George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Alexander Henderson, 20 December 1784

To Alexander Henderson

[Mount Vernon] 20th Decr 1784.

Dr Sir

I will thank you for presenting the enclosed. If it is not immediately paid, or a moral certainty that it will be before you leave the Assembly: be so good as to return it to Mr Rumsey if in richmond, or to me if he is not, by Post 1—I persuade myself you will excuse this trouble, & believe that I am &c.

G: Washington


Alexander Henderson, a merchant in Colchester, was in Richmond attending the session of the Virginia general assembly as a delegate from Fairfax County.

1The enclosed was a note for £50 due GW from James Rumsey and transferred by Rumsey to a man named Dennis Ryan. Unable to track Ryan down, Henderson returned the note undelivered (see Henderson to GW, 11 Jan. 1785). In a letter to GW of 10 Mar. 1785, Rumsey explains at length why instead of receiving from Rumsey the £50 that Rumsey owed him, GW found himself stuck with “the note of a shuffling player” named Ryan. GW accepted Rumsey’s explanation and sent Ryan’s note to Rumsey (see GW to Rumsey, 5 June 1785). See also GW to Bushrod Washington, 22 Jan. 1785, GW to Edmund Randolph, 19 Mar. 1785, and Edmund Randolph to GW, 5 April 1785.

In September 1782 Dennis Ryan and his wife, probably Irish players, joined a theater company in Baltimore as leading actors. Ryan assumed management of the company in February 1783. At the end of the season, Ryan took the company to New York to play there during the summer but was back in Baltimore for the 1783–84 season. Ryan may have been attempting to arrange for his company to play in Richmond when he fled from his creditors in the fall of 1784. In any case, he at some point returned to Baltimore, where he died in 1786. See Seilhamer, American Theatre, description begins George O. Seilhamer. History of the American Theatre. 3 vols. 1888–91. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends chaps. 6–9.

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