Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1767. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. II (1758-1775)
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1767. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. II (1758-1775) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. II (1758-1775).
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TO CAPTAIN JOHN POSEY.
Mount Vernon, 24 June, 1767.
It is difficult for me to tell which was greatest; my surprise or concern at finding by your letter of the 20th that instead of being able with the money I agreed to lie somewhat longer out of to discharge your debts, that you wanted to borrow a further sum of £500 to answer this purpose. I was in hopes, and you gave me the strongest assurance to believe, that when I lent you (and very inconvenient it was for me to do it) the first sum of £700, you could therewith not only discharge all your creditors, but in two years time sink the principal, which was lent to effect that end. How it comes to pass then, that instead of being prepared in twice two years to discharge my claim, you should require £500 more to satisfy others, is, as I at first said, entirely beyond my comprehension, and leaves but too much cause to apprehend that if you could be supplied with the further sum required, it would afford but temporary relief, and that, at the end of any other prefixed period, you would be as unprepared, and as reluctantly then as now part with your effects to discharge this debt, thinking it equally hard to be forced into compliance. For permit me to say again, if you have not been able in the course of four years to lay up any thing towards sinking even the interest of a sum which you said would entirely clear you of all demands, what prospect can you possibly have to expect when £500 more (and probably this would be insufficient) is added to the other score of between eight and nine hundred, that you will have it in your power to effect this end, when even the interest thereof is a pretty little income, and would be such a moth in your estate as would inevitably destroy it, be your notions of saving and industry extended to never so high a degree. Indeed, Sir, the only purpose it could possibly answer would be to put the evil day off for a moment in comparison, and then like most things swelled beyond their natural bounds, burst upon you like a torrent and redouble your distresses. Besides you really deceive yourself greatly in estimating your effects, as you will unhappily experience. You have viewed them but on one side, considering only what they cost you, not what they will sell at, which is a delusive way of calculating. For you will find that many things which you perhaps have lavished large sums in the purchase of, in order to gratify your own taste, will neither suit, nor probably please others. So in respect to buildings which are rarely considered in the purchase of lands, and principally I presume from the same causes, especially upon small bits of land divested of wood and timber.
I wish with all my heart you may be strengthened by some able and friendly hand in such a manner as to keep your effects together, provided it may turn to your future good in enabling you to work thro’ the load of debt you seem to be entangled in; but that it is entirely out of my power, without selling part of my own estate, to contribute further thereto, you may easily be convinced of when I tell you, and affirm it, that I find it next to impossible to extract any part of the money which is due to me; that I have struggled to the utmost of my power for two years past unsuccessfully, to raise four or five hundred pounds to lend a very particular friend of mine, who I know must sell part of his estate without it; and that I have not yet discharged the sums you involved me in the payment of before, having my bond out to Mr. Green’s estate for the £260 you borrowed of him. I cannot raise money to discharge it, altho’ I have used my true endeavors for that purpose. Add to these some engagements of my own which there is a necessity of complying with, or doing acts of injustice.
How absurd and idle would it be then, under these circumstances, to enter myself security for the payment of your debts, unless I foresaw some prospect of raising the money. True it is, some of your creditors might agree to wait; others, ’tis presumeable, would not, and certain it is pay day must come to all. What then is to be done? To tell a man who had been disappointed from time to time, and at last had waited in confidence of receiving his money from me, that I was unprovided with the means of satisfying his demand, would be galling to me, unjust to him, and what I can by no means think of practising. The only favor, therefore, that is in my power to shew you, is to be easy and forbearing in my own demands, which I shall endeavor to do as long as I can with any sort of convenience to myself, notwithstanding I am in want of the money. And to point out any person who could lend so much money even if they liked the security, I am equally at a loss to do. But few there are, I believe, who would choose to risk their money (unless influenced by motives of compassion) upon such hazardous and perishable articles as negroes, stock and chattels, which are to be swept off by innumerable distempers and subject to many accidents and misfortunes. So upon the whole you will excuse me I hope if I am inclined to offer you the same advice I would give to my brother were he under the same circumstances, and that is, if you find it impracticable to keep your estate together for at least three or four years, till the country, I mean the indebted part of it, can emerge a little from the distress it must unavoidably fall into from the pressing of creditors and want of cash, then to sell off immediately (I mean this fall at furthest) before cash grows into greater demand, which it inevitably will do as our currency is called in, and every thing of consequence sell worse; therewith discharging all your debts, beginning with the sales of such things as can be best spared, and so raising to negroes, and even land if requisite. For if the whole should go, there is a large field before you, an opening prospect in the back country for adventurers, where numbers resort to, and where an enterprising man with very little money may lay the foundation of a noble estate in the new settlements upon Monongahela for himself and posterity. The surplus money which you might save after discharging your debts would possibly secure you as much land as in the course of twenty years would sell for five times your present estate. For proof of which, only look to Frederick, and see what fortunes were made by the Hite’s and first taking up of those lands. Nay, how the greatest estates we have in this colony were made. Was it not by taking up and purchasing at very low rates the rich back lands, which were thought nothing of in those days, but are now the most valuable lands we possess? Undoubtedly it was, and to pursue this plan is the advice I would offer my brother were he in your situation; but to you I only drop it as a hint for your serious reflection, because I do not expect, nor would by any means wish, to see you adopt any scheme of mine without duly attending to it, weighing, and well considering of it in all points, and advising with your friends. I would only ask whether it would be better to labor under a load of debt where you are, which must inevitably keep you in continual anxiety and dread of your creditors, be selling the produce of your labour at under value (the never failing consequence of necessitous circumstances), with other evils too obvious to need enumeration, and which must forever lend a helping hand to keep you low and distressed; or to pluck up resolution at once and disengage yourself of those incumbrances and vexations, abiding where you are if you can save your land and have a prospect of reaping future advantages from it, or to remove back, where there is a moral certainty of laying the foundation of good estates to your children—I say I would but ask which of these two is the best, and leave you to think of them at leisure, with the assurance on my part, that what I have propounded to you on this subject proceeds from the utmost sincerity and candor, and if you will have recourse to the publick Gazettes, you may perceive by the number of estates which are continually advertising for sale, that you are not the only one under misfortune, and that many good families are retiring into the interior parts of the country for the benefit of their children. Some of the best gentlemen in this country talk of doing so, who are not drove by necessity, but adopt the scheme from principles of gain. Whatever resolution you may come to, I wish you success in it.
TO WILLIAM CRAWFORD.1
Mount Vernon, 21 September, 1767.
From a sudden hint of your brother Val., I wrote to you a few days ago in a hurry, since which having had more time for reflection, I am now set down in order to write more deliberately, and with greater precision, to you on the subject of my last letter; desiring that if any thing in this should be found contradictory to that letter, you will wholly be governed by what I am now going to add.
I then desired the favor of you (as I understood rights might now be had for the lands, which have fallen within the Pennsylvania line,) to look me out a tract of about fifteen hundred, two thousand, or more acres somewhere in your neighborhood, meaning only by this that it may be as contiguous to your own settlement, as such a body of good land could be found and about Jacobs Cabins, or somewhere on those waters. I am told this might be done. It will be easy for you to conceive, that ordinary or even middling land would never answer my purpose or expectation, so far from navigation, and under such a load of expenses, as these lands are encumbered with. No; a tract to please me must be rich, (of which no person can be a better judge than yourself,) and, if possible, to be good and level. Could such a piece of land as this be found, you would do me a singular favor in falling upon some method to secure it immediately from the attempts of any other, as nothing is more certain, than that the lands cannot remain long ungranted, when once it is known, that rights are to be had for them.
What mode of proceeding is necessary in order to accomplish this design I am utterly at a loss to point out to you; but, as your own lands are under the same circumstances, self-interest will naturally lead you to an inquiry. I am told, that the land or surveyor’s office is kept at Carlisle. If so, I am of opinion that Colonel Armstrong, (an acquaintance of mine,) has something to do in the management of it, and I am persuaded would readily serve me. To him therefore at all events I will write by the first opportunity on that subject, that the way may be prepared for your application, if you should find it necessary to make one to him. Whatever trouble and expense you may be engaged in on my behalf, you may depend upon being thankfully repaid. It is possible, (but I do not know that it really is the case,) that Pennsylvania customs will not admit so large a quantity of land, as I require, to be entered together; if so, this may possibly be evaded by making several entries to the same amount, if the expense of doing which is not too heavy. But this I only drop as a hint, leaving the whole to your discretion and good management. If the land can only be secured from others, it is all I want at present. The surveying I would choose to postpone, at least till the spring, when, if you can give me any satisfactory account of this matter, and of what I am next going to propose, I expect to pay you a visit about the last of April.
The other matter, just now hinted at and which I proposed in my last to join you, in attempting to secure some of the most valuable lands in the King’s part, which I think may be accomplished after a while, notwithstanding the proclamation, that restrains it at present, and prohibits the settling of them at all; for I can never look upon that proclamation in any other light (but this I say between ourselves), than as a temporary expedient to quiet the minds of the Indians, and must fall, of course, in a few years, especially when those Indians are consenting to our occupying the lands.1 Any person, therefore, who neglects the present opportunity of hunting out good lands, and in some measure marking and distinguishing them for his own, (in order to keep others from settling them), will never regain it. Therefore if you will be at the trouble of seeking out the lands, I will take upon me the part of securing them, so soon as there is a possibility of doing it, and will moreover be at all the cost and charges of surveying, and patenting &c, after which you shall have such a reasonable proportion of the whole, as we may fix upon at our first meeting; as I shall find it absolutely necessary, and convenient for the better furthering of the design, to let some few of my friends be concerned in the scheme, and who must also partake of the advantages.
By this time it may be easy for you to discover, that my plan is to secure a good deal of land. You will consequently come in for a very handsome quantity; and as you will obtain it without any costs, or expenses, I am in hopes you will be encouraged to begin the search in time. I would choose, if it were practicable, to get large tracts together; and it might be desirable to have them as near your settlement, or Fort Pitt, as we could get them good, but not to neglect others at a greater distance, if fine bodies of it lie in a place. It may be a matter worthy your inquiry, to find out how the Maryland back line will run, and what is said about laying off Neale’s (I think it is & Co’s) grant.1 I will inquire particularly concerning the Ohio Company’s that one may know what to apprehend from them. For my own part, I should have no objection to a grant of land upon the Ohio, a good way below Pittsburg, but would willingly secure some good tracts nearer hand first.
I would recommend, it to you to keep this whole matter a secret, or trust it only with those, in whom you can confide, and who can assist you in bringing it to bear by their discoveries of land. And this advice proceeds from several very good reasons, and, in the first place, because I might be censured for the opinion I have given in respect to the King’s proclamation, and then, if the scheme I am now proposing to you was known, it might give the alarm to others, and, by putting them upon a plan of the same nature, (before we could lay a proper foundation for success ourselves,) set the different interests a clashing, and, probably, in the end, overturn the whole. All which may be avoided by a silent management, and the [operation] snugly carried on by you under the guise of hunting other game, which you may, I presume, effectually do, at the same time you are in pursuit of land, which when fully discovered, advise me of it, and if there appears but a bare possibility of succeeding any time hence, I will have the lands immediately surveyed, to keep others off, and leave the rest to time and my own assiduity to accomplish.
If this letter should reach your hands before you set out, I should be glad to have your thoughts fully expressed on the plan I have proposed, or as soon afterwards as conveniently may be; as I am desirous of knowing in time how you approve of the scheme. I am, &c.
TO COLONEL ARMSTRONG.
Mt. Vernon, 21 September, 1767.
Since I had the pleasure of seeing you at the Warm Springs, I have been informed that much of the land upon Yaughyaughany and Monongahela, which was formerly conceived to lie within the limits of Virginia, and on which many of our people have settled, are taken into Pennslyvania by the established line now running between that Province and Maryland, and that grants may at any time be obtained from the Proprietary for tracts on these waters; and being [informed], moreover, that the office from whence these rights are to issue is kept at Carlyle, it immediately occurred from what you were telling me of the nature of your office, that I could apply to none so properly as yourself for the truth of these reports, it appearing but probable that you were the very person with whom entries were made.
I have therefore taken the liberty, Sir, of addressing this letter to you on the subject of these enquiries, and to request the further favor of you to advise me of the mode of proceeding in order to take up un-granted land in your Province; what quantity of acres will be admitted into a survey; whether a person is restricted in respect to the quantity of land and number of surveys; if the surveys are required to be laid in any particular form; or optional in the taker up to lay them as the nature and goodness of the land and water courses may point out to him? What the expence of patenting these lands amount to per thousand acres? and what the annual rents are fixed at afterwards? Together with any other useful hints which may occur to you for my information and government, as I would most willingly possess some of those lands which we have labored and toiled so hard to conquer.
I have desired one, Mr. William Crawford, who lives upon Yaughyaughany, a friend of mine and, I believe, an acquaintance of yours, as he was an officer in my regiment and in General Forbes’ campaign, to look me [out] a tract of about 2000 acres and endeavor to secure it till he can give me advice of it. I have likewise taken the liberty of saying to him that I was fully pursuaded if the Land office were kept in Carlyle, and you had any share in the management of it, that you would do me the favor of giving him any assistance in your power consistent with the rules of office; and for such assistance, Sir, after thankfully acknowledging myself your debtor would punctually [reimburse you] with any expence that might arise on my account so soon as I could be advised thereof.
I heartily wish that Mrs. Armstrong and yourself may find all the good effects from the waters of the Frederick Springs that you could desire.
TO CAPTAIN JOHN POSEY.
Mt. Vernon, 24 September, 1767.
Having received your letter of Wednesday last and to day, it appears very clear to me from them, as well as from some other convincing circumstances that you are not only reduced to the last shifts yourself, but are determined to involve me in a great deal of perplexity and distress on your account also. Why else will you press so hard upon me to do more than I have already done, and consented to do, in waiting two years longer for my money, when it is not only inconvenient, but very disadvantageous also for me to do so, and when I have informed you as every body else I suppose may also do, that the security I have upon your lands and slaves is only answerable for the £750 lent and interest. Besides, when the nature of that security is considered, and how much people may differ in their valuations of it, it is not to be wondered at that I should be so unwilling as to risk any thing more thereon. For in the first place I do not value your six acres bought of Marshall with the improvements to any thing at all, for reasons already known to you. True it is, if Mr. West should recover from you, you may have a remedy against Mr. Marshall, but in how ample a manner is in the breast of other men to determine. In the next place, you rate the land bought of my brother and the improvements to near £700. This at best is only worth what it will fetch, and if it sells for half that sum, I will acknowledge myself extremely mistaken. In the last place, by the estimate you sent me some time ago of your estate, you value the negroes you were then possessed of to £900 and upwards. Suppose, for argument sake they were worth this, does not every body know that the small pox, gaol fever and many other malignant disorders may sweep the greatest part of them off? Where then is the security? And while I am mentioning this matter, it is highly necessary to inquire what is become of Henley, Jacob, Winney, Sylvia, Lett, Sarah, Nan and Henrietta Farthing, Negroes contained in your bill of sale to me, but which I see nothing of in the estimate above mentioned.
Thus much I have said on a supposition that I was acting as a money lender only, and was looking for clear and indisputable surety; but in truth the prospect of gain and advantage to myself was not the motive that led me to advance you this money. ’Twas done to serve your family, and if possible to save your estate from dispersion, while there remained a probability of doing it. The same motive, therefore, (and depend upon it, it is a friendly one,) inclines me to ask what possible reason you can have for thinking that by delaying the sale of some part of your effects, and taking up more money upon interest, will better your fortune, when you are adding to the load of debt by accumulating interest? I should be glad in the next place to know if you have ever considered the consequences of borrowing the money upon the terms you say Colo. Mason will lend it? and surely you have not. To stave off the dreadful hour of resigning part of your possessions into the hands of your creditors, engrosses too much of your thoughts. Do not understand by this that I mean to cast any reflection upon Colo. Mason. No, he tells you in express terms and with candor that he is waiting for an opportunity of making a purchase which when accomplished, he must have his money again, giving you three or four months’ notice. It is likely therefore that he may call for it in six months as in a longer time, because the distress of the country and number of estates which are daily advertising afford great prospect of purchasing to advantage. What then is to be done in this case? One of these three things certainly: either that Colo. Mason must wait till he can recover his debt in a course of law, by which means your own, as well as the honor of your bondsman must suffer; or that the security must pay the money out of his own pocket, which perhaps might reduce him to the utmost distress; or lastly, that your negroes must be immediately exposed to sale for ready money after short notice (whereas they might now be sold on credit for perhaps at least 25 per cent more,) in order to raise this sum, and this probably in the midst of a crop. These being things worthy of consideration, I would recommend them to your serious reflection, before you finally determine.
Was the money to be had of those who prefer lending it on interest to other methods of disposing of it, and you had in the first place a prospect of keeping of it for some time, and in the next a moral certainty of raising the sum with the interest by the expiration of it, there would then be a propriety in your borrowing, and I should feel pleasure in procuring it to you; but really I cannot see that you have any one good end to answer by it. On the contrary, I am much misinformed if you were to get £300 to morrow to stop suits and demands that are already commenced, if there would not be £300 more wanting in less than six months for the same purpose. So that there appears no probability of its happily ending, for as to your promising, or expecting to do this and that, you must give me leave to say that it is works and not words that people will judge from, and where one man deceives another from time to time, his word being disregarded, all confidence is lost.
However, after having endeavored to let you see in what light this matter appears to me, and to set forth the evil consequences of taking money upon these terms, I shall conclude with telling you that if you are absolutely determined to prefer this method to any other of procuring present relief, I will become your security to Colo. Mason for three hundred pounds, on condition that you do at the same time add other things to my present security that are under no incumbrance to any person what so ever, and allow me the absolute right and privilege (as you yourself proposed) of disposing of them for ready money, to answer Colo. Mason’s demand whensoever made, and that some lawyer (Mr. Ellzey I would choose) should draw a bill of sale or instrument of writing to this purpose, without running me to any cost, that may be authentick and binding. But I once more caution you against a measure of this kind, as it may be destructive of your estate, inasmuch as the money can be paid no otherwise than by an immediate sale of your effects (when called for), and I can see no benefit that will result from the protection. It is from these reasons, and a conviction that you will as unwilling then as now part from your estate, that I dread the consequences of joining you in such a bond, knowing that after all I have [done] or can do, more will still be required, and as little content given. This makes me ardently wish that some person or other would take up my security and pay me the money, that I might be entirely clear of it, for I do not want to avail myself of any sort of advantages.
P. S. I have this instant been informed that you have declared you paid me all you owed me except about £20. Does such disingenuity as this deserve any favour at my hands? I think any body might readily answer for you, no.
[1 ]Mr. Crawford had been a captain in General Forbes’s campaign, and was now settled on Youghiogany River. He was afterwards a colonel in the Revolutionary war, and served on the frontiers. In the summer of 1782, he commanded an expedition into the Ohio country against the Indians, where, after a hard-fought battle, he was taken prisoner, and tortured to death in a most cruel and shocking manner. He had approved himself an officer of merit, judicious, intrepid, and possessing much skill in Indian warfare. In May, 1778, he took command of the regiment at Pittsburg. General Washington, in writing at that time to the Board of War, said,—“I know him to be a brave and active officer, and of considerable influence upon the western frontier of Virginia.”
[1 ]The proclamation of October 7, 1763, was issued to quiet the two principal causes of discontent among the Indians: the encroachments of settlers upon lands claimed by the tribes, and the abuses committed by Indian traders and their servants. This proclamation restrained all persons from trading with the Indians without a license, and prohibited all settlements beyond the limits described as the boundary of the Indian hunting ground, thus putting both the property and the commerce of the natives under the protection of officers acting under the immediate authority of the king. Washington was undoubtedly correct in his estimation of this edict, for the Commissioners of Trade, in their report on Indian Affairs in 1769 characterized it as “mere provisional arrangements, adapted to the exigence of the time.” Pennsylvania Archives, iv., 315. Similar views were generally entertained. Chancellor Livingston in a letter to Dr. Franklin, respecting the conditions of peace, previous to the treaty of 1783, said:—“Virginia, even after the proclamation of 1763, patented considerable tracts on the Ohio, far beyond the Appalachian mountains. It is true, the several governments were prohibited at different times from granting lands beyond certain limits; but these were clearly temporary restrictions, which the policy of maintaining a good understanding with the natives dictated, and were always broken through after a short period as is evinced by the grants above mentioned, made subsequent to the proclamation of 1763.” Livingston to Franklin, 7 January, 1782. Diplomatic Correspondence of the Revolution, ii., 195.
[1 ]“As to Neale and Company’s grant, it was laid on the fork of Monangahela and Youghiogheny, which, if Pennsylvania takes in this region in its charter, will include it at any rate.” Crawford to Washington, September 29, 1767. Mason and Dixon were at this time engaged in running the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The controversy between Virginia and Maryland, as to the western boundary of the latter, has never been determined, the “first fountain of the Potomac” having proved too indefinite a description.