George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Moody, 1 September 1779

From Benjamin Moody

Alexandria, Va., 1 Sept. 1779. Moody, desiring to “dispose of the Lands devised me by Colo. Thomas Colvill, and those which I purchased of his Executors,” requests that GW execute a deed for him for the lands purchased from his executors, of which GW is the only survivor. Moody owes the Colville estate for the purchase price of the lands and desires to settle with GW in loan office certificates, which he will deposit with John Parke Custis or any other gentleman of Fairfax County, Va., that GW might appoint. Moody informs GW that he has sold the land for £15,000 and is bound for double the sum to deliver the title to the lands by 1 Jan. 1780.

Copy, NjMoHP. The letter is part of the Colvill estate papers. For the full text of this letter, see GW to John West, Jr., 4 July 1773, n.2, in Papers, Colonial Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 9:261-62.

On 18 Sept., GW replied to Moody from West Point: “How the ballance between You and the estate of the deceased Colo. Thomas Colvill really stands, it is not in my power to say—but well do I recollect that Mr John West before I left Virginia, often told me, that it was not in his power to bring you to a settlement—in other words to obtain payment from You for the land which you purchased of Colonel Colvill’s Estate, and if my memory has not greatly failed me, I have myself, in very pointed terms, called upon You for payment under threats of a Suit.

“Under these circumstances, do You suppose that I can, as a Trustee for another, receive the nominal for the real su⟨m⟩ you were to pay for the Land, after such forbearance? If this is your belief, I must undeceive You by an assurance, that nothing but a Bill in Chancery shall compel me to it, thereby to do what I conceive to be injurious in the extreme to the trust reposed in me. . . . presuming that all law is founded in reason & equity, I can never, in behalf of another (whatever I have done or may do on my own account) consent to receive Eight pence in the pound for a Debt which ought to have been paid years ago—and You must excuse me for adding—which I think no man who is actuated by that first & great law which should govern every one—of doing as he would be done by—should attempt to dispense with.” GW would acquiesce only if a law existed to compel him to accept payment under the circumstances of Moody’s case. GW insists on the account between Moody and the Colville estate being “properly liquidated” and the balance prior to depreciation determined “by impartial men of good accomptants.” GW further insists on a “reasonable allowance” for depreciation before he will execute the deeds of conveyance. GW concludes by stating: “I cannot be guilty of what in my Judgement would be an unpardonnable violation of Justice, and the trust reposed in me, by the deceased Gentleman to whose will I am an Executor, by a contrary conduct” (copy, NjMoHP; this letter is part of the Colvill estate papers). For the full text of this letter, see GW to John West, Jr., 4 July 1773, n.2, in Papers, Colonial Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 9:262-63.

Moody was a nephew of Thomas Colvill’s deceased widow Frances (Francina). In 1768 he had purchased about 600 acres of land on Accotink Creek in Fairfax County from the estate of Thomas Colvill, of which GW, Frances Colvill, and John West, Jr. (who had died in 1777) were the executors. Moody did go to court to force GW to accept payment in inflated currency (see Moody to GW, 17 Nov. 1779, in Papers, Colonial Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 9:263), and a settlement was reached in November 1781 when Moody signed a bond for £329 in payment of the debt. For additional details on GW’s dealings with Moody as a trustee of the Colvill estate, see GW to John West, Jr., 4 July 1773, notes 1 and 2, in Papers, Colonial Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends 9:261-64; see also GW to Josiah Watson, 15 Dec. 1786, and the notes to that document in 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 4:455-56. For other complicated and drawn-out dealings GW, in his role as executor, undertook to settle Colvill’s estate, see the source note to Thomas Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, in Papers, Presidential Series, description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 17 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987—. description ends 1:63-66.

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