George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George William Fairfax, 10 June 1784

From George William Fairfax

Bath [England] 10th June 1784

My Dear Sir

I have been called upon very unexpectedly by a Gentn passing through this place to London, in order to Imbark for Virginia. So that I have scarcely time to say, that the Revd Mr B[r]acken of Williamsburg, has been so obliging as to take charge of a Case directed to your Excellency, containing two Prints, the best framed one for yourself, and the other for my Sister Washingtons kind acceptance of. before the Painting, from whence this was taken, was finished, I wrote two or three times to Colo. F. Lewis to endeavour to procure a minuture, or profile of you, in order to represent the first Figure, in the leading group, and was much disappointed as well as the worthy Artist, Mr Pine.1 Our united Compliments and best wishes attend you, good Mrs Washington, and enquiring friends, and remain Dear Sir Your Excellencys ever Obliged, faithful Friend, and Obedt humble Servt

Go: Wm: Fairfax


In early July 1773 George William Fairfax and his wife Sarah Cary Fairfax left Belvoir. After visiting her relatives at Ceelys in Elizabeth City County, they sailed in August from Yorktown for England, where they remained for the rest of their lives. Fairfax wrote GW on 10 Jan. 1774 that the suit in chancery which he had come to settle would take years and that in any case he and his wife did not intend to return to their home in Virginia. Before his departure, Fairfax had given GW his power of attorney and had gotten GW to take on the general supervision of his affairs in Virginia. GW wrote Fairfax from Cambridge, Mass., on 26 July 1775 that his duties as commander in chief of America’s military forces made it impossible for him to continue to see to matters in Virginia for Fairfax and urged him to appoint someone else to attend to his business there. See George William Fairfax to GW, 1 Jan., 5 Aug., 26 Nov. 1773, 10 Jan. 1774, 2 Mar. 1775; and GW to Fairfax, 19 Jan., 15 Oct. 1773, 10–25 June 1774, 31 May, 26 July 1775. See also George William Fairfax to GW, 23 Aug. 1784 , and GW to George William Fairfax, 30 June 1786. Despite the difficulties and the fact that many of Fairfax’s letters were intercepted and never reached GW, the two men continued to write one another during the war and in 1783 resumed a regular correspondence which lasted until Fairfax’s death in 1787. See particularly George William Fairfax to GW, 26 Mar. 1783, and GW to Fairfax, 10 July 1783.

1For further description of the prints that Fairfax was sending to GW, see his letter to GW of 23 Aug. 1784. John Bracken, rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg from 1773 to 1818 and longtime master and briefly president of the College of William and Mary, was a visitor to London in the spring of 1784. Bracken was married in 1776 to Sally Burwell, daughter of Carter Burwell of Carter’s Grove near Williamsburg. In a long and informative letter to Fairfax on 27 Feb. 1785 about the difficulties of the wartime correspondence between the two old friends, GW reported that he had seen Bracken in Richmond in November 1784. At that time, Bracken had told him that he would forward the pictures from Williamsburg by “the first safe conveyance” but that they still had not arrived. Fairfax’s letter of 23 Aug. 1784 served as a letter of introduction for the English painter Robert Edge Pine (1730–1788) who arrived at Mount Vernon on 28 April 1785 “to take my [GW’s] picture from the life” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:129–30).

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