George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Burwell Bassett, Jr., 3 February 1788

To Burwell Bassett, Jr.

Mount Vernon February 3d 1788

Dear Sir,

Mr Dandridge for reasons which he can better explain to you than I, have requested that the enclosed Bonds may be put in Suit. I beg it may be done accordingly.1

Upon so great a change as has lately taken place in your career of life I ought, possibly to have begun this letter with compliments of congratulation but as they are not less sincere on account of there being made the second Paragraph of the epistle you will please to accept and present them to your lady the manner which will be most pleasing to you both In doing which includ your Aunts.2

It is unnecessary, I hope, for me to add that whenever, and at all times, that you & Mrs Bassett can find inclination and leizure to visit your friends at Mount Vernon we shall be happy to see you at it. I am &c.

Go. Washington

P.S. Inform me by the first Post after this letter is received of its safe arrival that I m[a]y be relieved from any apprehension of its miscarriage.


John Dandridge (d. 1799), a lawyer in New Kent County and the eldest son of Bartholomew Dandridge, wrote his aunt Martha Washington on 18 Jan. asking her if she did not “see any impropriety in it” to intervene with GW on his behalf to promote “the welfare of my Mother & her younger children.” Bartholomew Dandridge at his death in 1785 left his slaves to his children to be held by his wife and mother for their lifetime. As his father’s executor John Dandridge was instructed to sell Dandridge lands, and not slaves, to settle his father’s debts. Dandridge reported to his aunt that the returns on the land that he had been able to sell had proved insufficient to repay outstanding debts, with the result that the creditors “have sued, & will issue executions against the Negroes as soon as they get judgt.” When he earlier had asked Martha Washington about the debt owed by Bartholomew Dandridge’s estate to GW, she had told him, her nephew said, that GW “wished me not to sell anything on his acct. immediately; but as the negroes will be sold by somebody, before I can raise money from the land, he is better intitled to them than almost any other creditors. If however he can wait longer with us for the money, & does not see any impropriety in the measure, I would request him to send the bonds immediately to B. Bassett as his attorney, & let me give him a judgt. at March court next: Directing it to be levied on the Negroes, including such as (among which I can have included such as my Mother is particularly attached to) & have them purchased for him. They may then remain his & subject to his claim till I can raise money enough from the lands to sell & Debts due the Estate, to satisfy him.... I intend not thus by any, means to defraud any creditor of his just Debt; for if there shall not be enough after paying the Genl, to satisfy the balance I will sell the negroes secured under his Judgt. & all my own individual property, to do it—But this will not be the case—” (Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, description begins Joseph E. Fields, ed. “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington. Westport, Conn., and London, 1994. description ends 202–5; see also Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 280.). Bartholomew Dandridge borrowed £600 sterling from his sister Martha Custis before her marriage to GW At the death of Mrs. Washington’s daughter in 1773, most of the bonds that Bartholomew Dandridge had given her in the place of interest payments were assigned to GW (see Settlement of Daniel Parke Custis Estate, 20 April 1759–5 Nov. 1761). In the March 1788 court in New Kent County, the attorney secured judgments for GW against Bartholomew Dandridge of £143.11.9 sterling, “with Interest from the Twenty third Day of April” 1771, and against John Dandridge and William Armistead, “executors of Bartholomew Dandridge decd,” of £207.4.1 sterling (ViHi: Custis Papers).

1GW again wrote Bassett on 9 Mar. to explain why the bonds were to be put in suit.

2Bassett and Elizabeth McCarty were married on 10 January.

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