George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Edward Snickers, 4 September 1784

To Edward Snickers

Berckeley [Va.] 4th Septr 1784

Dr Sir,

Several persons have been with me this day to rent the Land I bought at the sale of Colo. George Mercer’s Estate; but I find it is essential that some one, or more of them, should engage for the whole rent; or, that I should delay renting it until the Land can be divided to the best advantage—so as that each Lot may have water, & a proportionate quantity of good Land. for these reasons I mean to avail myself of the kind offer you made me yesterday, of letting the two Lots (I bought as above) to the best advantage on my behalf.1

Enclos’d is a plan of the Land wch may be some guide for you.2 I have told Williams who is a liver on one of the lots, that I have no objection to his having an hundred acres or more, provided he will give as much as another, & the laying it off does not hurt the other part. As to the rents, I suppose the same which Mr Burwell has, must govern—to wit—ten pounds & the Taxes, for each 100 acres 3—in other respects, my printed leases, one of which I enclose you, are to be shewn to the Tenants, & must be your rule & their terms 4—I do not mean to give Leases for lives; indeed I do not incline to exceed ten years: but if it shou’d be thought by the tenants, & this should be your opinion also, that ten years is too short to make the buildings & other improvments which are required by the printed copy I send you, I would lengthen them to 14 years.

There is one thing I think it necessary to caution you upon: my object being to have my Lands improved by an industrious class of reputable people, I would not lease any of them to persons who do not mean to reside thereon; or to those who have lands adjoining—because in either case I should expect to have my land hard worked (perhaps totally ruined), without those aids or improvements which are to be expected from residents, whose convenience & comfort wou’d call for many things, which never would be furnished Negro Quarters.5

After you have done the needful, & hear of my return home, I shall thank you for information respecting this business. I am Dr Sir &c.

G: Washington

LB, DLC:GW; printed (incomplete), Maggs Brothers catalog, no. 576, item 169, 1932.

1Lots 5 and 6 which GW bought at the Mercer sale in November 1774 were on the Shenandoah River near Snickers’s home and ordinary. See Snickers to GW, 17 May 1784, n.3.

2GW’s “plan” has not been found.

3John Williams on 16 Dec. 1785 signed a lease for 100 acres, the lease to run for twenty-six years from the beginning of 1782 at an annual rental of £10. See GW to Battaile Muse, 16 Dec. 1785. Nathaniel Burwell (1750–1814) of Carter’s Grove, James City County, later built and lived in Carter Hall at Millwood in Frederick (now Clarke) County.

4A number of GW’s leases on printed forms have survived and are in DLC:GW.

5This paragraph and the preceding one appear in the Maggs Brothers catalog. The only substantial difference between the printed and letter-book texts is that the printed text has “for Negro Plantations” instead of “Negro Quarters.”

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