2085
2085
George Washington
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("GO: WASHINGTON") AS CONTINENTAL COMMANDER TO BRYAN FAIRFAX "AT TOWLSTON IN VIRGINIA," EXPRESSING HIS EAGERNESS TO RESIGN HIS COMMISSION AND RETIRE TO MOUNT VERNON
Estimate
120,000180,000
LOT SOLD. 150,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
2085
George Washington
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("GO: WASHINGTON") AS CONTINENTAL COMMANDER TO BRYAN FAIRFAX "AT TOWLSTON IN VIRGINIA," EXPRESSING HIS EAGERNESS TO RESIGN HIS COMMISSION AND RETIRE TO MOUNT VERNON
Estimate
120,000180,000
LOT SOLD. 150,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana

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New York

George Washington
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("GO: WASHINGTON") AS CONTINENTAL COMMANDER TO BRYAN FAIRFAX "AT TOWLSTON IN VIRGINIA," EXPRESSING HIS EAGERNESS TO RESIGN HIS COMMISSION AND RETIRE TO MOUNT VERNON
2 pages (9 1/4 x 7 5/8 in.; 235 x 193 mm) on a bifolium (watermarked wm), Head Quarters Newburgh, 15 June 1783, accompanied by a separate autograph address leaf; minute fold separation at foot of first leaf, second leaf neatly inlaid, address leaf inlaid and restored.
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Provenance

The Fairfax Family (Sotheby's New York, 1 November 1993, lot 224) — The Forbes Collection (Christie's New York, 22 May 2007, lot 16)

Literature

This letter does not appear in Fitzpatrick's edition of Writings of Washington. It appears online as an early access document of The Papers of George Washington. The letter was first published in "George Washington and the Fairfax Family," in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 77 (1969):441—463

Catalogue Note

"I now, only await the arrival of the Definitive Treaty to bid adieu to public life & in retirement to seek that repose which a Mind always on the stretch, & embarrassed by a thousand difficulties in the course of Eight successive years stands much in need of.": George Washington reveals to one of his oldest friends his overwhelming desire to reap the reward due to a Cincinnatus and retire to private life. This deeply personal letter reveals Washington's frustration with the slow progress of the diplomats charged with ratifying the Treaty of Paris; his concern with concluding such lingering difficulties as the orderly departure of British troops and the need to win appropriate back-pay for his own soldiers; and his anxiety about the state of his neglected home and lands. In the midst of all of this, Washington even references a legal matter that engaged both him and his correspondent. 

Washington first confirms that he has passed on a letter to Lord Fairfax in England, which Bryan Fairfax had sent to his care. He then confirms more significant news: "I should not have delayed so long to inform you of this, & (as you seemed to desire it of me) to have announced the Ratification of the Provisional & Preliminary Articles of Peace, had I not been sure that you did not doubt the first; & that the second would come Officially from the fountain head, before any letter from me could reach you. I now, only await the arrival of the Definitive Treaty to bid adieu to public life, & in retirement to seek that repose which a Mind always on the stretch, & embarrassed by a thousand difficulties in the course of Eight successive years stands much in need of."

Responding to an update from Fairfax about the "Savage bond" affair, Washington assures him that "Your direction to the Attorney General is, I think, very proper; and it is my opinion we should be governed wholly by his advice in the suit of Mrs Savage—whether she is Dead, or alive." The General closes with a pledge to maintain the integrity of his lands, and a very rare mention of the personal cost of his service:

"I have been informed (by Mr Lund Washington) that some person has petitioned, or is about to petition the Court of Londoun for an Acre of the Land I bought of you on Difficult [Difficult Run, Virginia], to Build a Mill on; but I hope no advantage will be permitted, by that Worshipful bench, to be taken of my absence, in this Affair—The losses I have already sustained by an Eight years absence from home, & the Total neglect of my private concerns, are already capitolly great—they need not be augmented by lessening the value of what is left me." The repose Washington sought was still a half-year off; he did not set eyes on Mount Vernon until Christmas.

Bryan Fairfax (1736–1802) was a son of William Fairfax of Belvoir, a plantation below Mount Vernon. He served briefly under Washington’s command in 1756, but proved a poor soldier. Remarkably, their friendship remained unbroken though Fairfax opposed independence. When it became clear that America would not reconcile with the Crown, Fairfax declined to take an oath of loyalty to the King and retired to his Virginia estate. Regardless of their striking differences on political matters, he and Washington, and their families, remained close for the rest of their lives.

In one matter, Washington and Fairfax were handcuffed together for over a generation. In 1765, the two young men were named trustees for the widow of the Rev. Charles Green. By 1767, Mrs. Green had remarried a Dr. William Savage, who immediately came to dominate her affairs, instigating many suits to recover debts owed to her late husband. It eventually became clear to the two trustees that Dr. Savage was a dishonest man; in one letter, Washington explicitly called him a "v-----n." Savage refused to pay his wife the £100 per year due from a trust fund. Eventually Washington and Fairfax forced him to post a bond of compliance. Long after the Savages separated, long even after her death, legal skirmishes with Dr. Savage continued.

Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana

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New York