George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Henry Lee, 16 April 1787

From Richard Henry Lee

Chantilly April 16. 1787

Dear Sir,

I have the honor to send you by this opportunity the Act of Assembly passed in 1772, by which yourself, with me and others, were appointed Trustees to manage the sale of the Land held in Tail by Mr Wm Booth and his Lady, and to purchase and settle other lands to descend as those in Tail would have done. Mr Booth did long since sell the Intailed Land to Squire Lee of Maryland, and purchased other land of Colo. Thruston, out of which, I understand, he proposes to settle on his Son a satisfaction for the Land that was intailed.

You will please to observe Sir, that this Act has a suspending Clause, and if it was never assented to, then our right to act in this business has never existed, but Mr Booth the younger (as heir to his Mother) having the Fee simple under the Act of Assembly passed in 1776 for destroying Intails; possesses now the only power to make a conveyance to the purchaser. As these Acts for docking Intails were of a private nature, the persons concerned did formerly interest themselves in such matters, and their Agents in London usually transmitted to them the Assent authenticated. On this plan, Mr Booth may perhaps be in possession of this document, by which alone, it appears, that we can have any right to make a conveyance—If such shall be your opinion, and the Assent be shewn to you; I will most readily, and so undoubtedly will Mr Lee the other surviving Trustee join you in a conveyance whensoever the parties shall desire it, and produce to you a proper assurance from Mr Booth the younger that his father has sufficiently assured him of a full equivalent for the Land the intail of which was dockt.1

Mrs Lee & myself join with our daughters in presenting our best respects to Mount Vernon. I have the honor to be dear Sir, with singular respect & esteem your affectionate and obedient servant

Richard Henry Lee

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 76, Great Britain, Claims under Treaty of Ghent, claim 590.

1In 1772 William Booth and his wife, Elizabeth Aylett Booth, obtained the passage of an act by the Virginia assembly docking the entail of a 500–acre tract of land at the mouth of Nomini River in Westmoreland County, which had been left to Elizabeth Booth by her grandfather Henry Ashton. The act provided that title to this plantation, called Nominy, would be vested in four trustees, Richard Henry Lee, Richard Lee of Lee Hall, Westmoreland County, GW, and GW’s brother John Augustine Washington. The trustees were to sell the land and convey the proceeds to the Booths so that they could buy other land which would go to Elizabeth Booth’s heirs at her death. The act was not to go into effect until approved by the king (8 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 640–41).

On the same day that Richard Henry Lee wrote to GW, Elizabeth Aylett Booth’s heir, William Aylett Booth of Frederick County, Va., wrote the trustees GW and Richard Henry Lee: “Gentlemen I have this day received from my Father Mr William Booth a deed for 350 Acres of land Whereon he now lives in li[e]u of the entailed Land I have therefore to request that you will Make a deed or Conveyence Agreeable to Law to Mr Richard Lee or to his representative, for the land purchesed by him of my Father being the land the entaile of which is docked by Act of Assembly the Said Mr Lee or his representative Satisfying the Payment of the Money to my Father his heirs or Assigns” (DLC:GW). Below Booth’s letter Samuel Beall wrote: “Gentlemen I have Lodged Mr Lees Bond with Mr Brooke Beall of George Town. it is assigned to me by Mr Booth on Miss Lee’s making payment to my Brother Brooke. his Letter, or Receipt, for the Balance due on said Bond will entitle Mr Lee to a Deed which I shall take as aperticular favour to you to execute agreeable to Act of Assembly.” Beall’s letter is followed by this notation, in another hand: “Miss Alice Lee is informed that it is doubtful whether the Royal assent was ever grtd to the Act of Assembly here alluded to, in case it was not the right of conveyance is in Mr Booth junr[,] if it was given it is in the trustees. Mr Beall can easily have this resolved & Miss Lee is ready to receive the conveyance from either (as the right shall appear) in behalf of her Brother Richard Lee.”

The purchaser of the entailed Booth land, known as Squire Lee, was Richard Lee (c.1707–1787) of Blenheim, Charles County, Maryland. Alice Lee (1748–1789) and Richard Lee, Jr. (d. 1834), were two of his children. Samuel and Brooke Beall were sons of Samuel Beall (c.1713–1788) of Frederick County, Md., who had been a partner of David Ross and Richard Henderson in the Frederick, or Antietam, ironworks. Richard Henry Lee wrote again to GW on 8 July 1788 enclosing a letter from William Aylett Booth (which has not been found) requesting the trustees to convey the Nominy plantation to Richard Lee, Jr. However, since “circumstances” unknown to Booth “renders this improper” (Richard Lee, Jr., had moved to England), Richard Henry Lee reported, the attorney Charles Lee had suggested that Booth give directions for the trustees to convey the property instead to Eleanor Ann Lee (d. 1806), another of Richard Lee, Jr.’s sisters. It was left that the trustees should convey the deed to Eleanor as soon as Booth had given his assent and Brooke Beall had certified “his receipt of the ballance due on this purchase.”

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