George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Mary Harding Bristow, 22 October 1790

From Mary Harding Bristow

Spring Gardens London 22d Octr 1790


I hope you will pardon the liberty I once more take of Addressing a few lines to your Excellency: as I understand the Sale of my Son’s Brent Town Lands is set aside, not having legaly been sold. I flatter myself your known Humanity and Justice will Induce you to prevail on the Assembly of the States to restore that part of the Estate to my Child: which I shall always remember with the greatest gratitude!1 I have the Honor to be, with great Respect, your Excellency’s Most obedient Humble Sert

M: Bristow


Mary Harding Bristow of Spring Gardens, London, daughter of the Rev. Richard Harding, vicar of Micheldever in Southampton County, was the second wife of Robert Bristow (1712–1776) of Micheldever House, member of Parliament for Winchelsea and New Shoreham in the 1730s–50s. She had three daughters by him and one son, Robert, Jr. (1773-1852), the heir of his father’s estate (Namier and Brooke, History of Parliament: House of Commons, 1754–1790, description begins Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke. The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1754–1790. 3 vols. New York, 1964. description ends 2:119; Burke, History of the Landed Gentry, description begins John Bernard Burke. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland. 5th ed. 2 vols. London, 1871. description ends 1:146). For previous correspondence concerning the confiscation of Bristow’s ancestral lands in Virginia, including those at Brent Town or Brenton in Stafford (now Prince William) County, by the state’s Revolutionary government and the family’s attempt to have them restored, see Mary Bristow to GW, 27 Nov. 1783, DLC:GW; GW to Benjamin Harrison, 14 June 1784 and note 1, to Bristow, 15 June 1784 and 2 June 1786, to George William Fairfax, 27 Feb. 1785, Fairfax to GW, 23 June 1785, and John Dandridge to GW, 6 Dec. 1788, n.1.

1GW replied to Mary Bristow’s 22 Oct. 1790 letter in a c.22 Feb. 1791 letter that was returned to him as undeliverable. It reads: “I am very sorry that it is not in my power to comply with the request made in your letter of the 22nd of October to prevail on the Assembly of Virginia to restore a part of your son’s estate that had been confiscated—However desirous I may be to render you a service in this way; yet my public situation totally forbids an application of the nature you mention; and I am persuaded, Madam, that upon reflection, you will be convinced of the impropriety of such a measure, and will be assured that my declining your request does not proceed from the want of an inclination to oblige you” (LB, DLC:GW). Before GW resent the original of that reply to Bristow, she again wrote to him in the summer of 1791, and the president acknowledged that letter upon its receipt four months later (see Bristow to GW, 5 July 1791, and GW to Bristow, 14 Nov. 1791, both in DLC:GW).

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