George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Tilghman, 3 April 1791

To William Tilghman

Mount Vernon April 3d 1791.


The enclosed letters contain all the information I can give respecting the proceedings of Colvils Executors against Mr Sydney George. It will appear from these (as I think I mentioned to you) that the bond had been considered as lost, and that, the only resort, in case of non-payment was supposed to be to a Court of Chancery. Whether such a suit was instituted by Mr Chalmers is more than I am able to inform you, or whether any farther correspondence took place between Mr West & him does not appear from any papers I possess, or have access to.1

It will be recollected that our dispute with G. Britain commenced soon after the interchange of the enclosed letters, and that the Courts of Justice were long shut up. During this period Mr John West, the acting Exr, died; Mrs Francina Colvil Executrix of the Will having done so before him. By these events I became the only surviving Exr and it must be noticed that from the year 1774 until the close of the War I was from home, and unable to give attention to this, or any other private concern—that previous thereto the Execution of the Will rested nearly, if not wholly, upon Mr John West—and that it is but lately that the bond has been recovered.

Under these circumstances I pray you to apply to the Representative of Mr Sydney George for payment of it—and in case of refusal to bring suit thereon, that in any event my administration in this particular may stand Justified. Through any channel you may direct, your fee & the cost of Suit shall be paid.2 I am Sir Your Most Obedient Servt

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William Tilghman (1756–1827) belonged to a prominent family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After graduating from the College of Philadelphia in 1772, he studied law with Benjamin Chew, Sr., and was admitted to the bar in Maryland in 1783. Tilghman served in both houses of the Maryland legislature in the late 1780s and early 1790s, until his resignation in 1794, when he returned to Philadelphia and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. He was appointed a judge of the Pennsylvania circuit court in 1801 and served as chief justice of the state supreme court from 1806 until his death.

For the background to GW’s role as an executor of the estate of Thomas Colvill, see GW to John West, Jr., December 1767, and Thomas Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, source note.

1The enclosures have not been found but apparently dealt with the pre-Revolutionary War proceedings of the Colvill estate against lawyer Sidney George (d. 1774) of Cecil County, Md., who died indebted to the estate. See GW to West, 4 July 1773.

2Tilghman replied from Chestertown, Md., on 14 July 1791 that application to the younger Sidney George had produced an 8 Sept. 1774 receipt from George Chalmers, attorney for West and the Colvill estate, acknowledging the younger George’s £100 payment made as executor of his father’s estate. Tilghman enclosed a copy of the receipt, which also acknowledged a bond, dated 13 Aug. 1774, for £180, stipulating the payment of £90 with interest to West on 10 June 1775 and added: “Mr George informs me, that the bond passed by him, and mentioned in this receipt, has never been discharged. If this bond is not to be found amongst the papers of Mr West, perhaps some intelligence concerning it may be got from Mr Chalmers, who it is said, is in London. If it cannot be found, I make no doubt but I can prevail on Mr George to pay the Debt, without a suit, on your giving him such a discharge, as will be sufficient to protect him, in case the bond should be hereafter discovered” (DLC:GW). GW replied on 18 August.

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