” The Virginia general assembly increased taxation for 1779 in “An act to amend an act intituled An act for raising a supply of money for publick exigencies,” passed in the October 1778 session (Va. Statutes [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 , 9:547–52).

5George Rogers Clark (1752–1818) of Albemarle County, Va., was commissioned a captain in the Virginia militia during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774, and in 1775 he went to Kentucky as a surveyor for the Ohio Company. He returned to Virginia in June 1776 to petition that state’s general assembly for the annexation of Kentucky; after the general assembly complied in December 1776, Clark returned to Kentucky as a major of militia. He spent most of 1777 repelling Indian raids, but at the beginning of 1778 Gov. Patrick Henry ordered Clark, now a lieutenant colonel, to attack enemy settlements north of the Ohio River. Clark prepared his expedition, consisting of no more than 175 men, at the Falls of the Ohio River, near present-day Louisville, Ky., and in late June 1778 he marched for the Illinois Country. The expedition followed the Ohio River to near the mouth of the Tennessee River, and then marched 120 miles overland to the French village of Kaskaskia, capturing it on the night of 4/5 July. Over the next few days he captured several other villages, and by the end of the month Clark had seized the strategic village and fort at Vincennes on the Wabash River, 150 miles east-northeast of Kaskaskia. British lieutenant governor Henry Hamilton retook Vincennes on 17 Dec. 1778 while Clark was absent, but two months later Clark led 170 men on a daring mid-winter expedition through terrible weather back to Vincennes. He retook the village and captured Hamilton on 25 Feb. 1779. The “N. Harrison” for whom Clark reputedly served as an overseer probably was Nathaniel Harrison (1703–1791) of Prince George County, Va., a cousin of Benjamin Harrison.

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