To Bushrod Washington
Philadelphia April 30th 1794.
Your letter of the 22d instt came to my hands yesterday afternoon. I thank you for the information contained in it, and for your kindness in offering to draw my answer to Henshaws Bill, now in the high Court of Chancery; before whom it seems, I am to appear.1
It is really hard that I am so often called before Courts in matters in which I have no interest; but am continually saddled with the expence of defence.
To the interrogatories of the Bill, I answer, from my best recollection, having no papers by me to resort to.
That John Tayloe, George Mason and myself were appointed Attornies by George Mercer & others, in England, to whom he had mortgaged his estate in Virginia, or part thereof, with directions to sell the same.2
That John Tayloe and myself accepted the trust—but Mason declined doing it.
That a dispute with respect to the priority of the Mortgage under which we were to sell, and one given by the former attorney of George Mercer in Virgina ensued—was carried into the high Court of Chancery in that State—and an Interlocutory decree obtained.
That pursuant to the said decretal order, Tayloe & myself (or rather myself alone for I had the whole trouble of it) sold the Mortgaged estate in November 1774, and to the best of my recollection, on the terms and in the manner set forth in the Bill. The money, when received to be subject to the future order of the Court.
That in the Month of May following, I attended the Congress which sat in Philadelphia; In June of the same year was appointed to the Command of the American Army, then assembled at Cambridge; and remained with it, in its different movements, for several years, before I returned to Virginia.
That finding, about the time the Bonds had become due, there was no prospect of my returning to Virginia in any short time, or having it in my power to render any further service in discharge of the trust which had been committed to us. I informed Tayloe thereof; requested him to place the Bonds in the hands of a proper person to collect; and to take the whole matter upon himself; for, as I was unable to render any further assistance, I should no longer consider myself responsible for any thing which might happen thereafter.
Thus stood the matter about the period when the Bonds became due. After the death of Tayloe, & my continually refusing any agency in the business, further than to report what had been done by myself; and which no other was competent to, in a legal sense, It was, by a decree of the high Court of Chancery, in Virginia, put into the hands of John Francis Mercer, for purposes mentioned therein; & by him were the Bonds put into suit thereafter.
That Henshaw may have become a purchaser at the Sale in 1774 on the terms, and to the amount set forth in the Bill, is highly probable. But I have no recollection of his ever having made a tender of payment to me at Cambridge, or of the conversation which he has stated; and conceive, if application had been made to me for the purpose mentioned, he would have recd an answer to the effect I have here mentioned.
If I am not mistaken the Bill of Henshaw, which you have now sent, or one similar to it; has been before me once or twice already; & my answer obtained through Mr Jno. Mercer, to whom when served with the summons, I sent it; & by whom it was drawn.3 I pray you if it be practicable in time, to enquire into the matter—There must be neglect somewhere if it is not to be produced. With much truth I am your sincere friend and Affectionate Uncle.
ALS (letterpress copy), ViMtvL; LB, DLC:GW.
2. On George Mercer’s assignment of power of attorney to GW, George Mason, and John Tayloe, the 1774 sale of Mercer’s lands in Virginia, subsequent problems resulting from this sale, and the eventual assignment in 1782 of responsibility for the estate to Mercer’s half-brother, John Francis Mercer, see GW’s statement concerning George Mercer’s estate, 1 Feb. 1789, and Tobias Lear to John Rutherfurd, 18 April 1792. See also State of Money Collected by Lund Washington on Bonds Payable to the Honble John Tayloe Esqr. and George Washington Esqr. taken on the Sales of Colo. George Mercers Estate (Lund Washington’s Account Book, 1761–85, MdAN).