George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George William Fairfax, 19 March 1785

From George William Fairfax

Bath [England] 19th March 1785

My dear General

Mr Thomas Corbin, now in my House, proposing to Embark in a few days for Virginia, has earnestly Sollicited, that I would give him a line to you, respecting his Conduct since his return to England. The unfortunate youth, has been most cruelly used, and barbarously aspersed by his Brother Dick, and his adherents, insomuch that Tom had a property of five thousand Pounds in the Funds, he must have rotted in a Jail, but for the interposition of his Fathers friend Mr Athawes, who stept in to save him from impending destruction. All this is not yours or my affair, I hear you say, and my good Sir it is true, but as there has been a Combination to destroy the reputation of a young Man, just setting out in Life, I cannot refuse when called upon, to give my Testimony, that from the information of a Gentn of great Probity, intimately acquainted with all the horrid transactions of Dick Corbin, Tom has acquitted himself through the whole business, as a Man of honor, honesty, and great humanity, as will appear by his paying about 1400£ for his Brother Dick and also the debts of Frank, who could not have left England but by his assistance.1

I beg your forgiveness for troubling You with the above tedious detail, be assured, I have done it with the greatest reluctance, but a particular friend of mine coming from London with Mr Corbin, to ask this address of me, it was not to be parried. Since the Peace I have availd myself of several opportunities of enquiring after your, and Mrs Washingtons hea[l]th, but have received only one from you, And some time ago, I took the liberty of sending a beautiful Print of the great Revolution, in which you had so principal a part, it would give me pleasure to hear it got safe and was acceptable. Mrs Fairfax and myself has been better this severe Winter, than any one of those we have spent in England.2

It would give us pleasure to hear, when your leisure will permit, that you and your good Lady enjoy health. That you may be long blessed with it, and every other felicity is the earnest wish of my Dear Sir Your Affecte and much Obliged Friend and humble Servt

Go: Wm Fairfax

Mr David Hartley (whos character you must know) has often requested, that I would present his best respects to you. he added that it would give him infinite pleasure to take by ⟨mutilated⟩ Person whoes health he has so often drunk.3

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter was brought to Mount Vernon on 7 July by Richard Corbin’s steward, with a missing letter from Corbin dated 24 June (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:161).

1The three young Corbins in England, Richard (b. 1751), Thomas (b. 1755), and Francis (1759–1821), were the three younger sons of Richard Corbin (c.1714–1790), who in 1754 used his influence to promote GW’s military career (see GW to Richard Corbin, February-March 1754, and notes). At the outbreak of the Revolution Corbin was a member of the royal council in Virginia and receiver general, and though choosing to remain loyal to the crown, he lived quietly through the war at his home in King and Queen County. Before their return to Virginia in 1785, Thomas Corbin had been in the British army and Francis Corbin had been studying at Cambridge and at the Middle Temple. On receiving their letters on 7 July, GW promptly wrote both Fairfax and Corbin, saying to Fairfax that some of young Richard Corbin’s Virginia friends were saying he, not Thomas, was the aggrieved brother. GW’s letter to Thomas Corbin is dated 8 July and the one to Fairfax is dated 30 June. Fairfax wrote GW on 23 Jan. 1786, apologizing for having drawn him into the Corbin squabble and explaining that Thomas Corbin and Edward Athawes, one of the leading merchants among those who had been engaged in the Virginia trade before the Revolution, came “from London to my House to obtain that Letter. nor would they take a denial, or quit me without it.”

2For a discussion of the wartime correspondence between GW and Fairfax, see the source note in Fairfax to GW, 10 June 1784. See also note 1 in GW to Battaile Muse, 3 Nov. 1784.

3David Hartley (1732–1813) actively opposed both Britain’s war in America and the African slave trade. He was a particular friend of Benjamin Franklin and with him drew up and signed the definitive treaty of peace in Paris on 3 Sept. 1783.

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