Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ROBERT LEWIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798)
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TO ROBERT LEWIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIII (1794-1798).
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TO ROBERT LEWIS.
Philad’a, 22 February, 1795.
Your letter of the 17th Ult. came duly to hand—but the pressure of business in which I am always involved whilst Congress are in session has prevented my acknowledging the receipt of it at an earlier date; and now, I may not be so full as you might wish; but shall touch upon the several points of your letter and in the order they stand there.
If the tenants are not punctual in the discharge of their Rents, when they become due, destrain for them without delay, or hesitation; unless their disability to pay proceeds from some providential interposition, or from some other obvious cause which entitles them to indulgence, for it may be depended upon, if the failure proceeds from idleness, the man who is unable to pay one rent, will never pay two, willingly; and generally, when it goes beyond that the score is wiped out.
With respect to the Sheriffs, shew them no indulgence; of all descriptions of men in this Country, I think them (tho’ there may, and undoubtedly there are exceptions) the least entitled to favor; I mean to be understood as speaking of under sheriffs, and those who farm the office, merely to grind the people and get money into their hands, for speculative and other purposes of their own, instead of rendering it where due.
I shall expect the accounts of all the monies collected, and of the arrearages as soon as you can make it out, that I may know precisely how the matter stands on this and on the replevy bonds.
Mrs. Haney1 should endeavor to do what she can for herself—this is a duty incumbent on every one; but you must not let her suffer, as she has thrown herself upon me; your advances on this account will be allowed always, at settlement; and I agree readily to furnish her with provisions and for the good character you give of her daughter make the latter a present in my name of a handsome but not costly gown, and other things which she may stand mostly in need of.—You may charge me also with the worth of your tenement on which she is placed, and where perhaps it is better she should be, than at a great distance from your attentions to her.
I have already given you my ideas with respect to the purchasing of leases; but to these I will add, that if you can make advantageous bargains, conclude them; as far as you have means in your own hands to carry them into effect.—Beyond this, make them conditionally only leaving the ratification to me; that I may decide from the prospect I have of commanding money; whether to carry them into execution or not. In conducting this business, there are two things which you should never loose sight of. The first is, that the sum given to purchase in the lease, is fixed and certain; and the rent which can be had for the tenement is often uncertain. To go upon the supposition, therefore, that it will rent for this or that sum, is fallacious ground unless there is unequivocal evidence on which to form an opinion. The second thing is, that the rent, whatever it may be, must be more than will afford 6 pr. ct. interest for the sum advanced for the purchase, in addition to the rent—first, because 6 pr. ct. is the legal interest of the United States.—Secondly because any person who has money to lend, and will adopt the usual modes, may obtain much more; and thirdly because the rent which is received, and which I am entitled to without any advance, is equivalent to a certain principal—for instance, if I was to give an hundred pounds for a lease, the rent of which was £6, if I did not receive £12 rent, the deficiency would be lost upon legal ground, because the land is equal to £6, and the £100 paid by way of purchase is equal to £100 more. But those who possess money, can turn it (where they are disposed to do it) to more profit than lending it at 6 pr. ct.—I have no inclination however to fall into those practices—therefore after this explanation of my ideas, go on and purchase as far as you have means, absolutely; and conditionally, afterwards, for the reasons given.
I had no conception that at this day my leases were so full of lives as would appear from your account of them; I wish my confidence in placing blank leases signed into the hands of Mr. Muse may not have been abused. I have not to the best of my recollection, sanctioned more than the rental for lives of two leases—one to Mr. Aires; and another to a person who was formerly an overseer to my brother John; the rest were formed for a term of years which must have expired. I am, &c.
[1 ]Elizabeth Haynie, who died 29 April 1796. I have not been able to trace her relationship to Washington. A daughter, Sally Ball Haynie, is mentioned in his will.