Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO CAPTAIN JOHN POSEY. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. II (1758-1775)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO CAPTAIN JOHN POSEY. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.