George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Lee, Jr., 4 February 1787

To Henry Lee, Jr.

Mount Vernon February 4th 1787

My dear Sir,

I thank you for asking my commands to Fredericksburg. It is not my wish to be your competitor in the purchase of any of Mr Hunters tradesmen: especially as I am in a great degree principled against increasing my number of Slaves by purchase and suppose moreover that Negros sold on creadit will go high. yet if you are not disposed to buy the Bricklayer which is advertized for Sale, for your own use—find him in the vigour of life—from report a good work man & of tolerable character and his price does not exceed one hundred, or a few more pounds, I should be glad if you would buy him for me. I have much work in this way to do this Summer. If he has a family, with which he is to be sold; or from whom he would reluctantly part I decline the purchase—his feelings I would not be the means of hurting in the latter case, nor at any rate be incumbered with the former.1 I am &c.

G. Washington


1This may be the slave Neptune who in March 1787 was owned by John Lawson of Dumfries and, apparently, was bought by him from a Mr. Hunter. See Lawson to GW, 17 Mar., n.1, and 2 April, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:131. Mr. Hunter was probably James Hunter, Jr. (1746–1788), merchant and planter, formerly of Fredericksburg who by this time had moved his mercantile operations to Portsmouth. He still, however, had some business interests in Fredericksburg. James Hunter, Jr., was a younger cousin and formerly the ward of James Hunter, Sr. (d. 1785), iron manufacturer, of Fredericksburg and King George County. The two James Hunters are often confused. See Coakley, “The Two James Hunters,” Va. Mag., description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 1893–. description ends 56 (1948), 3–21.

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