George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Ball, 17 March 1799

To George Ball

Mount Vernon 17th March 1799.


It is somewhat singular, that instead of receiving Three hundred and three pounds in April of the last year, as per agreement for the land I sold you (lying in Gloucester County of this State) that I should never have seen, nor heard a tittle from you, respecting this payment, at the time it became due, nor since for near a year.

The first Instalment of the residue will become due the 10th of next month, & I beg you to be assured that I am in real want of the money; and that it was the want of money alone, which had induced me to part with this, and other landed property, which I have always considered as the most secure, and ultimately the most valuable, of any in this Country.1

I shall expect to see, or hear from you to good effect, by the day abovementioned.2 I am—Sir Your Hble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW.

1For the terms of GW’s sale to George Ball of land in Gloucester County in 1797, see GW to Ball, 6 Mar. 1797, n.1.

2GW enclosed his letter to Ball for forwarding under cover of a letter of the same date to John Page, which reads: “Dear Sir, In April, after I had quit the Walks of Public life (1797), I agreed with one George Ball for the Land I held in Gloucester County; on account of which, he made me a small payment of £200, or thereabouts; was to have paid about three hundred more the April following; and the balle in two annual Instalments thereafter. Since which I have never seen Mr Ball, nor have heard from him on this subject. And what is still more extraordinary, I do not know whether he removed to the Land, or where he now lives; consequently, do not know with certainty at what place to direct to him.

“This, my good Sir, must be my apology for giving you the trouble of the enclosed; in order, if he lives in Gloucester (on the land) that it may be forwarded to him; if not, to be returned to—Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Hble Servant Go: Washington Best respects to Mrs Page” (ALS [photocopy], sold by Charles Hamilton, 24 Feb. 1977, auction no. 103, item 268; letterpress copy, NN: Washington Papers). John Page (1743–1808) lived at Rosewell in Gloucester County.

Page replied from Rosewell on 5 April: “I received your Letter of the 17th of last Month on the 31st, and on the next day I delivered, to Mr Ball a young Lawyer who I understood for some time past lived with his Father on the Land which he or his Father had purchased of you, the Letter which you inclosed to my Care, telling him, that you had entrusted it to my Care, as you knew not whether he had settled on your Land or not, or where he lived; adding that a speedy answer was necessary” (DLC:GW).

Ball’s reply of 6 April has not been found, but on 25 Sept. GW again wrote Ball from Mount Vernon: “Sir, From the tenor of your letter of the 6th of April, in answer to mine of the 17th March, I could not have conceived that I should have been without the money due for the Land I agreed to let you have, at, or near the first of October. And why you should have supposed I did not want money, when you had been told that it was my only inducement for selling the Land, is to me, inconceivable.

“I now, in explicit terms, beg you to be persuaded of three things—1st That nothing but the want of it, induced me to part with the land; because I knew full well from long experience, that the rise in the price of land was more than an equivalent thereof & common interest of money; 2dly that my present call for that article is great and urgent; and 3rdly that I must no longer be trifled with in the payment of what is due from you to me; for this will compel me to resort to means which cannot fail to be disagreeable to us both. I therefore request that you would inform me in explicit terms, at what time I may expect (without fail) what is due to me by your engagement, that I may arrange matters accordingly. I am Sir Your very Humble Servant Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, NN: Washington Papers).

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