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TO LAWRENCE LEWIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIV (1798-1799) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIV (1798-1799).
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TO LAWRENCE LEWIS.
Mount Vernon, 20 September, 1799.
From the moment Mrs. Washington and myself adopted the two youngest children of the late Mr. Custis, it became my intention (if they survived me, and conducted themselves to my satisfaction) to consider them in my will when I was about to make a distribution of my property. This determination has undergone no diminution, but is strengthened by the connection one of them has formed with my family.
The expense at which I live, and the unproductiveness of my estate, will not allow me to lessen my income while I remain in my present situation. On the contrary, were it not for occasional supplies of money in payment for land, sold within the past four or five years, to the amount of upward of fifty thousand dollars, I should not be able to support the former without involving myself in debt and difficulties.
But as it has been understood, from expressions occasionally dropped from Nelly Custis, now your wife, that it is the wish of you both to settle in this neighborhood, contiguous to her friends, and as it would be inexpedient as well as expensive for you to make a purchase of land, when a measure which is in contemplation would place you on more eligible ground, I shall inform you that, in the will which I have made, which I have by me, and have no disposition to alter, that the part of my Mount Vernon tract which lies north of the public road leading from the Gum spring to Colchester, containing about two thousand acres, with the Dogue-river farm, mill, and distillery, I have left you. Gray’s heights is bequeathed to you and her jointly, if you incline to build on it; and few better sites for a house than Gray’s hill and that range are to be found in this country or elsewhere.
You may also have what is properly Dogue-run farm, the mill, and distillery, on a just and equitable rent; as also the lands belonging thereto, on a reasonable hire, either next year, or the year following—it being necessary in my opinion, that a young man should have objects of employment. Idleness is disreputable under any circumstances; productive of no good, even when unaccompanied by vicious habits; and you might commence building as soon as you please, during the progress of which Mount Vernon might be made your home.
You may conceive that building before you have an absolute title to the land is hazardous. To obviate this, I shall only remark that it is not likely any occurrence will happen, or any change take place, that would alter my present intention (if the conduct of yourself and wife is such as to merit a continuance of it); but be this as it may, that you may proceed on sure ground with respect to the buildings, I will agree—and this letter shall be an evidence of it—that if hereafter I should find cause to make any other disposition of the property here mentioned, I will pay the actual cost of such buildings to you or yours.
Although I have not the most distant idea that any event will happen that could effect a change in my present determination, nor any suspicions that you or Nelly could conduct yourselves in such a manner as to incur my serious displeasure, yet, at the same time that I am inclined to do justice to others it behooves me to take care of myself, by keeping the staff in my own hands.
That you may have a more perfect idea of the landed property I have bequeathed to you and Nelly in my will, I transmit a plan of it, every part of which is correctly laid down and accurately measured, showing the number of fields, lots, meadows, &c., with the contents and relative situation of each; all of which except the mill and swamp, which has never been considered as a part of Dogue-run farm, and is retained merely for the purpose of putting it into a better state of improvement, you may have on the terms before-mentioned.
With every kind wish for you and Nelly, in which your aunt, who is still much indisposed, unites, I remain your affectionate uncle.