To Benjamin Dulany
Mount Vernon 15th July 1799
As I grow no Tobacco, and probably never shall, I have it in contemplation to make some material changes in the œconomy of my Farms.
To accomplish this object, a reduction of the present force on them is necessary; of course, the means by which it is to be effected, must have undergone consideration.
Presuming then that it might be agreeable to Mrs French—or to you—to whom they will ultimately revert, I am induced by a sense of propriety & respect; and from a persuation that every humane owner of that species of property would rather have it in his own keeping, than suffer it to be in the possession of others, to offer you all the Negroes I hold, belonging to that Estate.1
And as an evidence of my disposition to act fairly, & liberally, in the business; the whole of them, old, middle aged and young, shall be produced to three disinterested and judicious men—one to be chosen by Mrs French or yourself, one by me, and the third by those two. The judgment of whom (after comparing the old with the young—and the chances of increase and decrease) shall be conclusive as to the annuity which is to be allowed me, or mine, for and during the term for which they, at present, stand engaged.
That you may be enabled to form an opinion of their usefulness, from the kind of Negroes I am making you an offer of, I enclose a list of them, with remarks, which and their ages, I believe to be accurate; and the reason for giving them at this season of the year, is, that if either Mrs French or yourself is disposed to accede to the offer, you may have time to make arrangements accordingly.2
For the same reason, an answer, so soon as you can conveniently decide upon the measure, would be very agreeable.3 Sir—Your Most Obedt Hble Servt
ALS (letterpress copy), NN: Washington Papers. GW changed the wording of the letterpress copy in two instances, presumably reflecting changes that he made in the original letter. In the second paragraph he substituted “it is” for one or more obliterated words, and near the end of the fourth paragraph he changed the phrase, “a fixed annuity,” to read, “the annuity.”
1. In October 1786, after years of negotiation, GW secured from Penelope Manley French title to two tracts on Dogue Run at Mount Vernon. He at the same time rented from Mrs. French the slaves who worked this land, with the stipulation that they not be removed from Fairfax County. See particularly Charles Lee to GW, 13 Sept. 1786, and GW to William Triplett, 25 Sept. 1786, and notes to both documents.
2. At about this time, presumably in June, GW made a listing of all the slaves at Mount Vernon. The roll of slaves rented from Mrs. French which GW enclosed in this letter is almost identical to that which he made for his complete listing, printed at the end of this volume. In the list enclosed in this letter, however, he has sometimes expanded the information under “Remarks.” Unfortunately, a large portion of this letterpress copy is illegible.
3. Dulany replied from Alexandria on 17 July: “I recd your Letter dated the 15 Instant—Mrs French being in George Town, it is out of my power to answer it as I coud wish—As soon as I have an opportunity of seeing her, I will make it a point of answering the contents” (DLC:GW).