Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO HENRY L. CHARTON. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
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TO HENRY L. CHARTON. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO HENRY L. CHARTON.
Mount Vernon, 20th May, 1786.
The letter which you did me the favor to write to me from Philadelphia on the 5th inst. came safely to hand, and I should have given it an earlier acknowledgment had not frequent calls from home, & unavoidable business prevented it.
I do not perceive, upon recurring to the subject, that I can be more explicit in the description of my Lands on the Big Kanhawa, & on the Ohio between the two Kanhawas, than I was when I had the pleasure of seeing you at this place.—If I recollect rightly I then informed you, that from the accounts given me of them by the Surveyor; from what I had seen of them myself, (especially the tract on the big Kanhawa) from every other source of information, & from my best knowledge & belief, there can be no finer land in that or any other country; or lands more abounding in natural advantages.
The whole of them are washed by the rivers I have mentioned—are furnished with land streams fit for water works of various kinds—stored with meadow ground wch. may be reclaimed in the cheapest & most expeditious manner imaginable, (by only cutting away trifling banks of earth, which have been formed by the Beaver) and abound in fish & wild fowl of all kinds, as well as every other sort of game with which the country is filled. With respect to the quality of the soil, it may be conceived that none can exceed it when I relate a single fact, namely, that it was the first choice of the whole country thereabouts, after a thorough research of it by an excellent judge, the late Colo. Crawford.
As to the situation of them, none can be more advantageous; for living about midway between the upper & lower settlements on the Ohio, the trade must pass within sight of those Lands, whilst the occupants of them, equally convenient to both might embrace the inland navigation of either Potomac or James river, as soon as they are made to communicate with the Western waters; which no doubt will soon be effected. I think too, I should not be mistaken were I to add that ere long a town of some importance will be established in the vicinity of them—viz—at the confluence of the big Kanhawa & Ohio; which is the point at which the trade to Richmond, & that which is carried to the northern parts of this State, & to Maryland & Pennsylvania, must separate. But to go into a more minute detail in writing of what has before been the subject of oral conversation, would be more tiresome than interesting; especially as it is by no means my wish that any purchase, whatever—should rely upon my accot. of this matter, or on those of any others—but judge for himself or themselves, in all things.
When you asked me if I was disposed to sell these Lands, I answered and truly that I had never had it in contemplation, because I well knew they would rise more in value than the purchase money at the present time would accumulate by interest; consequently under these circumstances it would be difficult in the present moment to fix on a price which would be acceded to, that would be an equivalent for them hereafter. However as I had no family, wished to live easy & to spend the remainder of my days with as little trouble as possible, I said I would part with them if a good price could be obtained; and that my sense of their value might easily be ascertained by the terms on which I had proposed to rent them (& which I think you told me you had seen). One of which, amounting in fact to an absolute sale, being on a Lease of 999 years, renewable, was at ten pounds this currency per hundred acres, which at 5 p. ct.—(the legal interest in this State), would have come to 40s. like money pr. acre for the land on purchase; but I added, that if any one person, or sett of men would take the whole, I would make the terms of payment easy and abate considerably in the price. I therefore now inform you that the lands (the patents & plats of which I shewed you) the titles to which are uncontrollable—free from those clashing interests and jarring disputes with which much of the property in that country is replete, are in quantities & situation as follows—
1st.—2314, on the Ohio river three or four miles below the mouth of the little Kanhawa.
2d.—2448 acres on the said river abt. sixteen miles below the former.
3d.—4395 acres on Ditto, just above the great bend in it & below the other two.
4th.—10,990—on the big Kanhawa (west side) beginning within two or three miles of its conflux with the Ohio & extending up the former 17 miles.
5th.—7,276 acres a little above this on the East side of the same river Kanhawa.
6th.—2000 acres higher up the Kanhawa (west side) in the fork between Coal river and it.
7th.—2950 acres, opposite thereto, on the East side. In all 32,373 acres on both rivers.
For these lands I would take Thirty thousand English guineas (of the proper weight) or other specie current in the country, at its equivalent value.—Two thousand five hundred of which to be paid at the execution of the Deeds & the remainder in seven years therefrom with an interest of five pr. ct. pr. ann. regularly paid at my seat ’till the principal shall be discharged.
I am not inclined to part with any of these Lands, as an inducement to settle the rest. My mind is so well satisfied of the superior value of them to most others, that there remains no doubt on it of my obtaining my own terms as the country populates and the situation & local advantages of them unfold. These terms have already been promulgated, but I have not a copy of them by me, or I could send it to you. They were inserted in Dunlaps & Claypoole’s Gazette about two years ago, at whose Office it is probable a copy might be had.1 —One of the conditions was, if my memory serves me, an exemption from the payment of rent three years whilst the tenements were opening & improvements making; this I am still inclined to fulfill.
The rents were different according to the term for which leases were to be granted.
If for twenty one years only, they were to commence & end at £5 pr. hundred; for in that case the stipulated improvements being made, I knew that almost any rent might be had for the Tenement thereafter.
If on leases renewable every ten years forever, the rents were in that case to advance in a certain ratio, to keep pace with the encreasing value of the Land. And if given in the first instance for 999 yrs. as has been mentioned before, then the rent was to commence at ten pounds pr. hund. Acres; which being in fact an alienation of the property, shewed my ideas of its present value & purchase money, as mentioned already. These, as far as I can recite from memory, were the terms on which I offered to rent, and from which I feel no disposition to relax unless as in the case of a purchase, some one or more persons would take the whole off my hands at once, & become responsible for the rent; in which case being influenced by similar principles I might abate accordingly.
I should have great pleasure in giving such letters as you have asked, to the Marquis de la Fayette and Chevr. de la Luzerne, but conceive they could only have an embarrassing operation. It is certainly as consistent with the policy of one country to discourage depopulation, as it is for another to encourage emigration. Considering the matter in this point of view I cannot suppose, however well disposed either of the above gentlemen may be to serve this country, that they would do it at the expence of, & perhaps hazard of censure from their own.
One of these gentlemen too being in the diplomatic or ministerial line would, undoubtedly, be very cautious in expressing a sentiment favorable to a business of this kind.—my best wishes however will follow you thro’ all the stages of it; and with esteem, I am, &c.
P. S. I shou’d be glad to know whether this letter found you in Philadelphia.
[1 ]This advertisement is reprinted in the Magazine of American History, 1878, p. 623.