George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Betty Washington Lewis, 9 February 1794

From Betty Washington Lewis

Febry 9th 1794

My Dear Brothe[r]

your Letter of the 3th of this Month with your kind Present to Harriot Came safe to hand she values it more as it Comes from Philadelphia and Expects it is more fashonable1—things in this Town is Scarce and very dear she seems truly sensable of the many favours receiv’d and sayes that she will make it her hole study to deserve them, I Can assure you she is truly deserving of the favours receiv’d, a[nd] I am not acquainted with any One who takes more Cear of there things and turns them to greater advantage.

My Dear Brother I wish you to give Howell some advice how to Proseed in regard to two Negroes that Runaway from me a few daye before Christmas two of the Principal hands on the Plantation2 I Expect their intension is to get to Philadelphia as thay have a thought in geting there thay will be free,3 the hole Crop I made the last year was thirty Barrils of Corn and a Hundred and tenn Bushels of Wheat, if I am so unfortunate as not to get them again, I have no Chance to make any thing the insuing year. I am Join’d by the Girls in Love and good wishes for you all,4

Betty Lewis

ALS, ViMtvL.

1The letter of 3 Feb. to Harriot Washington has not been found. On the probable contents of the package from GW, see Harriot Washington to GW, 7 January.

2No written advice about recovering runaway slaves from GW to his nephew Howell Lewis has been found. At this time, Betty Washington Lewis lived in the Lewis family home, now known as Kenmore, on the edge of the then village of Fredericksburg, Virginia. According to the will of Fielding Lewis, Sr., her deceased husband, she was given lifetime use of the brick mansion and 661 acres from the original plantation (Felder, Fielding Lewis description begins Paula S. Felder. Fielding Lewis and The Washington Family: A Chronicle of 18th Century Fredericksburg. [Fredericksburg, Va.], 1998. description ends , 309, 317–18).

3Anti-slavery sentiments in Pennsylvania had resulted in the passage of “An ACT for the gradual Abolition of Slavery” by the state legislature on 1 March 1780 (Laws enacted in the second sitting of the fourth General Assembly, of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Which commenced at Philadelphia, on Wednesday the 19th day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty [Philadelphia, 1780], 296–99). On 29 March 1788, “An ACT to explain and amend an act, entitled, ‘An act for the gradual abolition of slavery’” provided that residents of Pennsylvania could not remove slaves from the state “with the design and intention that the place of abode or residence of such slave or servant shall be thereby altered or changed” (Laws enacted in the second sitting of the twelfth General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which commenced at Philadelphia, on Tuesday the nineteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, [Philadelphia, 1788], 440–44). The existence of these two laws evidently was known among Southern slaves, although their understanding of the legal provisions contained within them may have been imperfect.

4Betty Washington Lewis is referring not only to Harriot Washington but also to Ann Alexander “Nancy” Lewis and Catherine Dade Lewis, who resided with her at this time and who were the younger daughters of her impoverished son Fielding Lewis, Jr.

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