You are here
Patrick Henry to George Washington, March 11, 1786
Three Gentlemen, two of them from France, the other from Geneva, have taken up a large Body of Land, on the Waters of Ohio near to some of yours—They propose to settle it by white people, chiefly from Europe—whether one or more of them is going soon, for the purpose of getting Settlers—This very interesting Business I have long wished to see going on, as there seems to be nothing which can more essentially promote the public Good. Mr. Savary & Mr. Gallatin, two of these Gentlemen I have been acquainted with for twelve months & more, during which they have been labouring at this Scheme, but the Indian Depredations have retarded its Execution—Now, when there is a prospect of these ceasing, it will be resumed by them with Spirit I believe—Mr. Charton2 who will probably have the Honor to deliver you this, is the other partner. I've known him but a short Time, but I conceive well of him, & cannot but wish him well, on Account of his Undertaking—
I have taken the Liberty to introduce him to you judging that it would be agreable to you to be acquainted with a Subject of this Nature—If any thing was said concerning the Climate, Soil, or Situation of these Lands, or if any of their natural Advantages were explained, it would no Doubt have Weight with Foreigners inclined to come over. Mr. Gallatine, of whose Merit I have a high opinion, & who has often described these Lands to me with his Hopes of settling them, has explored them thoughroly & is pretty sanguine of succeeding in his Veiws—I beg pardon for giving you the Trouble of this, & with the highest Esteem & Regard I am dear Sir
your most obedient Servant
ALS privately owned; photocopy held by Patrick Henry National Memorial at Red Hill. Addressed on the verso: “To General Washington at Mount Vernon. favd. by Mr. Charton.” Endorsed by Washington: "From His Excelly Govr Henry 11th Mar 1786."
1. Mr. Savary was Jean Savary de Valcoulon who arrived from France in 1783 as an agent to collect Virginia state debts for Réné Rapicault. Savary formed a partnership with Albert Gallatin (1761-1849), who had arrived in the United States three years earlier. The two spent much of their time in Richmond beginning in the winter of 1783. Only twenty-three at the time, Gallatin recalled this early period of his life in Richmond and especially the positive influence of John Marshall and Patrick Henry, who, he observed “advised me to go to the West, where I might study law if I chose, but predicted that I was intended for a statesman, and told me that this was the career which should be my aim; he also rendered me several services on more than one occasion.” Gallatin may have had this letter of introduction to Washington in mind. Certainly Patrick Henry’s prediction about Gallatin was borne out, as the Swiss-born immigrant had a long and fruitful career in public service, most notably as the longest serving Secretary of the Treasury (1801-1814). Gallatin and Savary claimed 120,000 acres on the Ohio River in 1784 adjacent to Washington’s tracts in the area. Gallatin traveled to their Ohio land in the summer of 1784 and again in 1785, during which time it was rumored that Gallatin had been “killed and scalped” by Indians. (“From Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 27 January 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives [http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-09-02-0205 (last update: 2015-09-29)]. Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 9, 1 November 1785 – 22 June 1786, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954, pp. 233–236; “From Thomas Jefferson to Jean-Armand Tronchin, with Enclosures, 1 August 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives [http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-10-02-0111 (last update: 2015-09-29)]. Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 10, 22 June–31 December 1786, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954, pp. 182–185; Gallatin to William Maxwell, 15 Feb. 1848, Henry Adams, Writings of Gallatin, vol. 2:660; Henry M. Dater, “Albert Gallatin—Land Speculator,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 26 [1939–40], 21–38).
2. Mr. Charton was Henry L. Charton, a Frenchman who arrived at Mount Vernon one week after this letter was written, where Washington met him upon his return from visiting his properties. During his overnight stay Charton expressed interest in buying some of Washington’s western land which Washington offered him at 30,000 guineas (“From George Washington to Henry L. Charton, 20 May 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives [http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/04-04-02-0069 (last update: 2015-09-29)]. Source: The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, vol. 4, 2 April 1786 – 31 January 1787, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995, pp. 63–66; “From George Washington to Henry L. Charton, 22 July 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives [http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/04-04-02-0160 (last update: 2015-09-29)]. Source: The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, vol. 4, 2 April 1786 – 31 January 1787, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995, p. 167).