George Washington, Autograph Letter, Signed


George Washington, In Debt

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George Washington, in debt and in need of money, advertised for sale on February 1, 1796  four tracts of land on the Ohio River, totaling 9,744 acres, four tracts on either bank of the Great Kanawha River just above its confluence with the Ohio, totaling 23,266 acres, and three tracts on the Little Miami, totaling 3,051 acres. 

These were all bounty lands allotted in the 1770s under the terms either of Robert Dinwiddie’s Proclamation of 1754 or of the royal Proclamation of 1763, for service in America in Britain’s war with France between 1754 and 1763.

Very good with a large signature and clear, bold ink writing.  Usual folds; a few small marginal chips; light staining doesn’t hinder writing.

Washington, George. Autograph Letter, Signed “Go: Washington”.  Mount Vernon:  6 November 1797.  To The Honorable James Ross.  4to; 2-1/2 pages + postscript.  [Transcript available upon request.]

Relevant Parties…

James Ross (1762-1847) was a lawyer helping Washington with this sale of land.  Ross lived in western Pennsylvania and represented the state in the U.S. Senate from 1794 to 1803.  During his tenure, he served as President pro tempore of the Senate from March to December 1799.   President George Washington had appointed him to negotiate with the rebels of the Whiskey Rebellion, successfully defusing the situation without violence.

Bought Washington’s Land, But Never Paid!

Israel Shreve (1739 –1799) had been a colonel in the 2nd New Jersey Regiment during the American Revolution. He fought at the Battle of Brandywine and at the Battle of Germantown and wintered at Valley Forge.  Later he helped survey the western bank of the Mississippi, keeping a journal in which he described geography, environment, and encounters with the Native Americans. 

Returning from the expedition in 1789, Shreve decided to lease land in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, from General George Washington. Shreve contracted to buy 1,744 acres  of land from Washington, but spent several years haggling over payments and prices despite settling on the land. Washington threatened to bring a lawsuit for payment, but no suit was recorded. Washington wrote Shreve in 1798 and 1799 asking for payments due, but could not bring himself to sue a fellow army officer. In his turn, on 21 December 1798, Shreve wrote to Washington asking for delay in payments. Shreve and Washington both died on the same day – December 14, 1799 – although hundreds of miles apart.