Newburgh Apl 20th 1782
Since my last to you from Philadelphia I have been favoured with your Letter of the 20th Ulto from New Kent.
How far it is proper—or improper to delay the appointment of a Guardian or Guardians to Mr Custis’s Children I shall not take upon me to decide but this I am clear in, & beg leave again to urge it, that whenever the necessity for it arrives you shou’d take upon yourself the trust. I confess to you candidly that I see very little prospect of the Wars ending with this Campaign—or, if it does that I shall have leizure to engage in New matters—My own affairs will, I am convinced, be found in a very perplexed condition. all my Book accts Bonds &ca stand as I left them (except those which have been discharged with depreciated notes)—But this is not all—matters which relate immediately to my self—is the least of my concern—unfortunately for me; I became, much against my inclination, but at the earnest request of Colo. Thos Colvill, one of his Executors to an Estate which was left under the most peculiar circumstances imaginable, as it was intricately involved with an Estate of his Brother (who had died before him)—& in Legacies to people in England—not by name, but by description & descent almost from Adam; who had given infinite trouble before I left Virginia by their claims—unsatisfactory proofs of their descent—discontents—&ca—The other Executor—a Mr West—whom it was intended by the Testator should, & who ought to have had all the trouble, died three or four years ago, & from an indolence of disposition—inattention to business—& bad accts; has, I fear, made that which at best would have been exceedingly troublesome in a great degree perplexing & difficult so that I have not only all these difficulties to encounter, but shall think myself very fortunate if I escape without loss—Besides this business, I stand alone in another, which is also under very peculiar circumstances—I mean my transactions under a power of attorney from Colo. Geo: Mercer & his Mortgagees to Colo. Tayloe & myself; in which I disposed of his Estate to the Amt of £14,000 payable the Novr succeeding my leaving home, & left the business with Colo. Tayloe to finish, but this Gentn never took one single direct or proper step in it while he was in a condition so to do, & died insane; so that, that matter stands on a most wretched & ruinous footing. Add to this, that yielding to the pressing solicitation of my Neighbour Colo. Fairfax, when he was about to leave the Country, I accepted of a power of Attorney authorising me to direct his business, which when I left Virginia, was (after selling good part of his personal Estate) left at Sixes & Sevens.
In a word, I see so many perplexing & intricate matters before me, which must be the work of time to arrange and bring to a conclusion, that It would be injurious to the Children, & madness in me, to undertake as a principle a trust which I could not discharge. Such aid however, as it ever may be with me to give to the Children—especially the boy—I will afford with all my heart, & with all my Soul—& on the assu[rances] of it you may rely.
Inclosed you have a copy of my acct with Mr Custis, settled by Colo. Mason as the mutual friend to us both. I have no doubt but that every article Debit & Credit contained in it is right; but that there is a deficiency in the acct is obvious from the face of it, when compared with known facts—This acct carries with it, the appearance of a final settlement—comprehending all our dealings up to the date—to wit—the 28th of June 1778—whereas the fact is, that all articles of charge; or credit betwn that period & the settlemt with the Genl Court on the 4th Novr 1773 are omitted; many of which may be important, one I know to be so, and that is the rent of the dower Estate near Wmsburg during that Interval. This imperfection in the settlement I can only acct for by their having, (as I directed for Colo. Masons satisfaction) recourse to certified copies of the last settled accts as vouchers with the Genl Court—and their not attending, or perhaps knowing of the open one on my Books by which means the whole of it is excluded—I shall write to Mr Lund Washington (by this conveyance) for a copy of the open acct, subsequent to the date of that settled with the Court, & previous to my leaving Virginia in May 1775—As also for any Acct which he on my behalf may have raised since—& will send them both to you.
You also have inclosed, a Copy of Mr Custis’s Bond to, and agreement with me, at the time I relinquished all my right to & property in the Dower Estate except the Negros under that description which I had on my Estate of Mount Vernon. At the time of Bargaining, I gave him all the Horses & impliments of Husbandry at the Plantation; but he was to pay for the stock of every kind which should be found thereon, at such rates as Colo. Bassett might affix to them—47 of the Cattle however he removed to his seat in Farifax before any valuation was made—the remainder was appraised by Colo. Bassett on the 21st of December in that year (1778) in the manner, & to the amount of the inclosed list. the 47 head also included in this list, was valued the September following at the rate of £40 pr head by Colo. Bassett. in consequence I suppose, of the depreciation. but to this Mr Custis objected, on account he alledged of the extravagent price which by the by appeared only so in sound—however as I wanted nothing more than the real value, & was perswaded he meant to do me justice, I wrote him that the matter might be settled in any manner consistently with these views. so the matter (I believe) has rested ever since.
Thus my dear Sir have I given you every information in my power respecting the State of my Accts with Mr Custis—When I get, & can send you the accts which I am now writing to Mr Lund Washington for, you will have the whole matter as fully before you as it is in my power to place it.
If the Legislature of Virga will not put it in the power of Individuals to recover Debts, it would be extremely hard upon Mr Custis’s Heirs to have their property sold to discharge his; when there are such ample means to do it without; if they could be got at. & when, if property was to be sold on credit, their might be the same difficulty to obtain the money arising from the Sales, as there is to come at that wch is already due. As the Assembly has called in all the Paper Money, it can no longer I presume be a tender; but if the case had been otherwise the mere attempt to do it is so incompatible with my ideas of common honesty & is of so fraudulant a nature that I should have advised the refusal of it in every instance. The Articles which you propose to sell, to wit, Horses & Mares, can well be spared; for I think they contribute more to the amusement than profit of the Raiser at any time, & without the latter their can be no plea for the former in the Instance before us. without the Household furniture Mrs Custis cannot do, this therefore ought not be sold.
I had no particular reason for keeping & handing down to his Son the Books of the late Colo. Custis, saving, that I thought it would be taking the advantage of a low appraisement to make them my own property at it; and that to sell them was not an object, as they might be useful to him. how far these considerations should weigh at a time when money is wanting, you are the best Judge of. I am exceedingly glad to hear that you found your family well on your return from Fairfax, & that yr own health was improved by the Trip. Yr Sister joins me in the most affecte manr to all Friends, & I am most Sincerly Yrs
DLC: Papers of George Washington.
Decr 21st 1778.
|20||Heifers & Steers||at||8||160|
|200||feet of Stacks||100|
|9000||bundles of fodder||90|
|Wheat & Oat Straw||30|
|*||47||head of Cattle||£||40||1880|
N.B. The above is copied literally from a Paper inclosed in Colo. Bassetts Letter to me of the 8th of Sep: 1779.
|18||Young Cows from 3 to 4 years old common breed & small.|
|1||four years old Heifer English Breed|
|4||three years Do Do|
|11||two years—Do Do|
|3||three years Do Steers|
|10||best work Oxen|
The prices of the Articles on the other side according to the Continental Scale of depreciation will stand thus.
|20||Heifers & Steers||160||25.||4.||7|
|200||feet of Stacks||100||15.||15.||4|
|Wheat & oat Straw||30||4.||14.||7|
|47||head of Cattle||1880||104.||6.||7|