George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Bushrod Washington, 9 November 1788

From Bushrod Washington

Bushfield Novr 9th 1788

Dr Uncle

As an Executor to my Father, I am involved in an affair which has given me much concern, and which is likely to afford me some trouble, and as it is difficult for me to determine in what manner to act, I take the liberty of asking your advice, and as fare as you can give it, your assistance. Doctor Stewart as administrator to Mr Custis had a Bond agt my uncle Sam, which was very nearly out of date, and rendered it necessary for him either to commence suit immediately, or to have it renewed.1 My father some short time before his death in order to prevent the distress which so heavy a demand at that time would reduce the Estate to, took in the Bonds agt my uncle Sam, and gave his own for the debt, amounting to near £1000. Since I was informed of this transaction, I have been endeavouring to get Uncle Charles to settle it,2 and had prevailed upon him to give me an order on Colo. White 3 (who acts for him) for the amt of this Bond to be paid to Doctor Stewart—but upon examining the amount of debts in his hands yet to collect, we found that there would not be sufficient to answer the orders which he had previously accepted, and that another sale of Property would be absolutely necessary. Of this I have informed my uncle, but he seems unwilling to sell more of the Estate. Thus am I exposed to be sued at any moment for this debt, and were this to be made one in addition to the many against my fathers Estate, it would take the whole of his personal property to discharge them. My uncle Sam’s Estate must pay this Bond either to Doctor Stewart or to myself, and I am sure it could afford little relief to that Estate, that I should suffer in the first Instance. If uncle Charles will not settle this affair with Doctor Stewart, it will be necessary for me to bring suit against him which I should be very much distressed to do. If you consider this subject in the same light that I do, and would so fare favour me as to write to my Uncle, I am convinced that his opinion of your Justice and disinterestedness on the occasion, would determine him immediately to take such steps as might save me from suffering. I entreat you to excuse me for this liberty; the many favours which I have recieved from you have emboldened me to make the above request. Nancy Joins me in Love & best wishes for you & my Aunt. & believe me to be Dr Uncle Your sincerely affectionate Nephew

Busho. Washington.

P.S. The Bearer will bring down my mares. The price of the Season I will endeavour to send you so soon as I can procure it. I write in a hurry, and upon the only piece of paper in the house.

ALS, ViMtvL.

Bushrod Washington (1762–1829) was the eldest son of GW’s brother John Augustine and Hannah Bushrod Washington. After attending the College of William and Mary, Bushrod Washington served during the Revolution as a volunteer in the Virginia campaign of 1781 and studied law with James Wilson in Philadelphia. In October 1785 he married Julia Ann (Nancy) Blackburn (1768–1829), daughter of Col. Thomas and Christian Scott Blackburn of Rippon Lodge, near Dumfries, Virginia. The young couple settled at Bushfield in Westmoreland County. On 19 Jan. 1789 he took his oath as attorney before the Fairfax County court, beginning a legal career that culminated in his being appointed in 1798 an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. At his death GW left Bushrod a large part of the Mount Vernon estate.

1Dr. David Stuart became administrator of the Custis estate after his marriage to Eleanor Calvert Custis. See William Gordon to GW, 24 Sept. 1788, n.9. For Samuel Washington, see Francis Willis, Jr., to GW, 24 Sept. 1788, source note.

2Charles Washington (1738–1799) was GW’s younger brother. In 1780 he moved from Fredericksburg, Va., to settle on land he inherited from his half brother Lawrence in the Shenandoah Valley near Evitt’s Run, where he built a house called Happy Retreat. Present-day Charles Town, W.Va., named for him, was established on his land in 1786. Both GW and Charles were among the executors of Samuel’s estate, but Charles, probably because of his proximity to Harewood, administered much of Samuel’s involved affairs. His stewardship was not to GW’s satisfaction. See GW’s reply to Bushrod Washington’s letter, 17 Nov. 1788.

3Alexander White (c.1738–1804) was born in Frederick County, Va., studied law at the Inner Temple and at Gray’s Inn in London in 1762 and 1763, and was a successful lawyer during and after the Revolution. He was a member of the Virginia legislature 1782–86 and was elected to the First and Second Congresses. In 1795 GW made him a commissioner for the Federal City. White was one of the original trustees of Charles Town.

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