George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Smith, 10 March 1794

From George Smith

Galston Manse [Scotland] March 10th 1794


The subject of this Letter is a Gentleman, now no more Mr William Hunter a native of this place, & who some time ago died at the Town of Alexandria.1 His Parents, though none of the richest, were as respectable, & as highly esteemed as any in this Parish. Mr Hunter, whom I personally knew, & whose good heart, & dutiful attention to his Parents, endeared him much to them, & all his ffriends, had for several years remitted Money for their Subsistence, & had promised to relieve his Brother Mr John Hunter of some incumbrances, which misfortunes in Trade, & his early Death prevented. In this Country much has been said of his extensive Trade & opulence; but by any accounts yet received, I am sorry to say that there appears little or no prospect of his Relations deriving any pecuniary advantage, from all the property which He possessed, in Land, Ships, Wharfs, Stock in Trade &c. &c. &c.—It is asserted here on the authority of his own Letters, that He had in property many thousands acres of Land & some of which was well cultivated, & a House & Stores in Alexandria.

By some extracts from his Will2—It appears, that there was a miniature picture of Himself, in Gold, a Lockett & two Gold Rings bequeathed to his near Relations, none of which, nor his Watch, nor indeed the Smallest remembrance of him, have reached this Country—Even the Silver plate, he possessed, would be a desireable acquisition to his ffriends—your Justice, & the known Benevolence of Character, have emboldened me to trouble You on the Subject, And as I am informed, that Your Excellency had admitted Mr Hunter to habits of Intimacy with You, I hope that you will take the trouble to cause any of Your secretaries enquire into his affairs at others, as well as his Trustees, & report to You.

Afterwards I shall flatter myself, that you will send me any intelligence, that may be for the information or advantage of his relations here.3

It is said that Mr Hunter sold 5,000 acres of his Land, but a great deal must yet remain. I have the Honour to be with much esteem of your elevated Character Sir Your Excellencie’s most obt & obliged humble Servt

George Smith.

Please address to Me Mi⟨n⟩ister at Galston By Kilmarnock.

P.S. Mr Hunter’s address was William Hunter Junr—This Letter is written at the desire of his Brother Mr John Hunter my Parishioner—and if your Excellency shall find that there is any considerable Subject, remaining of his Brothers property (though for some time lock’d up) He would instantly embark for America, if your Excellency approved of the Scheme. G.S.

ALS, DLC:GW. Postal notations on the cover read, “Alex. 1 June 94” and “Free.”

The Rev. George Smith (1748–1823) was a Presbyterian minister at Galston, East Ayrshire, from 1778 until his death.

1William Hunter, Jr. (1731–1792) was a Scottish-born merchant in Alexandria, Va., of which he served as mayor, 1788–90. He was a frequent visitor at Mount Vernon prior to GW’s election to the presidency and a fellow member of Masonic Lodge No. 22 in Alexandria.

2Hunter’s will is on file in the Fairfax County Courthouse, Book F–1.

3Upon receipt of this letter, GW enclosed it in a letter to Alexandria resident John Fitzgerald of 13 June asking for his assistance. Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., then replied to Smith on 30 Aug.: “In answer to the enquiries made in your Letter of the 10 March last to the President of the U.S. The President directs me to transmit to you the Letters herewith enclosed; which contain the best information he is able to obtain relatively to the situation of the affairs of Wm Hunter jr decd” (ViMtvL). The enclosures, which probably came from Fitzgerald, have not been identified. Smith apparently did not receive Dandridge’s letter, because he wrote to GW on 12 Feb. 1795 that he had never received a reply to his earlier letter. He therefore repeated much of the information in the letter of 10 March, asking again for GW’s assistance (DLC:GW).

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