George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Lewis, 20 July 1792

To John Lewis

Mount Vernon 20th July 92

Dr Sir,

I was in hopes the letter wch was written to you at my request, by my Nepw G. A: Washington—dated the 25th of March—wd have rendered a further application from me to you, on that subjt unnecessary1—but as he says, you have made no reply to it—as I Am informed that my power of attorney to you, was regularly recorded in Gates County No. Carolina & That Mr Cowper is making great improvement upon the land (which is an evidence that the bargain with him is closed & of course the money paid, as that was the condition of it) and, as you are upon the point of removing to Kentucky. I must, and do insist positively upon receiving my moiety of the money, which has been paid by Mr Cowper or any person in his behalf before you go—and to know how the ballance stands.2

You must be sensible, Sir, it was my opinion at the time you proposed to make sale of this land that the moment was not favorable for it—but, as the Affairs of your fathers Estate pressed, and my own3 want of money was great, I consented to its being done;4 but I cannot nor will not consent to lye out of my moiety of the Money that has been receid in payment. I am Dr Sir Yr obedt Hble Servt

G. W——n

ADfS (photocopy), ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW.

1George Augustine Washington’s letter to Lewis of 25 Mar. 1792 has not been identified.

2For the background to the sale to John Cowper in mid-May 1791 of 1,093 acres in Gates County, N.C., which GW and Lewis’s father, Fielding Lewis, had originally purchased in 1766, see GW to Cowper, 25 May 1788, to Lewis, 16 Sept., 8 Dec. 1788, Lewis to GW, 15 Dec. 1787, 7, 13 Dec. 1788, G. A. Washington to GW, 7 Dec. 1790, n.7, and Indenture with John Cowper, 17 May 1791.

Lewis responded to GW from Fredericksburg, Va., on 24 July: “I recd your favor by Howel [Lewis]. I cannot pretend Sir to exculpate myself for not having paid you your proportion of the money I received from Mr Cowper But the fact is I had executions against my property and body for Sevral hundred pounds on Account of having been Security for Mr William Thompson of this place, my property wou’d not sell. I made use of your money to extricate myself under the certainty as I expected in a very short time to be able to replace it. My Expectations of money were disappointed till very lately[.] I now have as much money as will pay the Amot Received. Coll William Fontaine is to pay £100 for Mr Cowper I shall go to him tomorrow on my return will come up or Send by Howell the money to you and will then render you an account of the Sale of the land. Mr Cowper has by no means complied with the payments agreed on. I aver to you I had little thought of going to Kentuckey before I made a Settlement with you[.] Indeed it is uncertain whether I ever go to that Country again. I woud ask your excuse for my conduct in this business Cou’d I conceive I merited it, but as I cannot by any means reconcile my behaviour to myself I dare not hope excuse. Beleive me Sir no transaction of my life ever gave me half the uneasiness this has done” (ViMtvL). On 3 Oct. 1792 Lewis sent GW both a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the land and his account with John Cowper. For the difficulties that Cowper later had in making his payments on time, see GW’s account with Cowper of 3 Oct. 1792 (DLC:GW) and his letters to Cowper of 26 Oct. 1793, 27 Jan., 9 Mar., 30 July, 4 Sept. 1794 (all LB, DLC:GW).

3At this place on the draft manuscript, GW mistakenly inserted the word “own” between “and” and “my.” The letter-book copy retains GW’s original phrasing: “and own my want.”

4GW was mistaken about his reluctance to sell this piece of land. On 8 Dec. 1788 he had written Lewis that “I am as much in want of Money as your fathers Estate can be, and therefore will gladly dispose of the Carolina Land, if even a tolerable good price can be had for it.” By 1794, however, GW’s recollections had blurred to the point that he believed that “the land was disposed of contrary to my judgment, & given into, merely to accommodate the demands on” Fielding Lewis’s estate and that the land “was in a manner given away, & without my consent” (see GW to Cowper, 9 Mar., 30 July 1794, both LB, DLC:GW).

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