George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Tobias Lear, 8 April 1793

To Tobias Lear

Mount Vernon April 8th 1793

Dear Sir,

Since my last to you from this place,1 your letter of 3d instt has been received transmitting Colo. Cannon’s Rental, and Mr de Barth’s profession of inability to discharge his Bond. The latter seems to be a more candid acct than the former; but with both, I must be satisfied—presuming, I shall never obtain better, from either.

Before you say any thing to Mr C——with respect to the lands which Mr de Barth had of me, & is willing to relinquish; I beg you to have some conversation with the Attorney General on the subject he mentioned to me respecting Mr C——which I did not very clearly understand at the time, & know less of it now. It seemed to squint (if I recollect rightly) at a sort of speculation which might implicate the Seller; but in what manner I know not. As I do not mean, however, to place it in the power of malice itself to charge me with any Agency in measures that can even be tortured into impropriety on this head, I wish the above enquiry to be previously made.2

If it is not too late—I mean if the Assembly of Pennsylvania has not risen, & the opportunity lost—I wish you would enquire of Mr Gallitan, and others from the Western Country, into whose hands I could, to advantage, entrust the management of my business in the Counties of Fayette & Washington:3 for I am sure it will not do to leave it in the hands of Colo. Cannon; who, if nothing else is against him, is too dependent for his election as representative of the latter County to fix my Rents at a just medium; or to collect them in the manner he ought to do—lest his popularity should be effected by it.4 And, if the rents are liable to be applied, (when under leases for five years, & after farms have been settled 12 or 15 years) towards repairs & improvements, I may bid adieu to any prospect of profit from them; as nothing can be easier than to balance the acct by fence rails—and other such like improvements; which every man who ever had a farm, & expected to make any thing on it, always did, & for their own sakes ever will be obliged to provide for the security of their Crops at their own expence. It is usual when a tenant goes on a New place, and has every thing to provide, to allow him one, two, and sometimes (according to situation & circumstances) three years rent free; but I never heard before, of a continuance of it on farms so long settled as I have mentioned, & which have always been in occupation. nor is it to be suppo[se]d that a tenant will ever do any thing at his own expence, if, by agreement, he can charge it to the account of his Landlord.

As the Will of my deceased Nephew will not be proved at next Court for this County,5 I shall not, (unless obliged to wait for Mr Robert Lewis, who has written me that he shall be here with some Rents, & to settle other business with me) remain here till Monday the 15th—but as I shall, (unless advices from Philadelphia or other occurrences unknown to me at present render it inconvt) go by the way I had contemplated to come, if the Roads would have permitted it; that is—by Frederick town in Maryland—Carlisle, Harrisburgh, the upper Canal, Reading and the lower Canal; it is not in my power at this time to name the day when it is probable I shall be in Philadelphia—but at any rate, if no accident happens, nor my horses fail me, it will be by the 25th of the month at farthest.6

Fanny Washington thanks you for your friendly remembrance of her7 & joins me in best wishes for yourself, Mrs Lear and Lincoln—I am always and sincerely Yr Affecte friend

Go: Washington


2Lear, in his letter to GW of 3 April, had suggested that the Dutch land agent Théophile Cazenove might be a potential buyer for GW’s lands on the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers now that French émigré John J. de Barth was unable to fulfill his 1791 purchase agreement for these lands (Lear to GW, 1 April, and note 4). Attorney General Edmund Randolph’s opinion of Cazenove is not known (GW to Lear, 12 April 1793, and note 2). Between 1792 and 1794 Cazenove was instrumental in the purchase of over five million acres of land in New York and Pennsylvania for the Dutch bankers who employed him. He did not, however, purchase any lands from GW (see also GW’s Memorandum for Henry Lee, 18 Feb., and note 2).

3Albert Gallatin represented Fayette County in the Pennsylvania house of representatives 1790–92, and in Feb. 1793 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. For GW’s problems with the tenants on his 2,813–acre tract on Millers Run, a branch of Chartiers Creek, in Washington County, and on his 1,644–acre tract at Washington’s Bottom in Fayette County, see Lear to GW, 3 April 1793, and enclosure. For similar difficulties in 1784, see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:18–31. The Millers Run and Washington’s Bottom tracts continued to vex GW even after their respective sales in 1796 and 1795 (GW to Samuel Mickle Fox, 10 June 1799, and notes).

4Col. John Canon represented Washington County in the Pennsylvania house of representatives in 1792 and 1793. GW dismissed Canon as the rental agent for his Pennsylvania lands in June 1794 and replaced him with Charles Morgan, who lived near Raccoon Creek in that portion of Allegheny County annexed from Washington County in 1789 (GW to Presley Nevill, 16 June 1794, ALS [letterpress copy], DLC:GW, and LS, NN: Myers Collection, Daniel Morgan Papers, and LB, DLC:GW).

5GW had anticipated that George Augustine Washington’s will would be proved at the 15 April meeting of the Fairfax County court, but Frances (“Fanny”) Bassett Washington’s reluctance to appear in public so soon after her husband’s death postponed the filing of the will (GW to Burwell Bassett, Jr., 4 Mar., Bassett to GW, 2 April).

6The letter from Robert Lewis was that of 26 Mar., which has not been found. GW’s ledger accounts indicate that Lewis paid him £135 from rent collections on 12 April (Ledger B description begins General Ledger B, 1772–1793. Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 5, Financial Papers. description ends , 360). GW departed Mount Vernon on 13 April and returned to Philadelphia on 17 April (GW to James Keith, 13 April; JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 107). One reason for this alternative route to Philadelphia was that GW wanted to view the progress of a canal begun the previous year by the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Navigation Company. This canal, when completed in the nineteenth century by the Union Canal Company of Pennsylvania, extended from the Susquehanna River near Middle town, Pa., to the Schuylkill River near Reading, Pennsylvania.

7For Lear’s expression of condolences to Fanny Washington, see Lear to GW, 1 April 1793. Fanny was at Mount Vernon not only to confer with GW about her future plans but also to attend a memorial service for her husband (Frances Bassett Washington to GW, 28 Mar., GW to David Stuart, 9 April). Benjamin Lincoln Lear was Lear’s two-year-old son.

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