George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Battaile Muse, 8 March 1786

To Battaile Muse

Mt Vernon 8th March 1786


I have Just received your letter of the 20th of last Month, & only request that you will proceed as you have begun; that is, to do equal & impartial Justice to the Tennants, & myself, I want no improper advantage of them on the one hand—On the other, where leases are clearly forfeited by a manifest intention on the part of the Tennant to neglect all the Covenants in them, that were inserted for my Benefit; & their Sole aim has been to make Traffick of the land, I shall have no Scruple in Setting them aside, & Beginning a fresh, upon the best Rents I can get, for 10 years. At any rate it is my wish that you would be as attentive to the other Covenants of the leases as to that which exacts the Rent. Particularly to those which require a Certain Proportion of Woodland to be left Standing in One Place—to Orchards, to Meadows, & to Buildings. These were as much objects with me as the Rent—Nay more, because to these I looked to have the Value of my lands enhanced, whilst I was, in the first instance, Contenting myself with low rents. If therefore these have Passed off unnoticed by the Tennants, it Should be Punished equally with the nonpayment of Rents. I mention these things because it is my wish, they Should be strictly complied with. There is another matter or Two, which in Renting my lands I am desirous you Should always keep in View. 1st To lease to no Person who has lands of his own adjoining them; & 2d to no One who does not Propose to live on the Premises. My reasons are these; in the first case, my land will be cut down, worked, & Destroyed to Save his own; whilst the latter will receive all the Improvements. In the Second case, If the Tennant does not live thereon, it will not meet a much better fate, & Negroe Quarters, & Tobacco Pens, will Probably be the best edifices on the Tenement. One Grigg (I think his name is) an Overseer to Colo. John Washington, must be an exception, because at the instance of my Brother, I consented to the Purchase he has made.1

Inclosed you have a letter for Mr Robt Rutherford, of whome you will endeavour to receive the Amount of the Within. If you Should Succeed in this, you may carry it to my Credit, & draw a Commission thereon, as If Collected for Rent.2 I also Send you an Accot against a Capt. David Kennedy (I believe of Winchester,[)] to receive if you can on the Same terms, I put this Accot about 18 Mos. ago into the hands of Genl Morgan, to whome Kennedy had, I believe, made Sale of a Lott, in Winchester, but know not to what effect. It may be well to enquire of Morgan concerning it, previous to an application to the former.3 I am Sir Yr Very Hble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in the hand of William Shaw, PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit PPAmP; LB, DLC:GW.

1This was Thomas Griggs who rented lot 4 in Berkeley County. See Lists of Tenants, 18 Sept. 1785, n.4. See also GW to John Augustine Washington, 27 Mar. 1786.

3David Kennedy, who rose to the rank of lieutenant in GW’s Virginia Regiment in the 1750s and in 1758 served as its quartermaster, between 1766 and 1773 rented for £28 per annum a tract of land on Bullskin Run belonging to GW. When he gave up the place, Kennedy owed GW £28, which remained unpaid. In September 1784 GW enlisted the help of Gen. Daniel Morgan to collect Kennedy’s debt (GW to Morgan, 4 Sept. 1784; Morgan to GW, 30 Sept. 1784). On 3 April 1786 Morgan wrote GW to explain why he had been unable to collect from Kennedy and to say that he would turn over to Muse “the accompt and order at our court.” The account that GW enclosed in this letter to Muse shows Kennedy still owing GW £28, and it includes GW’s order to Kennedy: “Sir, Please to pay the above Balle to Mr Battaile Muse and his rect shall be a discharge from Yr Obt Servt Go: Washington” (ADS, NjP). Muse reported on 20 Nov. 1786 that Kennedy would not pay and asked whether he should sue him. GW’s instructions of 4 Dec. 1786 were for Muse to obtain security from Kennedy to pay the debt within six or twelve months. On 17 April 1787 Muse got Kennedy’s copy of GW’s account on which Kennedy acknowledged his debt. Three times by letter in 1787, on 20 Jan., 4 Feb., and 15 Oct., Muse assured GW that Kennedy was not able to pay. Two years later, on 12 Mar. 1789, GW wrote Muse enclosing “a bond of Kennedy’s and Speake’s ... to put in suit immediately if there is any propect of recovering either from the principal or Security.” Muse replied on 21 Mar. 1789 that he did not know Speake but that he had “applyed & thretned Kennady at Least Ten Times,” that Kennedy still was “not able to Pay,” and furthermore that Kennedy was now “Liveing in the Prison Bounds.” GW’s account with Kennedy in Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 22, has as its final, undated entry the notation that the account was settled by GW’s agent.

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