George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Battaile Muse, 1 November 1788

From Battaile Muse

Alexandria Novr 1st 1788

Honorable Sir,

If my waggone Comes to this Place Next Friday—or before, as I have directed—I Shall waite on you For Colo. Fairfaxes Desk and Papers—I have no order for them—the Executors said it was not Necessary—as my Power of attorney was Sufficient To Call for them1—If you think it Necessary To List the Papers I Shall be Glad it Could be done before I Come down—Should any accident Prevent my going To Mount vernon the Last of Next week I Shall be down as Soon as Possable—If necessary Please write to me at this Place by my Servant—I am too unwell To ride or I should have waited on you this Day—I am Sir yr Hble Servt

Battaile Muse


Battaile Muse (1751–1803) was the son of Col. George Muse (1720–1790) of Caroline County, Va., who served with GW in the Virginia Regiment during the Fort Necessity campaign, and Elizabeth Battaile Muse (d. 1786). Battaile Muse had settled in Berkeley County by the early 1780s and was agent for George William Fairfax’s Virginia estates after his departure for England (see note 1). In September 1784 Muse wrote GW that “I have been Informed that you have a Considerable Sum of Money due in Berkeley Frederick and Fauquier Counties from your Tenants—altho a Very disagreeable Office—I beg leave to Solicit Your Favour in Leting me have the Collection It being Convenient with Colo. Fairfax’s Collection As I attend the Courts and sheriffs through which channel I expect some of the business will Pass I am Oblig’d Frequently at Belvoir when I could Make return of the business.” In November 1784 GW committed to Muse’s agency the collection of rents from his lands in Berkeley, Frederick, Fauquier, and Loudoun counties (Muse to GW, 12 Sept. 1784, GW to Muse, 3 Nov. 1784). As GW admitted to Muse, his knowledge of the status of his tenants in the area was meager. Not only were rents in arrear, but the terms of the leases frequently had been violated, particularly in the transferring of tenancy—“my business with respect to these people have been most shamefully neglected—but there is no help for that now—to recover it out of the state of disorder & confusion into which it has run—and to place it on as just a footing both for Landlord & tenant as the nature of the case will admit of, is all that remains to be done” (GW to Muse, 16 Dec. 1785). GW allowed Muse a 6 percent commission for collecting the rents. He also apparently allowed him considerable leeway in making decisions concerning the tenants although Muse was to report frequently to GW by letter and to bring his accounts to Mount Vernon at regular intervals (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:215, 251, 315). For GW’s dissatisfaction with this aspect of his stewardship, see his letter to Muse of 18 Jan. 1789 and Muse’s reply, 7 Feb. 1789.

1GW’s close friends George William and Sarah (Sally) Cary Fairfax of Belvoir left Virginia in the summer of 1773 for an indefinite stay in England in order to attend to properties Fairfax had inherited there. GW, Francis Willis, Jr. (1745–1829, of Berkeley Co., Va. and Ga.), and Craven Peyton agreed to manage Fairfax’s affairs in his absence. GW was given Fairfax’s power of attorney and continued to supervise his American interests until the outbreak of the Revolution (GW to Fairfax, 26 July 1775). The Fairfaxes never returned to America. They settled at Bath, and George William Fairfax died there in 1787.

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