George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lund Washington, 29 May 1779

To Lund Washington

Head Qrs Middlebrook May 29th 1779.

Dear Lund,

Your Letter of the 19th which came to hand by the last Post1 gives a melancholy acct of your prospects for a Crop—& a still more melancholy one of the decay of public spirit, & virtue—The first I submit to with the most perfect resignation and chearfulness—I look upon every dispensation of Providence as designed to answer some valuable purpose, and hope I shall always possess a sufficient degree of fortitude to bear, without murmuring, any stroke which may happen either to my Person or Estate from that quarter. But I cannot with any degree of patience, behold the infamous practices of Speculators, monopolizers, & all that tribe of gentry which are preying upon our very vitals & for the sake of a little dirty pelf are putting the rights & liberties of this Country into the most eminent danger and continuing a War destructive to the lives & property of the valuable part of the community which would have ceased last fall as certainly as we now exist but for the encouragements which the enemy deriv’d from this source—the depreciation of the money (which in a great measure is the consequence of it)—and our own internal divisions—The City of Philadelphia are beginning to take this class of people in hand.2 The spirit I understand is extending to other places—& if conducted with prudence moderation—and firmness will have a very happy effect especially if proper objects are selected for examples.

I do not incline to part with my Phaeton, not that I see any great use or advantage I should derive by keeping it—but if money continues to depreciate as it has done in the course of the last Six Months a great nominal price today will be nothing six months hence.3 I am sorry you are still without accts of the G.W.—she is not among the list of Prizes carried into New York so late as the 25th Instt but she must run a severe gauntlet if she gets to Alexandria while the Enemy are in the Bay of Chesapeak.4

Mr Snickers is here with some Deeds for Colo. Mercers land for me to execute—I have refused to resume a business which I formally relinquished (as you know by Letters which passed through your hands) three years ago5—indeed, without a single paper to refer to, I could not with propriety & common prudence go into a business of this kind even if I had time & inclination to do it, but there has been such miserable inattention & mismanagement on the part of Colo. Tayloe to whom I transferred the business that I should choose to look a little about me before I do any thing relative to that Estate, if this should ever engage, & as a friend (for you know I have before declined doing any thing as an Attorney) I advise you to be very careful & cautious with respect to your conduct, or you may involve yourself in trouble—A Gentleman in whose judgment I place a good deal of confidence, thinks it would not be advisable to receive payment of these Bonds at the depreciated value of our paper Currency as the most that the Debtor can do under the Laws of Virginia is to stop the interest by a tender of the money or a deposit in the loan office. A ⟨mutilated⟩ do what he pleases with his own. ⟨mutilated⟩ his own business—but circumspe⟨ction is⟩ very necessary when the interest ⟨mutilated⟩ is concerned.

The enemy in New York ⟨mutilated⟩ busy in preparing for some enter⟨prise, but⟩ whether against this army ⟨mutilated⟩ in ⟨the⟩ Highlands & No. River—or on ⟨mutilated⟩ th⟨ems⟩elves in the most perfect rea⟨d⟩in⟨ess to⟩ operate so soon as their reinforcements arrive time must discover.6 Mrs Washington is out upon a visit to some acquaintance of hers in the neighbourhood of Morristown. She will, I expect, soon set out on her return to Virginia.7 I am sincerely & affectionately yr friend & Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, ViMtvL. GW addressed and signed the cover of the ALS.

1This letter has not been found.

2For the recent events in Philadelphia to which GW is referring, see William Livingston to GW, 27 May, n.2.

3GW owned two phaetons during the war. The first, to which he refers here, had been purchased from David Hoops in June 1773 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:189; Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 90). GW left this phaeton behind at Mount Vernon at the beginning of the war, but he purchased a new phaeton in Philadelphia in June 1775 (GW to Burwell Bassett, 19 June 1775, n.6). He apparently stored this phaeton in Philadelphia while campaigning, and he loaned it to congressman Joseph Jones in 1777. Jones purchased the phaeton from Lund Washington in June 1778 (see Jones to GW, 14 and 30 Sept. 1777; GW to Jones, 17 Sept. 1777; and GW to Lund Washington, 15 Aug. 1778, n.5). The original phaeton remained at Mount Vernon during the war, and GW was still using it in May 1785 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:141, 143).

4The 20-gun privateer ship General Washington operated successfully until the summer of 1780, when she was captured by a British squadron off Sandy Hook, N.J., and pressed into enemy service as the General Monk. She was recaptured off Cape May, N.J., in April 1782 and again named the General Washington. Congress purchased the ship in September 1782 and took it into the Continental navy, refitting it for service as a cruiser and a packet ship. The General Washington remained in Continental service until the end of the war and was sold in 1784.

5For GW’s prewar role as one of the attorneys for the sale of George Mercer’s land in Virginia, and his subsequent relinquishment of that role to John Tayloe, see Lund Washington to GW, 29 Oct. 1775, n.7, and GW to Tayloe, 11 Dec. 1775.

6For the impending British advance up the Hudson River, see William De Hart to GW, 30 May, n.1.

7GW wrote to William Fitzhugh on 25 June that Martha Washington had left for Mount Vernon “so soon as I began my march from Middle brook,” on 3 June (NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers). Christopher Marshall, writing in his diary at Lancaster, Pa., on 18 June, noted that “Lady Washington, accompanied by sundry light horsemen and her menials, passed through the borough on her return home” (Duane, Diary of Marshall description begins William Duane, ed. Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, Kept in Philadelphia and Lancaster, during the American Revolution, 1774–1781. 1877. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 221). She arrived in Baltimore on 20 June and stayed there for a few days before continuing her journey (see Mordecai Gist to GW, 21 June, NN: Mordecai Gist Letter Book).

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