George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Francis Mercer, 26 September 1792

To John Francis Mercer

Mount Vernon Septr 26. 1792.


Your Letter of the 15th inst: was presented to me by Mr Corbin, on his return from Philada.1

As my object in taking your Land near Monocasy (in payment of the Debt due from the Estate of your deceased Father to me) is to convert it into Cash as soon as possible without loss, I can have no other objection to an advantageous partition of the Tract than what might result from the uncertainty of the price that may be affixed to it, and the consequent possibility that the amount of a moiety may exceed the sum which is due to me by the last settlement of the Accots—thereby occasioning a payment of money, instead of receiving it. If these difficulties were removed, I have none other to your proposal of dividing the Tract into two equal parts, & fixing the property therein by lot. A mean of doing this, I will suggest. It is—if you have not heard the sentiments of the Gentlemen, or either of them, who were chosen to affix a ready money price on the Land (& I give you my honor I have not, and moreover that I have never exchanged a word on the subject with any one, except what I told you was Colo. Wm Deakins’s opinion of it’s worth)—I will allow you seven Dollars pr acre for a moiety; to be ascertained in the manner before mentioned. I name seven dollars for the following reasons—1st because I have been assured by the above Gentleman (who professes to be well acquainted with the Land) that, in his judgment, it would not sell for more than six Dollars Cash, or seven dollars on credit; & 2d because you have set it at Eight Dollars your self, without being able to obtain that price. Five hundred & fifty acres (if the tract contains 1100) would then be within the compass of my claim; & the surplus, if any, I would receive in young Cows, or full grown heifers from Marlborough at three pounds a head, if more agreeable to you than to pay the Cash2—Your answer to this proposal, soon, would be convenient to me, as I shall be on my return to Philada in a short time.3

I come now to another part of your Letter, and in touching upon it, do not scruple to declare to you that I was not a little displeased to find by a letter from Captn Campbell, to a Gentleman in this neighbourhood, that my name had been freely used by you, or your friends, for electioneering purposes, when I had never associated your name & the Election together; and when there had been the most scrupulous & pointed caution observed on my part, not to express a sentiment respecting the fitness, or unfitness of any Candidate for representation, that could be construed, by the most violent torture of the words, into an interference in favor of one, or to the prejudice of another. Conceiving that the exercise of an influence (if I really possessed any) however remote, would be highly improper; as the people ought to be entirely at liberty to chuse whom they pleased to represent them in Congress. Having pursued this line of conduct steadily—my surprise, and consequent declaration can be a matter of no wonder. when I read the following words in the letter above alluded to—“I arrived yesterday from Philadelphia, since which I find Colo. Mercer has openly declared, that Mr Richd Sprigg junr informed him, that Bushrod Washington told him that the President in his presence declared, that he hoped Colo. Mercer would not be left out of the next representation in Congress; and added that he thought him the best representative that now goes, or ever did go to that Body from this State.”4

I instantly declared to the person who shewed me the letter, “that to the best of my recollection, I never had exchanged a word to, or before Bushrod Washington on the subject of your Election—much less to have given such a decided opinion. That such a measure would have been incompatible with the rule I had prescrib’d to myself, & which I had invariably observed—of not interfering directly or indirectly with the suffrages of the People, in the choice of their representatives: and added, that I wished B. Washington might be called upon to certify what, or whether any conversation had ever passed between us on this subject, as it was my desire that every thing should stand upon it’s proper foundation.” Other sentiments have been reported as mine, that are equally erroneous.5

Whether you have, upon any occasion, expressed your self in disrespectful terms of me, I know not: it has never been the subject of my enquiry. If nothing impeaching my honor, or honesty, is said, I care little for the rest. I have pursued one uniform course for three score years, and am happy in believing that the world have thought it a right one—if its being so, I am so well satisfied myself, that I shall not depart from it by turning either to the right or to the left, until I arrive at the end of my Pilgrimage. I am, Sir, Your very hble Servt


Df, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. The draft’s docket is in GW’s writing.

1The bearer of this letter may have been Francis Corbin, who represented Middlesex County in the Virginia house of delegates from 1784 to 1794.

2Mercer and GW had agreed to hire Benjamin Jones and Francis Deakins, brother of William Deakins, Jr., to value the land located in Montgomery County, Md., that was to be transferred to GW in payment of a long-standing debt from the estate of John Mercer, the father of John Francis Mercer (see GW and John Francis Mercer to Francis Deakins and Benjamin Jones, 8 Aug., GW to William Deakins, Jr., 13 Aug., and William Deakins, Jr., to GW, 24 Aug. 1792). Marlborough, located on the Potomac River in Stafford County, Va., was the Mercer family estate.

3GW left Mount Vernon on 8 Oct. and arrived in Philadelphia on 13 Oct. 1792 (see GW to Betty Washington Lewis, 7 Oct., and to Anthony Whitting, 14 Oct. 1792). For Mercer’s reply, see his letter to GW of 5 November.

4For background on GW’s dispute with Mercer over Mercer’s reported use of GW’s name in his 1792 congressional election campaign, see John Francis Mercer to GW, 15 Sept., and note 2, and GW’s Memorandum of a Statement to James Craik, 7 Sept. 1792. Richard Sprigg, Jr. (1739–1798), was a member of a politically influential Maryland family. His estate, Strawberry Hill, overlooked Annapolis and today is part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s grounds. Sophia Sprigg Mercer (1766–1812), the eldest of his five daughters, married John Francis Mercer in 1785, and it was land she had inherited that was being surveyed for settlement of the Mercer debt to GW (Kelly, “Cedar Park,” description begins J. Reaney Kelly. “Cedar Park, Its People and Its History.” Maryland Historical Magazine 58 (1963): 30–53. description ends 42–47). According to GW’s Memorandum of a Statement to James Craik of 7 Sept., the sentence quoted here is from a letter that Capt. William Campbell sent to Philip Richard Fendall.

5GW is quoting from his Memorandum of a Statement to James Craik of 7 Sept. 1792.

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