Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BENJAMIN DULANY. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO BENJAMIN DULANY. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
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TO BENJAMIN DULANY.
Mount Vernon, 17 November, 1781.
I learn from Mr. Lund Washington, that the land formerly belonging to Mr. Manley2 is again about to be offered for sale, and that you and I are like to be the only competitors in the purchase of it. That I often treated with Mr. Manley in his lifetime, and since his death with his executors for that tract is a fact which cannot be unknown to you; equally true is it, that if the Land is exposed to public sale, I shall bid for it, as far as I think it is worth, but no farther, and as men set different values upon the same thing according to the lights in which it strikes them, and their own mode of estimating its value, it is not at all unlikely but that you may be the purchaser. In the present case, however, I ever was, and still am willing to give the full value of the land; and as a proof of it, should have no objection to the price being fixed by three honest and judicious men, to be indifferently chosen. This I wou’d give.
Having premised this thing, the intention of this letter is to make you a proposition, and explain my motives for it; which, if acceded to, may smooth every difficulty, and prove convenient and beneficial to all parties. It is to purchase the reversion of your land in this neck, at the same time I make that of Mr. Manley’s, if it is for sale. You are, doubtless, well acquainted with the circumstance of this tract, held by Mrs. French; but as no man can have a more perfect knowledge of it than I have, I think myself fully warranted in asserting that in less than ten years from this date, there will be no support to the plantation, and that without the aid of my woodland, it cannot be maintained.
If my reasons are asked, I will add: that, to say nothing of the Plantation itself, great part of which is old and much worn, the present fencing cannot last long; that one half of the plantation at this moment is dependent upon me, for the means of enclosing it; that though I have not a disposition to be unneighborly, by depriving Mrs. French, or you, of the use of my fences, yet this may not be the case with those who follow me; that the woodland for fire and timber, bears no proportion to the quantity of cleared land; and, as has been observed before, will not support the plantation in these articles but a few years longer, especially if all those long lines of fencing which are furnished by me, should be shifted, as is very commonly the case where fields are changed; and, that to depend upon the fencing of another for inclosures, is working land upon a very uncertain tenure, and at too great a hazard to be warranted by prudence; as ill-nature, or even necessity may expose the crops.
That these are facts uncontrovertible, and the reasoning upon them conclusive, none can deny. I mention them to prove, first, that at the same time I discover an inclination to purchase the reversion of your land, I know what value to set on it; and secondly, as an indisputable evidence that sooner or later (if you cannot get some of my woodland) you will, for want of timber and firing, be obliged to part with it to those who have it. And that this must be done to a very great disadvantage, when the period of that necessity is absolutely felt, and the land is more exhausted, is evident to common sense.
It may be asked, why, under these disadvantages, I would choose to be the purchaser? The answer is plain, and I shall candidly give it to you: For besides having timber to supply all the wants of your land, it is my wish, altho’ it shou’d not fall into my hands immediately, to have in expectation, by reversion, all the lands in this Neck, that I may without loss of time, proceed to the enclosing of it by a large ditch, and strong post rail fence on the outer boundary of it. This, Sir, and the prospect of having the exclusive possession of the whole neck, I declare to you upon my honor, are my motives for buying. It is not the real want of land (for I have already more than I have hands to work) nor the extraordinary value of this tract that prompts me to the measure. From a full conviction that I cannot in the course of nature, remain long upon this theater, I have a desire to see such things as are within my reach, accomplished as soon as possible. On this principle it is, I shall go as far to purchase Mr. Manley’s land as I can conceive it is worth. If the prospect of long life was before me, and I had a mind to play the politician, it would be my interest to let Mr. Manley’s land fall into your hands without a single bid for it on my part; because having a scarcity of fencing yourself, and his land, I believe, not a stick of timber upon it, it would so much increase the demand upon the little you have, as to involve at an earlier period, the consequence I have foretold.
Having dealt thus freely and frankly in describing the true situation and circumstances of these lands, and my motives to purchase them, I shall conclude with repeating that I will take the land of Mr. Manley at the price any three honest and judicious men, indifferently chosen, shall fix upon it. That I will do the same thing with respect to yours, if you incline to sell, or if you will fix the price yourself (having a just regard to the quality and circumstances of the land) I will give it, without haggling; an allowance being made by men of judgment, conversant in these things for Mrs. French’s life, if she chooses to hold it.
I shall offer no apology for making you these proposals. My meaning is good, and my offers are generous. They will stand the test of examination; and it is my wish, that all the parties concerned (vizt. Mrs. Dulany, Mrs. French, and Mr. Triplet, executor of Mr. Manley) may be consulted. If my proposals and observations are good, they will be struck with the force of them; if they are not, my mistake arises from viewing things in a wrong point of view.
I persuade myself that there is too much liberality in your way of thinking to suppose, that because I have frankly declared my motives for making these proposals, and have made generous offers towards purchasing your land, that I shall set no bounds to my prices, in order to obtain it. I as frankly declare, that this is not my intention. I will give the full value, but no more. The whole tenor of my conduct hitherto in this business must have evinced this, and will more than probably convince Mr. Barry (or rather Mr. Wren his oracle) who was ever afraid to accept the price that was offered for his land, lest more could be had,—of the folly and impolicy of a narrow way of thinking, and give him cause, if I should withhold the same offer in future, to accompany it with repentance. I am &c.1
[2 ]Harrison Manley.
[1 ]Although the offer appears to have been accepted, and three gentlemen appointed as arbitrators, it was not until January, 1787, that I find a transfer to Washington by William Triplet, executor of Harrison Manley, of 142 acres, purchased at £3 the acre. In January, 1786, Dulany became a tenant of Washington, but Washington paid to Mrs. Penl. French, in the year 1787, a rent of £136 for her plantation and negroes, and the same rental was paid in 1788, 1789, and 1790.