From James Keith
Alexandria [Va.] March 7th 1793
A few days ago Colo. Hooe delivered me your Excellencys letter, which had been sent under Cover to him.1 Since the Receipt of it, I have made Enquiry, whether the Defendants have taken any Steps to procure an Injunction: I cannot learn that any thing has been done in that way as yet. When the Actions were tried at the May District Court, the Defendants again brought forward the plea formerly used by them when the Business was under Reference, that among the papers and Documents sent by them to Britain, at the Commencement of the American Troubles, some Vouchers might be found to prove the payment of these two protested Bills of Exchange, which had not been charged in the general Settlement made with Semples Trustees, for the Recovery of which one of the Actions had been commenced.2 Tho this protest had been formerly made Use of, and procured suficient time for making the necessary Enquiries, it was still likely to procure a new Indulgence. Under these Circumstances, it was thought more adviseable to let the Actions go to a Jury, with a promise of staying Execution till the first of April, than to suffer a Continuance of the Actions untill the next term. This accordingly was done. The Events which have since taken place justify the measure, Mr Montgomery and Colo. Mason both died before the succeeding term, the Actions woud of course have abated as to them. The time is now nearly arrived when the Executions may issue, if not prevented by an Injunction, I shall be glad to have your Excellency’s directions upon that head.3 The Fees which have accrued upon the Actions are two Fees apiece to Mr Lee and Colo. Simms, they were both employed,4 the Common Fees Two demanded by the Lawyers at the District Court I understand is an half Joe.5 In the Account transmitted you by Colo. Hooe he not only stated Mr Bennetts Claim as a Legatee of Colo. Thomas Colvill, but also his Claims, under the Will of Lord Tankerville, to the Ballance of the money arising from the Sale of the merryland Tract of Land, after discharging the Debts of Colo. John Colville. The Colo. has committed Some Errors with respect to the Interest, the Statement is otherwise right.6 Shoud things continue without an Injunction to alter the State of them, I expect early in the Summer to close the Settlement of the two Estates.7 I am with great Respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedeint humble Servt
1. GW’s letter to Keith of 7 Feb. was enclosed in his letter to Robert Townsend Hooe of that same date. For the efforts of GW and others to settle the estate of John and Col. Thomas Colvill and for the beneficiaries and debtors to the estate, see Thomas Montgomerie to GW, 24 Oct. 1788, source note.
2. For the decision in favor of the estate, see Court Judgment, 22 May 1792. John Semple had purchased the estate of Merryland in Frederick County, Md., from John Colvill before the latter’s death, but when unable to meet his payments, he assigned his rights to it to Adam Stewart, Thomas Montgomerie, and Cumberland Wilson. At some point George Mason also became an assignee, and it was these four men who lost the May 1792 court judgment.
4. GW often used the services of Alexandria, Va., lawyers Charles Lee and Charles Simms.
5. The half joe was a Portuguese gold coin minted in Brazil. It was one of several gold coins circulating within the United States at this time.
6. The account from Hooe has not been found (GW to Hooe, 7 Feb., and note 1). For GW’s financial records concerning the Colvill estate, see Ledgers A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 256, 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.
7. For the final settlement, see the 25 July 1796 decree of the Virginia court of chancery (D, NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers; D, NHi: Rufus King Papers).