George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Frances Bassett Washington, 28 March 1793

From Frances Bassett Washington

Studly1 [Va.] March 28th 1793

Dear & honord Sir

I have had the happiness to receive your favors of the 7th & 11th instants2—the first did not come to my hands, for near a week after the usual time—Mr Dandridge was unacquainted with my short visit to Eltham, & sent my letters to this place, where I found them on my return3—I shoud be very much concernd for this detention, if I had not reason to beleive that my last letters to my Aunt, woud leave you without a doubt of my intending to meet you at Mount Vernon, early in next month[.]4 My Brothers have told me, that they did not conceive, the situation of the estate required my immediate interferance & attention—there is no debt against it, except a small one to Mr John Hopkins;5 but the property in Berkely has been left so long to the conduct of an ignorant Overseer, it may be supposed to have sufferd in some degree—Mr Washington expected his crops up there, if well sold, woud amount to four hundred pounds, & Mr Packett was authorised & requested to dispose of them four months ago—but in all this time I have never heard a sentence from him, or of the situation of the crops6—the Overseer in Fairfax, has I fear taken many unjustifiable liberties—I have I beleive been too backward in not requesting your directions, with regard to the fishery on the place he lives; he is provided with a seine & boat, but I shoud conceive a man of his character, woud not conduct a business of that sort with much advantage to the proprietor—I must now request the decision of your better judgement, if you have not already given him any orders respecting it—Doctor Craik has I imagine disposed of the wheat & corn Taylor had for sale, which I hope has discharged his account against us7—The inclination I have indulged for living in Alexandria, has arisen cheifly from the desire I have to place my children (particularly Maria) in a situation that woud afford greater advantages of education, than I can possibly bestow8—whether this circumstance is sufficent to overbalance many, that woud urge me to accept your kind offer of a residence at Mount Vernon, I confess my judgement is not adaquate to determine—I wait on this subject, my dear Sir, for yours, & my good Aunts guidance, which in many circumstances of my life has been a blessing to me—I shoud not have hesitated to ask your leave; to continue in my service the Chariot at Mount Vernon, had you not been so kindly considerate, as to make it unnecessary—My dear little Fayette shall be given up to your kind patronage, whenever you think proper; & I trust & hope Providence will reward your generous care of him, by bestowing on him every virtuous disposition—I am concernd to hear of poor Mr Whitings situation, but hope he has been induced to take care of himself, & will again recover9—Never hearing particularly whether you woud be at Mount Vernon, the last of this, or the first week in next month, I have declined setting out from this place untill monday. (the 1st of April)—if I hear at Fredericksburg that you have arrived in Virginia, I shall endeavour to get up on wednesday—in a letter some time past to my Aunt, I requested your permission to leave Harriot Washington with my Aunt Lewis, untill I made a visit to Berkely, which I wish to do immediately after you leave Mount Vernon, I mentiond this because I coud not carry her with me to Berkely, & knew not where to leave her when I went up10—my Brother Burwell is on a visit to Mr McCarty, & my Brother John so much engaged in business that he cannot leave home, I therefore accept the offer of Mr Joe Foster to go up with me to Mount Vernon11—The family here desire to be particularly rememberd to you, & I beg to be beleived my dear Sir, with every sentiment of gratitude, respect, & affection, ever sincerely yours

Frances Washington

ALS, ViMtvL.

1Studley, in Hanover County, Va., was the home of Frances Bassett Washington’s paternal aunt Judith Bassett Lyons and her husband Peter Lyons.

2GW’s letter of 7 Mar. 1793 has not been found.

3Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., was one of GW’s secretaries. Eltham, in New Kent County, Va., was the estate of Frances Bassett Washington’s recently deceased father, Burwell Bassett, Sr. She was residing there with her husband, George Augustine Washington, at the time of his death on 5 February.

4For a recent, extant, letter from Frances Bassett Washington to Martha Washington, see that of March 1793, in Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, description begins Joseph E. Fields, ed. “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington. Westport, Conn., and London, 1994. description ends 247.

5Frances Bassett Washington’s brothers were Burwell Bassett, Jr., who had inherited Eltham, and John Bassett, a lawyer who resided in Hanover County, Virginia. Virginia businessman John Hopkins’s first wife was Lucy Lyons (b.1759–fl.1798), a daughter of Peter Lyons.

6George Augustine Washington had owned property in Berkeley and Fairfax Counties, Virginia. Mr Packett apparently was the overseer at the Berkeley plantation, and he may have been the John Packett whom GW employed between 1789 and 1791 (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 313).

7For details of the “unjustifiable liberties” taken by Tayler, the overseer at George Augustine Washington’s plantation on Clifton’s Neck, see GW to Anthony Whitting, 10 Feb. 1793, n.2., and Whitting to GW, 20 February. Dr. James Craik’s account was probably for his medical care of George Augustine and Frances Bassett Washington and their children.

8The children of George Augustine and Frances Bassett Washington were Anna Maria, Charles Augustine, and George Fayette.

9Whitting, who was ill with tuberculosis, died on 21 June 1793 (Tobias Lear to GW, 24 June).

10GW arrived at Mount Vernon on Tuesday, 2 April, and he departed for Philadelphia on Saturday, 13 April (GW to D.C. Commissioners, 2 April, to James Keith, 13 April). Harriot Washington, the daughter of GW’s late brother Samuel, currently was staying with GW’s sister, Betty Washington Lewis, in Fredericksburg, Va. (GW to Lewis, 7 Oct. 1792). For Frances Bassett Washington’s reluctance to take Harriot with her to Berkeley, see her letter to Martha Washington of March 1793, ibid.

11Burwell Bassett, Jr., was married to Elizabeth McCarty Bassett, one of six children of Daniel (d. 1792) and Sinah Ball McCarty of Pope’s Creek, Westmoreland County, Va. (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:262). The member of the McCarty family with whom he was visiting has not been identified. Joseph Foster III, a tobacco planter and sheriff from New Kent County, Va., may have been the person who offered to accompany Frances Bassett Washington to Mount Vernon.

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