George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Philemon Waters, 3 July 1790

From Philemon Waters

July 3d 1790

Dear Sir,

Excuse my freedom in troubling You with this—I Cincerely congratulate your Honour on the great & happy events that hath taken place since I had the honour of a Small Conferrence with you at your Seat on Portomack the 20th April 1775 1 And of which your great Abilitys hath so Conspicuously Shone forth to the Universal Joy of all true Americans—And the astonishm’nt and confusion of Briton & its Adherents—It was concerning a Claim of Land I thought my self Entitled to upon the Great Cannaways2—You then Recommended me to the Governour of Virginia for Redress, as I had come in too late for that Claim—But Commotions occurring in every part & the Governour Robing the Magazine3 ⟨mutilated⟩ Concieved it needless to make application. I therefore ⟨mutilated⟩ Contented my self & returned to Carolina the place of my Abode—and hath waited for Redress till your Honour ⟨mutilated⟩ not only President of Virga But Twelve Other States—I Therefore Most humbly Conceive my Application for Redress at this day Comes Regularly before your Hono⟨ur⟩.

It is Expected there will be a Large Territory of Land Purchased of Magilvary & the Creek Indians4—Should my Application for Redress Meet with your honours Approbation, and Give me a Grant in that Purchase—I Shall think my self Honoured—& well Rewarded for my past servises Should the Grant be Ever So small.

As for my Conduct through the war I Refer you to Genl Sumpter & Judge Burk5 Members from South Carola to the Federal Congress.

The Inclosed6 will remind you who I am, & what Pretentions I have for a Claim—and here begg leave to Subscribe myself your Honour’s Most Obediant & Humble Servant

P. Waters

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

Philemon Waters (1734–1796) was born in Prince William County, Va., and served under GW in the French and Indian War. He moved to South Carolina before 1766, saw action as a militia officer during the American Revolution, and served as a member of the state legislature from 1779 to 1794. No reply from GW to Waters has been found (Bio. Dir. of the S.C. House of Representatives, description begins Joan Schreiner Reynolds Faunt et al., eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. 4 vols. Columbia, S.C., 1974–84. description ends 3:752–53).

1The only guests GW mentioned having at Mount Vernon on that date were Gen. Charles Lee and Dr. William Rumney, both of whom left after breakfast (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:322).

2In the spring of 1775 Waters learned that his participation in the Battle of Fort Necessity, in which he may have fired the first shot, entitled him to 600 acres of the land on the Ohio and Kanawha rivers promised to volunteers by Virginia governor Robert Dinwiddie’s proclamation of 19 Feb. 1754.

3Early on 21 April 1775, John Murray, earl of Dunmore, Virginia’s last royal governor, had the colony’s gunpowder removed from the public magazine in Williamsburg to H.M.S. Fowey in the York River. In the face of the intense public response to that and to his subsequent actions, he fled the capital early in the morning of 8 June and took up residence on the Fowey.

4Alexander McGillivray, chief of the Creek Nation, started for the capital with GW’s emissary, Marinus Willett, in mid-May 1790 to negotiate a treaty with the federal government. The party probably passed close to Waters’s Newberry County neighborhood in the third or fourth week of June and arrived in New York on 20 July (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:42, 82–83; Willett, Narrative of the Military Actions of Col. Marinus Willett, 104–13; Caughey, McGillivray of the Creeks, description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends 41, 43). For the background to Willett’s mission, see Henry Knox to GW, 15 Feb. 1790 and notes.

5An endorsement on the cover to this letter indicates it was delivered by Aedanus Burke.

6The enclosure was probably a copy of the certificate that GW signed and gave Waters on 20 April 1775, which reads: “I do hereby certifie that the Bearer Mr. Philemon Waters was a Soldier at the battle of the Great Meadows in the year 1754, and that he this day applied to me to receive his claim to Land under Mr. Dinwiddie’s proclamation of 1754. But as the 200,000 acres granted by that proclamation hath been long since surveyed, distributed and patents issued in the names of those who put in their claim before Novr. 1773, it is not in my power to give him any relief now” (Katherine Glass Greene, Winchester, Virginia, and Its Beginnings, 1743–1814 [Strasburg, Va., 1926], 196–97; for the bounty lands distributed under the Proclamation of 1754, see George Muse to GW, 3 Mar. 1784, n.1).

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