George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Townsend Hooe, 7 February 1793

To Robert Townsend Hooe

Philadelphia 7th Feby 1793.


I have duly received your Letter of the 1st instant, enclosing Mister Bennett’s claim against Mister Colville’s Estate, and requesting to know when you can receive any part of the money.1

It is true that Judgment was obtained against the Assignees of John Semple for the Debt due the Estate of the late Colo. Colville; but I have been informed since, that they either have applied, or mean to apply to the High Court of Chancery for an Injunction to stay execution, until it is finally determined whether they are obliged to pay the interest due on that Debt, or not—(which in fact was the only point in dispute).2 If this be the case (and whether it is or not mister Keith knows better than I do) the matter is still in suspence; and until this is decided, I should not think myself justifiable (even if I had the means in my hands) in paying the interest charged in Mister Bennett’s Account, with which this is connected; for altho’ the paying or withholding the Interest can be of no personal moment to me, yet my duty as an Executor obliges me to do that justice from the Estate that is rendered to it.3

I have no wish to retain for a moment any money that may come into my hands on Account of Colo. Colville’s estate, when it is due & can be paid with propriety & safety; for so tedious & perplexing has been the settlement of these matters to me, that I am extremely anxious to have the business closed as speedily as possible, and no exertions that it has been in my power to make, have been wanting to effect this desirable end.

I am not able at present to go into any investigation of the particulars of mister Bennett’s Accot which you have enclosed, as all the papers &ca relative to the Debts due to & from Colo. Colville’s Estate, are in the hands of mister Keith of Alexandria, to whom I must beg leave to refer you for information on the subject of your Letter,4 and to request the favor of you to forward the enclosed Letter to him; the purport of which is to desire, that if an injunction is not in the way, he will lose no time in settling the business with the Assignees of mister Semple in conformity to the Judgment of the Court.5 With great esteem & regard, I am, Sir, Your mo: Obt Servant

Go: Washington

LS, CSmH; Df, in Tobias Lear’s writing, ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW.

1Hooe’s letter to GW of 1 Feb. and its enclosure have not been found. For GW’s involvement in the settlement of the entangled estates of the brothers John and Col. Thomas Colvill, see Thomas Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, source note. Henry Astley Bennett (d. 1815) and his brother, Charles Bennett (1743–1822), fourth earl of Tankerville, were among the heirs and creditors of the John Colvill estate, and the Bennett brothers had given Hooe, Edmund Randolph, and GW a power of attorney to settle their claims to the Colvill estate in Virginia (GW to Tankerville, 20 Jan. 1784, and notes, and to Edmund Randolph, 10 Feb. 1784).

2GW inserted the preceding parenthetical phrase above the line on the draft manuscript. John Semple had purchased Merryland, a tract of land in Frederick County, Md., from the estate of John Colvill in 1765. Although Thomas Colvill, as executor of his brother’s estate, was initially responsible for collecting the purchase price, his death in 1766 meant that this problem was left to his executors, of which GW was one. Unable to pay off the purchase bond, Semple later assigned his rights in the purchase to Thomas Montgomerie, Cumberland Wilson, and Adam Stewart (Thomas Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, and source note, and GW to James Dunlop, 6 April 1789, to Montgomerie, 6 April 1789). In May 1792 a “Judgment for 1576 Sterling, with interest from the 4 January 1772. ’till paid—& the Costs” was returned by the district court at Dumfries, Va. (Court Judgment, 22 May 1792). On 20 Oct. 1792 George Brooke, the clerk of the district court at Dumfries, Va., had issued a summons to James Keith, the Alexandria lawyer who acted as GW’s agent in settling the Colvill estate. Keith was instructed to appear before the court “to testify and the truth to say on behalf of George Washington Esq. in a certain matter of controversy . . . between the said George Washington and Adam Stewart and others” (MiU-C, Haskell Collection).

3GW’s ledgers show at least two payments made to Henry A. Bennett later this year. On 25 May 1793 Hooe received in behalf of Bennett £1,697.0.1½ sterling, which was “the Balance of the judgment obtained against Stewart and others upon their Bond for the balance due from Semple on account of the Maryland Tract of Land” (Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 16). An entry of 10 Aug. records a payment “To Colo. Robt T. Hooe pd him bake due Henry A. Bennett from the Estate of Thos Colville, per his rect delivd James Keith Esqr. £443.18.8 sterlg at 33⅓” (Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 358). For GW’s financial records concerning, the Colvill estates, see Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 246, Ledger B description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 2, 1772-93, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 21, 135, 358, Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 13–17. For the final settlement of Thomas Colvill’s estate, see the decree of the Virginia court of chancery of 25 July 1796 (D, NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers; D, NHi: Rufus King Papers).

4In the draft Lear originally ended his next-to-last paragraph at this point and began his final paragraph with the phrase “I shall write Mr Keith requesting.” GW crossed out the opening of Lear’s last draft paragraph and wrote “& to request of you to forwd the enclosed letter to him. the purport of which is to desire” above the line.

5For the enclosed letter, see GW to Keith, 7 February.

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