George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Lee, Jr., 28 February–3 March 1799

From Henry Lee, Jr.

Stratford [Va.] feby 28th[–3 March 17]99

dear sir

Last monday evening Mr C. Washington presented me with yr favor covering a duplicate of yr let. of the 4th Novr & accompanying deeds for the land given for Magnolio. The deeds have been executed agreably to desire.1 The duplicate is the first letr I recd from you on the subject it concerns, which fact will of course apologize for my silence.

I passed thro. alexa. early in Decr & should have called at Mt Vernon, but you was then absent, having gone to Philada to meet the general officers of the army—Mr Simms did make every effort to procure Harrisons lands, as did I afterwards thro. Mr W. B. Page—But neither could move him from a his price 5£ pr acre. Yr offer was as many dollars—To attend longer to that subject or to trouble you with a let. upon it seemed to me equally useless.

I wish he could have been induced to have fallen near yr price, I would have made some sacrifice to have procured the land. For I never was more anxious to satisfy a demand than I am the one you possess2—Relying on the promises of Judge Wilson the opinion of my worthy friend Mr Morgan, & afterwards on the honor of Mr Morris to whom I paid 10,000£ in cash for bills on his son interest in Loudon which I was assured would be duely paid, I have been brought into a trying & disagreable scene.

But it is vain to occupy yr time with a narrative of the causes of my unprepared condition—My Berkeley Lands I have offered for sale including the ore bank for 6£ pr acre—a price always deemed fair. The gentleman has engaged to meet me there the first week in may, if I sell I shall be ready to releive yr wants.

A sooner day I shd have appointed but having engaged very indiscreetly in a congressional election I cannot quit the district till after the 24th April.

On my return I will wait on you.

I am sorry you view my city lots in the light you do—I recd them in payment at the prices I offerd them for. My plats which you would have seen had we entered into treaty would have shewn their size, but as the proposal was pr square foot, the size of the lot could not effect the fairness of the contract; as the charge would have been commensurate with the quantity of the square feet sold.

I am very apt to give liberal prices for any thing I buy, & I suppose I may have done so in the city lots as in many other instances.

I calculated greatly on the advancing prosperity of the Country, in this I have been disappointed & shall submit to the suffering it will produce, without a murmur—Pecuniary loss I disregard, but there is another loss which I feel & shall for ever feel. Wishing you every happiness I remain with the highest respect yr friend & ob: sert

Henry Lee

Stratford 3d March 99

From Mr George Lee who owes me money I recd a letr of which the following is an extract since my writing to you.

I take the liberty of presenting the same to you that shd the land answer you, I may accede to Mr Lee’s proposal.

11 April Loudon

“Being very anxious to setde all my debts & finding it impossible unless I can sell my land in fairfax near Colchester I now make an offer of it to you—there is 408 acres a good house, ¼ timber, one mile from Colchester & 15 from Alexa. conveniently situated to the river”—this land is rented out, but for what sum the writer does not mention, nor can I inform—tho. this I will ascertain in May—His price is 50/ per acre.3

With very high respect & attachmt I remain yr ob: frd & ser.



1The letter of 4 Nov. dealt with the matter of GW’s securing new deeds to the Kentucky land on Rough Creek which GW got from Lee in 1789 in exchange for the horse Magnolio.

2In November 1795 Lee bought GW’s Dismal Swamp land for $20,000 to be paid in three annual payments beginning 1 Dec. 1796. In February 1797 Lee gave GW a part of what was due on the first payment (see GW to Lee, 2 April 1797, n.1) and another part of it in August 1797 in the form of Jesse Simms’s note for $1,000 which he endorsed and transferred to GW (see Simms to GW, 8 Jan. 1798, n.1). After GW was unable to collect on Simms’s note, Lee in the late summer or early fall of 1798, according to GW, suggested that Simms might be able to acquire William B. Harrison’s land adjoining Mount Vernon, which GW wished to secure control of, and transfer it to GW in payment of his note (see GW to William B. Harrison, 5 Mar. 1799). In a missing letter, probably dated 11 May, GW apparently inquired about the negotiations that Lee’s brother-in-law William Byrd Page (1772–1818) had conducted with Harrison for Lee (see Lee to GW, 12 May), and a few days later Harrison arrived at Mount Vernon to negotiate with GW, which culminated in the offer GW made for Harrison’s land in his letter dated 16 May.

3George Lee (c.1768–1805) of Loudoun County was a son of Thomas Ludwell Lee (1730–1778). See GW’s inquiry about George Lee’s tract in GW to William Thompson, 18 Mar., and note 2 of that document.

4Lee wrote below his initials: “Lands bringing 4 pr Cent I consider equal to stock at 6 pCent. The first is certain & in our young country must rise—I myself would be satisfied with 3 pr Cent from Lands.”

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