George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Joseph Lewis, Jr., 12 November 1787

From Joseph Lewis, Jr.

Alexandria 12th November 1787


Being in company with a Party of young Gentlemen last sunday morning it was proposed taking a Sail, accordingly we procured a Sailing Boat and some of the company mentioning that 2 or 3 Guns wou’d be very entertaining as we shou’d probably meet with chances at Ducks in the course of our Sailing and at their request I borrowed of Mr R. W. Ashton a Gun & Mr Charles Ashton took another belonging to Colo. R. Hooe with whom we both live1 and as the Wind & Tide were both setting down the River, consequently it obliged us to sail that course, and chanced (unfortunately for us; without your favour) to land at a noted Place called Johnston’s Spring,2 and of course took the Guns on shore, to prevent negroes or others from Stealing them, for I assure you it was not our intention to land for the purpose of Gunning on your, (or any other Gentlemans) Property—however we had not been there but a few minutes before three Negroes came up to us, one of which had a Gun, they presently espied a Squirrell and insisted much on Mr Ashtons shooting it, which he accordingly did (not supposing he was doing wrong) they then told Mr Ashton & myself that if we wou’d go a little farther into a small piece of Woods, that we cou’d find a large Quantity of Squirrells promp’d by their earnest sollicitations we accordingly went about 200 yards from our company and the negroes still following us very near, we began to return, and as we were getting over a fence they altogether instantly seized us in the most Violent manner Knocked us from off the fence & snatching up the Guns they all ran off declaring that they had gained ⟨10£⟩, and that they wou’d instantly carry them before you—in short they treated us with more Barbarity than any Highwayman wou’d have done, (finding that we were small)—I never shot once on shore, and Mr Ashton but once—from the above declaration (which I am ready to swear to) shou’d your Excellency think it Injurious to your property for that small trespass, (Tho’ by us innocently done) we are willing to give any satisfaction your Excellency shall think Proper,3 but we must beg that you will send the Guns by L’Amour, the bearer hereof, as they are borrowed one’s and must confess that I am really asham’d that the Owners shoud Know that we suffered Negroes to take them from us4—I am your Excellencies most Obt & very Humble Servt

Joseph Lewis Junr


1Charles Ashton, son of John and Mary Watts Ashton of Westmoreland County, was the younger brother of Richard Watts Ashton, who was a lieutenant in the Fairfax County militia and, like Robert Townsend Hooe, a merchant in Alexandria. Joseph Lewis, Jr., witnessed a deed with Hooe in 1786 and was probably the Joseph Lewis who witnessed legal documents for Hooe and his business partner, Richard Harrison, on 21 Sept. 1789 and 19 July 1790.

2Johnston’s Spring was near Clifton’s ferry and a short distance north of GW’s River farm on a part of the Clifton’s Neck land that GW had acquired in 1760.

4L’Amour was the name of a slave who was freed by Richard Harrison in 1791.

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