Letter from George Washington to Lund Washington (April 30, 1781)


In this letter, dated April 30, 1781, George Washington writes to his cousin Lund Washington, chastising him for going aboard a British ship in an effort to regain the 17 enslaved people, owned by George Washington, who had fled to the British upon their arrival. During the American Revolution (1775–1783), Lund Washington served as the caretaker of Mount Vernon in General Washington’s absence.


Dear Lund,

Your letter of the 18th came to me by the last Post. I am very sorry to hear of your loss—I am a little sorry to hear of my own—but that which gives most concern, is, that you should go on board the enemys vessels & furnish them with refreshments. It would have been a less painful circumstance to me, to have heard, that in consequence of your non compliance with their request, they had burnt my House, & laid the Plantation in Ruins. You ought to have considered yourself as my representative, and should have reflected on the bad example of communicating with the enemy and making a voluntary offer of refreshment to them with a view to prevent a conflagration.

It was not in your power, I acknowledge, to prevent them from sending a flag on shore—and you did right to meet it—but you should, in the same instant that the business of it was unfolded, have declared, explicitly, that it was improper for you to yield to the request—after which, if they had proceeded to help themselves, by force, you could but have submitted (and being unprovided for defence) this was to be prefered to a feeble opposition which only serves as a pretext to burn and destroy.

I am thoroughly perswaded that you acted from your best judgment—and believe, that your desire to preserve my property, and rescue the buildings from impending danger, were your governing motives—But to go on board their Vessels—carry them refreshments—commune with a parcel of plundering Scoundrels—and request a favor by asking the surrender of my Negroes, was exceedingly ill-judged—and ’tis to be feared—will be unhappy in its consequences, as it will be a precedent for others, and may become a subject of animadversion.

I have no doubt of the enemys intention to prosecute the plundering plan they have begun—and, unless a stop can be put to it by the arrival of a superior naval force, I have as little doubt of its ending in the loss of all my Negroes, and in the destruction of my Houses—but I am prepared for the event—under the prospect of which, if you could deposit, in safety, at some convenient distance from the Water, the most valuable & least bulky articles, it might be consistent with policy & prudence, and a mean of preserving them for use hereafter. such, & so many things as are necessary for common, & present use must be retained & run their chance through the firy trial of this summer.

Mrs Washington joins me in best and affectionate regard for you, Mrs Washington [&] Milly Posey; & does most sincerely regret your loss—I do no know what Negros they may have left you—and as I have observed before, I do not know what number they will have left me by the time they have done—but this I am sure of, that you shall never want assistance, while it is in my power to afford it. I am sincerely & affectionately yrs

Go: Washington

APA Citation:
Washington, George. Letter from George Washington to Lund Washington (April 30, 1781). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Washington, George. "Letter from George Washington to Lund Washington (April 30, 1781)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 29 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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