George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Betty Washington Lewis, 12 October 1789

To Betty Washington Lewis

New York, Oct. 12th 1789

My Dear Sister,

Your letter of the first of this month came duly to hand.—I believe Bushrod is right with respect to the distribution of the negroes—When I gave my opinion that you were entitled to a child’s part it did not occur to me that my Mother held them under the will of my Father who had made a distribution of them after her death.—If this is the case, and I believe it is, you do not come in for any part of them.1

I thought I had desired in my former letter that all personal property not specifically disposed of by the will had better be sold. This is my opinion as it is from the Crops and personal Estate that the Debts must be paid.—The surplus, be it more or less, is divided among her children; and this I presume had better be done in money than in Stock, old furniture or any other troublesome articles which might be inconvenient to remove, but in one or the other of these ways they must be disposed of, as they are not given by the Will.—If there is anything coming to the estate it ought to be collected.—In a word, all the property except Lands and negroes is considered as personal, and after the Debts are discharged is to be equally divided into five parts one of which five you are entitled to.

A sort of epidemical cold has seized every ⟨illegible⟩ under it2—hitherto I have escaped and propose in two or three days to set out for Boston by way of relaxation from business3 and reestablishment of my health after the long and tedeous complaint with which I have been afflicted, and from which it is not more than ten days I have been recovered, that is since the incision which was made by the Doctors for this imposthume on my thigh has been cured.

Mrs. Washington joins me in every good wish for you and our other relations in Fredericksburg. And I am My dear Sister Your most affectionate Brother

Go. Washington

Memoirs of the Long Island Historical Society, 4 (1889), lvi-lvii; ALS, American Book Prices Current, description begins American Book-Prices Current. New York, 1895–. description ends . 22 (1916), 1061.

2GW is referring to a widespread epidemic of respiratory ailments that began in the southern and central states and by the late fall of 1789 was spreading into New England. Because it affected many of the spectators who stood outdoors at various ceremonies during his New England tour, GW was accorded the dubious honor of having the disorder named for him. As Joseph Crocker wrote from Boston to Henry Knox, “I find the Inhabitants in Town universally seized with the same disorder as the Inhabitants of your City have been troubled with, but they call it the President’s Cough, supposing they caught it on the day of the parade when the President entered the Town” (1 Nov. 1789, NNGL: Knox Papers). It was even more commonly referred to as Washington’s influenza. In late October GW himself fell victim to the ailment (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:477). See also Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia), 18 Nov. 1789, and American Mercury (Hartford), 9 Nov. 1789.

3For some time in the fall of 1789 GW had apparently considered a tour of the New England states “during the recess of Congress to acquire knowledge of the face of the Country the growth and Agriculture there of and the temper and disposition of the Inhabitants towards the new government” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:452–53). Following his usual practice of consultation he approached his cabinet and other advisers concerning the propriety of the scheme. James Madison and Henry Knox approved, and Alexander Hamilton “thought it a very desirable plan and advised it accordingly.” Chief Justice John Jay “highly approved of it—but observed, a similar visit wd. be expected by those of the Southern [states]” (ibid., 452, 453, 454, 456).

GW left New York City about nine o’clock on the morning of Thursday, 15 Oct., with a party composed of Tobias Lear, William Jackson, and a retinue of six servants. Hamilton, Jay, and Knox accompanied the party some distance from the city (ibid., 460). The trip, a triumph in terms of support for GW, lasted a month, and before he returned to New York on 13 Nov. GW had visited or passed through nearly sixty towns and hamlets. See map of the tour, pp. 200–201. For his detailed diary account of the events and festivities of his journey, see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:460–97.

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