George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Henry, 20 November 1790

To James Henry

Mount Vernon, November 20. 1790.


I availed myself a few days ago of the presence of Mr B. Basset to reacknowledge before him and Dr Stuart the original conveyance from me to the deceased Mr Custis of the land which you are possessed of by purchase from him in King and Queen County1—This reacknowledgement in the opinion of professional men is all that is necessary to give validity to the deed, and all that is proper for me to do under the circumstances which exist.

The deed thus reacknowledged, was put into the hands of Mr Basset, but as he was in the act of departure it did not occur to me at that moment, that there were other papers of yours in my possession—these are now enclosed.2

I beg you to be assured of my sensibility for the polite and flattering terms in which you have been pleased to express yourself of my public services in your letter of the 2 of June 1785, which I am ashamed to add ought to have been acknowledged long ago, but which one circumstance or another prevented until it had escaped me altogether or until reminded of it by your second application through Dr Stuart.3 I am Sir, your most obedt and very humble Servt

G. Washington.

LB, DLC:GW; ALS (extract), printed in Forest H. Sweet Autograph Letters, item 89, September 1937.

James Henry (1731–1804) of Accomac County, Va., was educated at Edinburgh and returned to Virginia, where he practiced law. He represented his native county in the colonial and state legislatures and also served as a delegate from King and Queen County until 1782, when he became a judge of the state admiralty court. He was elected to the Confederation Congress in 1779 and 1780 and became a judge of the Virginia General Court in 1788.

1GW had purchased two plantations for his ward John Parke Custis in 1774, one in King William County and one in King and Queen County, and conveyed both to Custis in 1778. Custis immediately offered for sale the latter estate, Pleasant Hill, which was bought by Henry, who obtained a deed for the 1,381–acre tract and improvements in 1779 from Custis and his wife Eleanor Calvert Custis (see GW to Robert Cary & Co., 10 Nov. 1773, Henry to GW, 2 June 1784 and note 1, and GW to David Stuart, 26 July 1789).

2The enclosures concerning Custis’s deed and warrant, which Bartholomew Dandridge had delivered to GW in June 1784, have not been found (see Henry to GW, 2 June 1784).

3Henry’s letter to GW was actually dated 2 June 1784. It covered a blank deed of confirmation and requested GW formally to sign over the title to the Pleasant Hill estate, as the requisite number of witnesses earlier had been unable within the legal time limit to attest to GW’s 1778 conveyance to Custis (Henry to GW, 2 June 1784).

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