George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Fielding Lewis, Jr., 27 February 1784

To Fielding Lewis, Jr.

Mount Vernon Feb. 27th 84

Dear Fielding,

You very much mistake my circumstances, when you suppose me in a condition to advance money.1

I made no money from my Estate during the nine years I was absent from it, and brought none home with me. Those who owed me—for the greater part—took advantage of the depreciation & paid me off with Six pence in the pound. Those to whom I was indebted, I have yet to pay, without other means, if they will not wait, than selling part of my Estate—or distressing those who were too honest to take advantage of the Tender Laws to quit scores with me.

This relation of my circumstances, which is a true one, is alone sufficient, without adding that my living under the best œconomy I can use, must, unavoidably, be expensive, to convince you of my inability to advance money.

I have heard with pleasure that you are industrious—convince people by your mode of living that you are Sober and frugal also, and I persuade myself your Creditors will grant you every indulgence they can. It would be no small inducement to me, if it ever should be in my power, to assist you.

Your Fathers advice to you, in his Letter of the 8th of Octobr is worthy the goodness of his own Heart, and very excellent to follow. If I could say any thing to enforce it, it should not be wanting.

I shall always be glad to see you here; your Aunt joins me in best wishes, and I am your Affecte Uncle

Go: Washington

P.S. There was a great space between the 23d of Septr 1778 when you were called upon by your Father for a specific list of your Debts; and his death: How happened it, that in all that time you did not comply with his request? and what do they amount to now? His letters to you are returned, & I hope will get safe to hand.2

G. W——n

ALS, NN: Washington Collection; LB, DLC:GW.

1For Lewis’s plea to GW for aid, see his letter of 22 Feb. 1784.

2Young Fielding Lewis’s financial difficulties were not of recent origin nor were they near an end. His father wrote GW on 16 Sept. 1769: “I am allmost certain that he will in a year or Two spend every Shillg [of his young wife’s fortune] as I cannot perceive the least amendment since his Marriage, nor has he the least regard to any advice I give him”; twenty-three years later, on 25 Sept. 1792, his mother Betty Washington Lewis wrote GW: “Fielding is so distrest that his Children would go naked if it was not for the assistance I give him” (ViMtvL). GW himself was not so restrained in his criticism when he next wrote his nephew on 4 Dec. 1786.

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