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Letter to James Mercer, March 18, 1789

George Washington. Autographed letter signed: Mount Vernon, to James Mercer, 1789 March 18. 2 p.

Mount Vernon, Mar 18th. 1789

Dear Sir,

In receiving, you cannot feel more pain than I do by communicating, the following information; but as necessity – it is said – has no law, we both must submit to it.—

It is now several years since I have been looking for payment of the debt which is due to me from the Estate of your deceased father John Mercer, Esqr – I have been promised, it is true, considerable sums from time to time by Colo John Mercer; but it is equally true that I have either not received the money – or received it in a manner so disproportionate to his promises, as to avail me little; and for the last twelve months I have not obtained a shilling, nor indeed have heard one tittle from him [inserted: on the subject] although, at his own request, I agreed to receive money in small driblets merely to accommodate him – a mode by no means answering the most valuable purposes for which it was intended.

This being a true statement of the case, and my necessities becoming more & more pressing (which I have repeatedly in a full, and friendly way communicated to that Gentleman) candour obliges me to declare to you, that unless matters are placed on a very different footing than what they now are, and in a very short time too, I shall resort to other expedients than fruitless applications. – Did it suit my purposes to lend money at interest, that interest, it will be granted ought to be paid with [2] punctuality – But lending money is so far from being the case with me, of late years, that I have been obliged, from dire necessity, to borrow money at 6 pr ct; with very hard conditions annexed to it: and even under these disadvantages, am not able to supply my urgent occasions.

I am thus explicit, for the purpose of evincing to you, that necessity alone prompts me to make this plain and unequivocal declaration – and because I would not, if the Bond &c. are put-in suit, have improper motives ascribed to the act – more especially as it can be proved that I have done, and am still will’g to do, every thing which in reason can be expected from me (under the circumstances I have mentioned) to avoid it – With very great estm. and regard

I am -- Dear Sir
Your Most Obed. Hble Serv.
Go: Washington

P.S. If the Deed of confirmation for the Land on Four Mile run, bought from the attorneis of your Brother Colo. George Mercer, is in your possession, I should be glad to receive it. – and if you can inform me (from recollection) whether Deeds passed to me at the sale of the Shenandoah land, for the two Lots I bought there, it would do me a favor – I can find none among my land papers; bt could wish to have the title to it secured. –

The Honble. James Mercer Esqr. GW

Notes: Published in Twohig, Dorothy et al. The Papers of George Washington. Presidential Series, 1: 405-407.