WASHINGTON, George. Autograph draft letter signed ("G:o W---n") as President, to his nephew, Robert Lewis (1769-1929), n.p. [Philadelphia], 29 April 1793. 1½ pages, 4to, several deleted passages in the text, neatly docketed by Washington, minor show-through.
AN "AFFECTIONATE UNCLE" GIVES FAMILY LANDS ON THE VIRGINIA FRONTIER TO A FAVORITE NEPHEW
Young Robert Lewis, the 10th son of Washington's sister, Betty, had grown up in Virginia and accompanied his uncle when he became President, living with the family and taking on various secretarial tasks. He returned to Virginia and in 1791 managed Mount Vernon during the extended illness of Washington's overseer. The next year, Washington asked Lewis to manage his remote land-holdings in Virginia's western counties: "a position filled with such responsibilities as making leases, collecting rent, and buying and selling tracts and house lots" (F.E. Grizzard). Washington had long found these far-flung tracts difficult to manage and hard to extract revenues from, and gradually began to transfer them outright to Lewis: "The Land which was given to me by my Mother [Mary Ball Washington] or as Heir at Law I am entitled to without a deed having been made for it...I do, as I told you at Mt. Vernon, make you a present of. It lyes near the Accoceek [Accokeek] Old Furnace, & about eight miles from Falmouth on the road leading to it, containing, as I have generally understood, about 400 acres of the most valuable Pine in that part of the country; but which, as I have been informed, has been much pillaged by Trespassers." He confesses that he has no survey, however: "When you can ascertain by a survey the bounds, for I have no Papers to aid you in doing it, I shall be ready to convey to you my Right."
"I repeat my wish that you would attend to that small tract of mine on Potomac, abt. a dozen Miles above the town of Bath; & to the lots which I have in that place. And whensoever you may be in Winchester, I request you will make particular enquiry into the condition of a lot which I have in that town, & an out lot belonging to it in the Common adjoining thereto; & know if some advantage cannot be made of them. The number of either I am unable to give, unless I was at Mount Vernon; but the enclosed letter contains the most recent information of the town lot."
"Do you know whether Major [William B.] Harrison went to Mount Vernon as you expected he would do? Or have you heard anything further of his intentions & expectations [last two words lined out] respecting his land adjoining to me. I do not wish you to appear forward in your overtures to him; but wish notwithstanding to know what may be expected in this matter. Remember me to Mrs. Lewis and be assured of the friendship & regard of your affectte. Uncle."
Washington carried out his promise to present to Lewis the 400-acre tract. Later, he gave his favored nephew an even larger tract--one he had inherited from his father, years before--near Fredericksburg. Published (from a Letterbook copy, with different readings), in Fitzpatrick, 32:439-440.