George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jesse Simms, 8 January 1798

From Jesse Simms

Alexandria 8th Jany 179[8]


It is with pain that I am oblidged to make the present application being a thing that I have never done before, but Some very heavy Losses and particular the Detention of my Brig the Virginia not being able to get up on account of the Ice as She has just Returnd from the West Indies, and the Proceeds of her Cargo I Cannot turn into Cash—therfore Shall Consider it as a particular favour if you will Derect the Cashier Mr Chapin to take the Note in his Possession and hold it for a few Days when I Shall be able to pay it, for if it Lays in bank till this Evening under Protest it will Ingure my Credit in Bank very Particularly at this time.1 a Line to this Effect to Mr Chapin will be thankfully acknowledged by Sir Yr Hbl. Servt

Jesse Simms

P.S. I mean the Note of 1000 Doll. Givn by me to Genl Lee.

ALS, PWacD. The letter cover contains a short list in an unknown hand of some of GW’s slaves with small amounts in pounds and shillings opposite their names. This appears to have nothing to do with the letter itself.

Jesse Simms, a member of the Potowmack Company, was a merchant in Alexandria who in the 1790s owned and operated a coaching service in the town.

1When he purchased GW’s Dismal Swamp Company land on 16 Nov. 1795, Henry Lee agreed to pay GW in three annual installments the purchase price of $20,000, beginning 1 Dec. 1796. In February 1797 Lee made his first payments totaling $3,500, a little more than half what had been due in the first installment. On 27 Aug. 1797 Lee made an additional payment of $1,000 in the form of the note on Jesse Simms referred to here (Ledger C description begins Manuscript Ledger in Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J. description ends , 59; Lee to GW, 27 Aug. 1797; see also GW to Henry Lee, 8 Sept. 1797, 25 Jan. 1798, and Lee to GW, 2 Feb. 1798). For Lee’s purchase of the Dismal Swamp tract, see GW to Lee, 2 April 1797, n.1. On 7 Feb. 1798 when GW dined with John Fitzgerald in Alexandria and then went with him to the meeting of the Potowmack Company in Georgetown on 8 Feb., GW asked Fitzgerald to take up for him with Simms this matter of Simms’s note, which Fitzgerald did; and on 19 Feb. Fitzgerald urged GW to accept a proposal from Simms that Simms give GW a new note for $ 1,000, payable in 90 or 120 days, at the same rate of interest as his bond to Lee. GW responded the next day refusing to grant an extension beyond 1 April. On the day following, 21 Feb., Fitzgerald wrote GW to explain to him “that as Simms’s Note was in the Bank merely for Collection, & not negotiated or discounted, the summary mode of recovery is lost, & you have only the common course of recovery against him therefore a reconsideration of his proposal might not be amiss, unless you would prefer having recourse to the Endorser [Henry Lee].” Fitzgerald also enclosed a letter from Simms to himself saying, “I now Cannot nor will not Consent to pay the money with interest under the 90 & 120 Days.” No record of Simms’s having ever paid GW has been found. See also Simms to GW, 16 July 1798, and GW to Simms, 22 April 1799. Gurden Chapin was cashier of the Alexandria bank.

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