Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779)
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TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VII (1778-1779) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VII (1778-1779).
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TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Fredg.,in ye State of N. York,
I have now, at your request, given my full consent to the Sale of the Lands which I hold, in right of Dower, in a Tract in the County of York; to a Water Grist mill thereon; To lotts in the City of Williamsburg, and others in Jamestown; as also to yr. Renting or otherwise disposing of ye other Dower Land and Slaves which I am possessed of in the County of King William, upon the terms which have been specifically agreed and subscribed to. But I should think myself wanting in that friendship and regard which I have ever professed for and endeavored to evince toward you, were I to withhold my advice from you with respect to the disposal of them.
A moment’s reflection must convince you of two things; first, that Lands are of permanent value; that there is scarce a possibility of their falling in price, but almost a moral certainty of their rising exceedingly in value. And, secondly, that our Paper currency is fluctuating, that it has depreciated considerably, and that no human foresight can, with precision, tell how low it may get, as the rise, or fall of it depends upon contingencies which the utmost stretch of human sagacity can neither foresee nor prevent. These positions being granted and no one can gainsay the justice of them, it follows that, by parting from your Lands, you give a certainty for an uncertainty, because it is not the nominal Price—It is not ten, fifteen or twenty pounds an acre—but the relative value of this sum to specie, or something of substantial worth, that is to constitute a good price. The inference, therefore, I mean to draw, and the advice I shall give in consequence of it, is this, that you do not convert the Lands you now hold into Cash faster than your present contract with the Alexanders, and a certain prospect of again vesting it in other lands more convenient, requires of you. This will be treading upon sure ground. It will enable you to discharge contracts already entered into, and, in effect, exchange Land for Land; for it is a matter of moonshine to you, considered in that point of view, how much the money depreciates, if you can discharge one pound with another pound, and get Land of equal value to that you sell. But far different from this is the case of those who sell for Cash and keep that Cash by them, put it to interest, or receive it in annual payments; for, in either of these cases, if our currency should unfortunately continue to depreciate in the manner it has done, in the course of the last two years, a pound may not, in the space of two years more, be worth a shilling, the difference of which becomes a clear loss to the possessor and evinces, in a clear point of view the force and efficacy of my advice to you to pay debts, and vest it in something that will retain its primitive value; or rather, in your case, not to part with that thing for money, unless it be with a view to the Investing it in something of equal value; and it accounts at the same time, for the principal upon which I act with respect to my own Interest in the Dower Lands; for I should be wanting to myself, and guilty of an inexcusable act of remission and crimin’l injustice to your mother not to secure an equivalent for her releasement of Dower; and this might be the case of a nominal sum that had no relative value to the thing in question, and which, eventually might be a means of giving away the Estate; for it is not the number of Pounds, but the worth, and what they will fetch, that is to stamp the value of them. Four hundred Pounds in Paper Dollars now is, and I suppose, at the time of parting with this dower, may be worth one hundred pounds in specie; but, two years hence, one hundred pounds in specie, may be worth, and will fetch, one thousand pounds of paper. It can not be reasonable or just, therefore, to expect that I, or your mother (if she should be the survivor) should lose this, when no person, I believe, will undertake to give it as an opinion that the value of the Dower will decrease, but the direct contrary, as lands are increasing in their price every day. This, if you follow the advice here given, can not be the case with you, let money depreciate as it will, because with a pound you pay a pound in discharge of a purchase already made, and for those to be made you can regulate your sales by your purchases.
It may be said that our money will recover a proper tone again, and in that case it would be an advantage to turn Lands, &c, into cash for the benefit of the rise. In answer to this, I shall only observe that this is a lottery; that it may or may not, happen; that, if it should happen, you have lost nothing; if it should not, you have saved your Estate, which in the other case, might have been sunk. Hence it appears that you may play a good and sure game, so far as it relates to yourself, and, so far as it respects me, the advantage is wholly on your side; for instance, if the difference between specie and paper at this time is as four to one, and next year is eight to one, it makes no difference to you, because the presumption is that same Tobo., corn, and other produce, will rise in proportion to the fall of money, and fetch in quantity what it lacks in quality. But, on the other hand, if the Exch. was to be fixed at the present difference of four to one, and should hereafter become as one to one, that is equal, I should get four times as much as I am content to receive, and you would lose it; from hence, as before, you may gain and can not lose, while I get the simple value of the Estate, and can neither gain or lose, which is all I aim at by fixing the value of the dower in specie, to be discharged in any money currt. in the Country at the time of payment, at the prevailing Exchange or difference between specie and paper.
It may possibly be said that this is setting up a distinction between Specie and Paper, and will contribute to its depreciation. I ask if there is a man in the United States that does not make a distinction when four to one is the difference, and whether it is in the power of an individual to check this when Congress, and the several assemblies, are found unequal to the task? Not to require, or contract for, the actual payment in Specie, but to keep this as much out of sight as possible, in common cases that are to have an immediate operation, is all that can be expected; but in a bargain that may exist for twenty years, there should be something to insure mutual advantage, which advantage, though every man can judge of in the transactions of a day, no man can do it when it is to be extended to years, under the present fluctuating state of our Paper Bills of Credit.
My design in being thus particular with you, is to answer two purposes: first, to show my ideas of the impropriety of parting with your own Lands faster than you can vest the money in other lands (comprehending those already purchased); and secondly, to evince to you the propriety of my own conduct in securing to myself and your mother the intrinsic value, neither more nor less, of the Dower Estate.
I have only one piece of advice more to give, and that is, to aim rather at the Exchange than Sale of your Lands; and I think, among those Gentn. mentioned in a former letter, you may find chapmen.
I am with very sincere regard, &c.