George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Harrison, Jr., 21 November 1790

To Benjamin Harrison, Jr.

Mount Vernon November 21st 1790.

Dear Sir,

If you can serve me by having the deed from Muse to me fully recorded, it will be an acceptable act1—The deed is in the Clerk’s Office, and will shew what is necessary to be done—and who are the witnesses. If it cannot be accomplished without running me to the expence of subpoenas, I must and will incur that expence.

Enclosed I send you all the Patents which are in my possession, and which through my means the family of Mr Fry has obtained.2 It is a fact well known to most of the Patentees that had it not been for my exertions and decided conduct the proclamation of Governor Dinwiddie, offering a bounty of land, would never have been recognised. for the dereliction of the Governor and Council to fulfil their promise was such that scarce any thing short of an absolute demand on the score of justice, on the pledged faith of Government, would ever have obtained an order for the survey, and, even then, had it not been for the trouble I took, and the money I advanced, this order would have been nugatory.3

This is a short recital of the fact; after having given which, if the Gentleman claiming under Joshua Fry Esquire inclines to pay what is justly due to me, the enclosed list of ballances, which is original, and for that reason must be returned to me, will shew what my advances are for his proportion of the land4—If he pays this sum with interest since the year 1772 when the patents issued were paid for, and the title became perfect, it will be no more than what is due in gratitude, and to justice If he inclines to pay the principal only, let him do it and the matter will close, Or, lastly, if he chuses to do neither, preferring to receive the patents without paying any thing, e’en let them go forth, for I shall not appear in a Court of law for this, or any of these ballances, which you will perceive are due to me.

The heirs of Colonel Fry, besides the land contained in the enclosed patent, are entitled to 7242 acres, in a larger tract, patented in the names of the late Genl Andw Lewis, Genl Stephens and others—but this patent is not in my possession, nor do I know in which of the Patentee’s hands it is to be found. I am dear Sir, your most obedt Servant

G. Washington.


1The deed from Muse was most likely one of the instruments by which George Muse conveyed to GW his title to lands on the Great Kanawha to which he had been entitled under Virginia governor Robert Dinwiddie’s February 1754 proclamation granting Ohio Valley lands to military volunteers. For GW’s earlier efforts to have Muse’s deeds recorded in the Virginia General Court and the background to GW’s transactions with Muse concerning French and Indian War bounty lands, see Agreement with George Muse, 3 Aug. 1770, GW to Lord Dunmore and Council, 3 Nov. 1773, Muse to GW, 3 Mar. 1784, GW to Laurence Muse, 11 Mar. 1784, Edmund Pendleton to GW, 9 April 1784, GW to John Brown, 6 April 1789, and to Battaile Muse, 6 April 1789.

Harrison’s 28 Dec. 1790 letter from Richmond noted that GW’s 21 Nov. 1790 letter “came to hand . . . the Day after the rising of the Genl Court; the next term the Business of fully recording Geo: Muse’s Deed to you shall be carefully attended to, I find on looking at the Deed that a commission has been taken out for the heirs Examination of Mrs Muse but never executed. if any thing on this part of the Business is to be done, signify your pleasure to me & it shall also be attended to” (DLC:GW).

2The enclosed patents undoubtedly related to the land to which Col. Joshua Fry’s estate was entitled under the Proclamation of 1754. Harrison’s 28 Dec. 1790 reply to GW concludes: “I have been expecting Mr Joshua Fry here for some time past, but he has not yet appeared, I shall write to him by one of the Delegates from his County returning home tomorrow, when he comes I have full expectations that he will comply with your reasonable demands, for in some negotiations with him, I have found him a reasonable Man—After I have seen Mr Fry, the Original Paper for the Charges of Survys shall be returned to you” (DLC:GW).

3For a review of GW’s exertions to secure the bounty lands granted by the Proclamation of 1754, see GW to Samuel Lewis, 1 Feb. 1784, source note; see also GW to Lord Dunmore and Council, 3 Nov. 1773.

4Harrison returned the enclosed list to GW on 27 Jan. 1791, when he also sent a copy of Joshua Fry’s 8 Jan. 1791 note promising to pay Harrison “for the use of General Washington, on demand the sum of fifty four pounds eleven shillings & four pence, with interest from the first day of January Seventeen hundred and seventy two 1772, untill payment—it being for value, recived in advances, made by Genl Washington for surveys of Land, in the Western Country to which I am Heir” (DLC:GW). Harrison added that Fry not only gave him the promissory note without hesitation but also said “he will discharge [it] as soon as he can get his Tobacco to the Warehouses the ensuing Spring or early in the Summer & dispose of it, when I am in cash for it, it shall be remited immediately to you” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries