|George Washington (1732 - 1799)
George Washington's Will is of particular interest, not only because he was the first president of the United States, but because it contains detailed instructions for the disposition of his real and personal property. For more information about George Washington, please see his biography in Wikipedia.
LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
In the name of God, Amen.
I GEORGE WASHINGTON of Mount Vernon, a citizen of the United States, and lately President of the same, do make, ordain and declare this Instrument; which is written with my own hand and every page thereof subscribed with my name, to be my last Will & Testament, revoking all others.
Imprimus. All my debts, of which there are but few, and none of magnitude, are to be punctually and speedily paid; and the Legacies hereinafter bequeathed, are to be discharged as soon as circumstances will permit, and in the manner directed. Item. To my dearly beloved wife Martha Washington I give and bequeath the use, profit and benefit of my whole Estate, real and personal, for the term of her natural life; except such parts thereof as are specially disposed of hereafter: My improved lot in the Town of Alexandria, situated on Pitt and Cameron Streets, I give to her & her heirs forever; as I also do my household and kitchen furniture of every sort and kind, with the liquors and groceries which may be on hand at the time of my decease; to be used and disposed of as she may think proper.
Item Upon the decease of my wife, it is my Will and desire, that all the slaves which I hold in my own right, shall receive their freedom. To emancipate them during her life, would, tho' earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties on account of their intermixture by Marriages with the Dower Negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy or the same Proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the Dower Negroes are held, to manumit them. And whereas among those who will receive freedom according to this devise, there may be some, who from old age or bodily infirmities, and others who on account of their infancy, that will be unable to support themselves; it is my Will and desire that all who come under the first and second description shall be comfortably clothed and fed by my heirs while they live; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living are unable, or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court until they shall arrive at the age of twenty-five years; and in cases where no record can be produced, whereby their ages can be ascertained, the Judgment of the Court, upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate & final. The Negroes thus bound, are (by their Masters or Mistresses), to be taught to read and write; & to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the Laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of orphan & other poor Children. And I do hereby expressly forbid the sale, or transportation out of the said Commonwealth of any Slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever. And I do moreover most pointedly, and most solemnly enjoin it upon my Executors hereafter named, or the survivors of them, to see that this clause respecting Slaves, and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled at the Epoch at which it is directed to take place; without evasion, neglect or delay, after the Crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged & infirm; Seeing that a regular & permanent fund be established for their support so long as there are subjects requiring it; not trusting to the uncertain provision to be made by individuals. And to my Mulatto man, William (calling himself William Lee) I give immediate freedom; or if he should prefer it (on account of the accidents which have befallen him, and which have rendered him incapable of walking or of any active employment.) to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional in him to do so: In either case however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars during his natural life, which shall be independent of the victuals and clothes he has been accustomed to receive, if he chooses the last alternative: but in full with his freedom, if he prefers the first: & this I give him as a testimony of my sense of his attachment to me, and for his faithful services during the Revolutionary War.
Item To the Trustees (Governors, or by whatsoever name they may be designated) of the Academy in the Town of Alexandria, I give and bequeath, in Trust, four thousand dollars, or in other words twenty of the shares which I hold in the Bank of Alexandria, towards the support of a Free school, established at, and annexed to, the said Academy; for the purpose of educating such orphan children, or the children of such other poor & indigent persons as are unable to accomplish it with their own means: and who, in the judgment of the Trustees of the said Seminary, are best entitled to the benefit of this donation. The aforesaid twenty shares I give and bequeath in perpetuity: the dividends only of which are to be drawn for, and applied by the said Trustees for the time being, for the uses above mentioned; the stock to remain entire and untouched; unless indications of a failure of the said Bank should be apparent, or discontinuance thereof should render a removal of this fund necessary; in either of these cases, the amount of the Stock here devised, is to be vested in some other Bank or public Institution, whereby the interest may with regularity & certainty be drawn, and applied as above. And to prevent misconception, my meaning is, and is hereby declared to be, that these twenty shares are in lieu of, and not in addition to, the thousand pounds given by a missive letter some years ago; in consequence whereof an annuity of fifty pounds has since been paid towards the support of this Institution.
Item Whereas by a law of the Commonwealth of Virginia, enacted in the year 1785, the Legislature thereof was pleased (as an evidence of Its approbation of the services I had rendered the public during the Revolution; & partly, I believe, in consideration of my having suggested the vast advantages which the community would derive from the extension of its Inland Navigation, under Legislative patronage) to present me with one hundred shares of one hundred dollars each, in the incorporated company established for the purpose of extending the navigation of James River from tide water to the Mountains: and also with fifty shares of one hundred pounds Sterling each, in the Corporation of another company, likewise established for the similar purpose of opening the Navigation of the River Potomac from tide water to Fort Cumberland; the acceptance of which, although the offer was highly honorable and grateful to my feelings, was refused, as inconsistent with a principle which I had adopted, and had never departed from, namely, not to receive pecuniary compensation for any services I could render my Country in its arduous struggle with Great Britain, for its Rights: and because I had evaded similar propositions from other States in the Union; adding to this refusal, however, an intimation that, if it should be the pleasure of the Legislature, to permit me to appropriate the said shares to public uses, I would receive them on those terms with due sensibility; and this it having consented to, in flattering terms, as will appear by a subsequent Law, and sundry resolutions, in the most ample and honorable manner, I proceed after this recital, for the more correct understanding of the case, to declare:
In witness of all, and of each of the things herein contained I have set my hand and Seal, this ninth day of July, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety and of the Independence of the United States the twenty fourth.
*Schedule of property comprehended in the foregoing will: which is directed to be sold, and some of it, conditionally is sold; with descriptive and explanatory notes relative thereto.
dollars. Loudoun County Difficult run
(a) Loudoun & Fauquier Ashbys Bent
(b.) Chattins run
Berkeley So. Fork of Bullskin
1,600 Head of Evan's Mill
453 On Wormely's line
Frederick Bought from Mercer
Hampshire On Potk, river above B.
Gloucester On North River
(f.) Nansemond Near Suffolk 1/3 of 1119 Acres
(g.) Great Dismal Swamp My dividend thereof
Ohio River Round Bottom
587 Little Kenhawa
2,314 16 miles lowr down
Opposite Big Bent
9744 10 97.440 (i) Great Kenhawa
Near the Mouth West
East side above
Mouth of Cole River
Burning Spring 10990
200.000 (k) Maryland
Montgomery Do 600
Mohawk abt.1000 6
North Westn. Territy
On little Miami
5 15.251 (p)
City of Washington. Two, near the Capital, Sqr 634 Cost 963;
and with Buildgs
No. 5, 12, 13 & 14: the 3 last, Water lots on the Eastern Branch, in Sqr. 667, containing together 34,438 sqr. feet at 12 Cts
(s) Alexandria Corner of Pitt & Prince Stts. half an Acre; laid out into buildings, 3 or 4 of wch are let on grd. Rent at $3 pr. foot.
Winchester A lot in the town of half an Acre, & another in the Commons of about 6 Acres, supposed.
Bath--or Warm Springs Two well situated, & had buildings to the
amt of £150.
STOCK United States 6 pr Cts.
3,746 Do deferred
3 pr Cts.
2946 2500 6,246 (x)
24 Shares, cost ea. £100 Sterg
5 shares, each cost $100.
170 shares, $40 each.
Stock, living, viz:
1 Covering horse, 5 Coh. horses; 4 riding do; Six brood Mares; 20 working horses & mares; 2 Covering Jacks, & three young ones; 10 she Asses, 42 working mules; 15 younger ones 329 head of horned cattle, 640 head of sheep, & a large Stock of Hogs, the precise number unknown.
My manager has estimated this live Stock at £7,000 but I shall set it down in order to make rd sum at.
The value of livestock depends more upon the quality than quantity of the differeint species of it,
(a) This tract for the size of it is valuable, more for its situation than the quality of its soil, though that is good for Farming; with a considerable portion of grd. that might, very easily, be improved into Meadow. It lyes on the great road from the City of Washington, Alexandria & Georgetown to Leesburgh & Winchester; at Difficult bridge, nineteen miles from Alexandria, less from the city and George Town, and not more than three from Matildaville, at the Great Falls of Potomac.
There is a valuable seat on the Premises, and the whole is conditionally sold, for the sum annexed in the Schedule.
(b) What the selling prices of lands in the vicinity of these two tracts are, I know not; but compared with those above the ridge, and others below them, the value annexed will appear moderate, a less one would not obtain them from me.
(c) The surrounding land, not superior in soil, situation or properties of any sort, sell currently at from twenty to thirty dollars an Acre. The lowest price is affixed to these.
(d) The observations made in the last note applies equally to this tract; being in the vicinity of them, and of similar quality, altho' it lyes in another County.
(e) This tract, though small, is extremely valuable. It lyes on Potomac River about 12 miles above the Town of Bath (or Warm Springs) and is in the shape of a horse Shoe; the river running almost around it. Two hundred Acres of it is rich low grounds; with a great abundance of the largest and finest Walnut trees; which, with the produce of the Soil, might, (by means of the improved navigation of the Potomac) be brought to a shipping port with more ease, and at a smaller expence, than that which is transported 30 miles only by land.
(f) This tract is of second rate Gloucester low grounds. It has no improvements thereon, but lyes on navigable water, abounding in Fish and Oysters. It was received in payment of a debt (carrying interest) and valued in the year 1789 by an impartial Gentleman at £800. N B. It has lately been sold, and there is due thereon, a balance equal to what is annexed the Schedule.
(g) These 373 acres are the third part of undivided purchases made by the deceased Fielding Lewis Thomas Walker and myself; on full conviction that they would become valuable. The land lyes on the road from Suffolk to Norfolk; touches (if I am not mistaken) some part of the Navigable water of Nansemond River; borders on, and comprehends part of the Rich Dismal Swamp; is capable of great improvement; and from its situation must become extremely valuable.
(h) This an undivided Interest wch. I held in the Great Dismal Swamp Company; containing about 4000 acres, with my part of the Plantation & Stock thereon belonging to the company in the sd Swamp.
(i) These several tracts of land are of the first quality on the Ohio River, in the parts where they are situated; being almost if not altogether River bottoms.
The smallest of these tracts is actually sold at ten dollars an acre but the consideration therefor not received; the rest are equally valuable and will sell as high, especially that which lyes just below the little Kenhawa and is opposite to a thick settlement on the West side the Rivr.
The four tracts have an aggregate breadth upon the River of Sixteen miles and is bounded thereby that distance.
(k) These tracts are situated on the Great Kenhawa River, and the first four are bounded thereby for more than forty miles. It is acknowledged by all who have seen them (and of the tract containing 10990 acres which I have been on myself, I can assert) that there is no richer, or more valuable land in all that Region; They are conditionally sold for the sum mentioned in the Schedule; that is $200,000 & if the terms of that sale are not complied with they will command considerably more. The tract of which the 125 acres is a moiety, was taken up by General Andrew Lewis and myself for, & on account of a bituminous Spring which it contains, of so inflammable a nature as to burn as freely as spirits, and is as nearly difficult to extinguish.
(l) I am but little acquainted with this land, although I have once been on it. It was received (many years since) in discharge of a debt due to me from Daniel Jenifer Adams at the value annexed thereto & must be worth more. It is very level, lyes near the River Potomac
(m) This tract lyes about 30 miles above the City of Washington, not far from Kittoctan. It is good farming Land, and by those who are well acquainted with it I am informed that it would sell at twelve or $15 pr. acre.
(n) This land is valuable on account of its local situation & other properties. It affords an exceeding good stand on Braddock's road from Fort Cumberland to Pittsburgh, and besides a fertile soil, possesses a large quantity of natural Meadow, fit for the scythe. It is distinguished by the appellation of the Great Meadows, where the first action with the French in the year 1754 was fought.
(o) This is the moiety of about 2000 Acs. which remains unsold of 6071 Acres on the Mohawk River (Montgomery Cty) in a Patent granted to Daniel Coxe in the Township of Coxeborough & Carolana, as will appear by Deed from Marinus Willett & wife to Geo. Clinton (late Governor of New York) and myself. The latter sales have been at Six dollars an acr; and what remains unsold will fetch that or more
(p) The quality of these lands and their Situation, may be known by the Surveyors Certificates, which are filed along with the Patents. They lye in the vicinity of Cincinnati; one tract near the mouth of the little Miami, another seven and the third ten miles up the same. I have been informed that they will readily command more than they are estimated at.
(q) For the description of these tracts in detail, see General Spotswoods letters, filed with the other papers relating to them. Beside the General good quality of the Land, there is a valuable Bank of Iron Ore thereon: which, when the settlement becomes more populous (and settlers are moving that way very fast) will be found very valuable; as the rough Creek, a branch of Green River affords ample water for Furnaces and forges.
CITY OF WASHINGTON
(r) The two lots near the Capital, in square 634, cost me $963 only; but in this price I was favoured, on condition that I should build two Brick houses three Story high each: without this reduction the selling prices of those Lots would have cost me about $1350. These lots, with the buildings thereon, when completed will stand me in $15000 at least.
(s) Lots No. 5, 12, 13 & 14, on the Eastern branch, are advantageously situated on the water, & although many lots much less convenient have sold a great deal higher I will rate these at 12 Cts. the square foot only.
(t) For this lot, though unimproved, I have refused $3500. It has since been laid off into proper sized lots for building on; three or 4 of which are let on ground Rent, forever, at three dollars a foot on the Street. and this price is asked for both fronts on Pitt & Princes Street.
(u) As neither the lot in the Town or Common have any improvements on them, it is not easy to fix a price, but as both are well situated, it is presumed the price annexed to them in the Schedule is a reasonable value.
(w) The lots in Bath (two adjoining) cost me, to the best of my recollection, between fifty and sixty pounds 20 years ago; and the buildings thereon £150 more. Whether property there has increased or decreased in its value, and in what condition the houses are, I am ignorant. but suppose they are not valued too high.
(x) These are the sums which are actually funded. And though no more in the aggregate than $7,566; stand me in at least ten thousand pounds Virginia money. being the amount of bonded and other debts due to me, and discharged during the War when money had depreciated in that ratio, and was so settled by public authority.
(y) The value annexed to these shares is what they actually cost me and is the price affixed by Law: & although the present settling price is under par, my advice to the Legatees (for whose benefit they are intended, especially those who can afford to lye out of the money) is that each should take and hold one; there being a moral certainty of a great & increasing profit arising from them in the course of a few years.
(z) It is supposed that the Shares in the James River Company must also be productive. But of this I can give no decided opinion for want of more accurate information
(j ) These are the nominal prices of the Shares of the Banks of Alexandria and Columbia, the selling prices vary according to circumstances. But as the Stock usually divide from eight to ten per cent per annum, they must be worth the former, at least, so long as the Banks are conceived to be Secure, though from circumstances may, sometimes be below it.Mount Vernon
9th: July 1799.
Ref: Last Will and Testament of George Washington