George Washington Papers

From George Washington to David Stuart, 21 September 1794

To David Stuart

Philadelphia Sepr 21st 1794.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 14th instt has been duly received.

As it was, and is, my earnest wish to discharge my obligation to Mr Lund Washington, and all other debts; it will prove inconvenient to me to apply the money which you have lodged in the Bank of Alexandria, for my use, to the purpose of paying the debt due from my brother Samuel’s estate to that of Mr Custis’; yet I cannot, whilst there are means at my command, see the estate of the former arrested from his representatives, and suffer them to be involved in difficulty—perhaps in distress & not apply them in prevention.

The estate of my Brother Samuel being involved, and left under wretched management, has already proved a heavy tax upon me. Land which I sold twenty odd years ago to Colo. Philp Pendleton falling into his hands, and he thereby becoming paymaster to me, has (as I never intended, under the view I had of his affairs, to ask payment) sunk me more than £8001—For the board—education—and other expences of his two sons I am in a further advance for it, upwards of £1000 more, besides the support of his daughter Harriot, since she was given over to me by Mrs Fendall, without receiving a single sous towards it.2

For the past I expected no return, but it will be hard (especially as I thought my advances, except for Harriot, were at an end) to launch out a thousand pounds more with as little prospect of a re-fund as for that which has gone before it. Yet, and for the reason I have mentioned, I shall not suffer the remains of the estate to be sold without lending my aid to prevent it. I must therefore leave the thousand pounds in the Bank of Alexandria which you say is appropriated for my use, to your own disposal.

But it is my wish, and desire, that the process against that estate may not be arrested short of its coming to actual Sale, at which point I would stop it; without the least intimation of my intention previous thereto, to do so; for the following reasons—1st because George & Lawrence Washington do not appear to me to be sufficiently impressed with the incumbrances on their estate; 2d, because both of them seem to entertain too high an opinion of the value of the property they are possessed; 3d, under this mistaken idea, or from proneness to show, they are not, nor will not be restrained from endulgencies, until they either feel, or have a nearer view of the necessity, for imposing those restraints; 4th because they are not sensible, I believe, of the inconveniency to me of the advances I have made for their accomodation; and 5th, because the estate may (unknown to me) have made some provision to meet this demand—at least in part; & might slacken its exertions, or divert its funds, if another source is contemplated, through which the debt is to be discharged. If all, or any of these things can be effected by concealing my intention, until the period abovementioned, it may be serviceable to all, and injurious to none.

You will have found that Doctr Thornton’s Commission, bears equal date with your letter, of course was too late for the purpose mentioned in the latter.3 With great esteem & regard I am—Dear Sir Your Affecte Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Dreer Collection; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1Washington is referring to the 1771 sale of 180 acres of his Bullskin tract to Philip Pendleton of Frederick County, Virginia. About one year later Pendleton sold the property to GW’s brother Samuel Washington (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:37; and GW to James Nourse, 22 Jan. 1784, and n.3 to that document, in Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 1:69-70). In GW’s will, he relieved "the Estate of my deceased brother . . . from the payment of the money which is due to me for the Land I sold to Philip Pendleton" (Papers, Retirement Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends , 4:483).

2For discussion of GW’s payments for education of George Steptoe Washington and Lawrence Augustine Washington and for the care of Harriot Washington, see Francis Willis, Jr., to GW, 24 Sept. 1788, source note; and Harriot Washington to GW, 2 April 1790, source note.

3The copy of William Thornton’s commission entered into the proceedings of the commissioners is dated 12 Sept., not 14 Sept. (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791-1802).

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