Virginia, Gunston-Hall, June 3d. 1781.
A Gentleman now here, on his Way to the northern States, & from thence to the West Indies, offers me a better Opportunity of writing to you than I have had for a long time past; and as I shall write Duplicates, & direct them to be sent by different Vessels, some of them will probably reach you: they will be inclosed in covers to Messrs. Schweighauser & Dobree Merchts. in Nantes. I find from some of yr. Letters, that most, if not all of our Letters to you have miscarryed, &consequently that you are unacquainted with everything which has happened here in yr. Absence. Your Grandmother, Mrs. Eilbeck, died last Decemr., & has willed her Estate in the Manner she always intended; some Legacys in Slaves & Money to her Grand Daughters, a negroe Boy to John & Tom, & the Bulk of her Fortune to yr. Brother William. Your Estate here, is at present, in good order, & a promising Harvest coming on, if we are able to reap it; there was a pretty good crop of Corn made on it last year; & abt. 10,000 lbs of Pork sold, at a high nominal price (£ 200 hund.) but before the Money could be invested in Tobo. the rapid Depreciation reduced it exceedingly. Part has been invested in Tobo. some in the usual Way of Inspector's Notes; the remainder I have advised yr. Brother Thomson to endeavour to invest in Tobo. in the Hands of substantial People, upon the Tobo. Bonds, rather than having it in the Public Warehouses; where it is not safe a Week from the Enemy; who have, within these two months, burn'd more than ten thousand Hogsheads of Tobo. in Virginia, & still continue to destroy all they can get at. I observe what you say of our Tobo. at Bourdeaux being unsold in March; I hope it still remains so, as the Quantity destroyed here must raise the Price in Europe, beyond any thing known within the Memory of Man; I will write to Messrs. Delaps upon the Subject. This Family has not yet lost any Tobo, Slaves, or other Property, by the Enemy; altho' their Ships have been as high as Alexandria; but we are in daily expectation of sharing the same Fate with our Neighbours upon this, & the other Rivers; where many Familys have been suddenly reduced from Opulence to Indigence, particularly upon James River; the Enemy taking all the Slaves, Horses, Cattle, Furniture, & other Property, they can lay their Hands on; and what they can't carry away they wantonly destroy. We have removed our Furniture, backwards & forwards, two or three times, upon different Alarms, by which it is very much damaged: great Part of it was pack'd up last Week, & sent to Maryland, where yr. Brother Thomson, & yr. Sisters now are. The schooner Issabella was drove on shore, on the Coast of N. Carolina, & the Vessel lost; some part of the Cargoe was saved; but upon the average Settlement of the Proceeds, our Proportion, in the present depreciated Money, was hardly worth the Trouble of receiving: mine was abt. £ 3,000 & yours £ 366—including Mrs. Eilbeck's, Dr. Bronen's & the whole consignment to yr. Brother Thomson. The Letters, Bills of Loading, & Invoyces, all came safe to Hand; but yours were so irregular, some Packages mentioned in the Invoyce not being inserted in the Bills of Loading, & some of the Contents not particularized, nor included in the Invoyce; so that if the Goods had arrived safe, we should hardly have been able to ascertain them properly, much less was it practicable to fix the real Value upon the general Average. You have probably been a Loser by this; tho' very deservedly: if ever you send any more Goods, pray be more methodical & exact. The Ship General Washington is fitted out as a Privateer, & I believe is now upon a Cruise. She arrived, from Amsterdam, in a New England Port, where her Cargoe produced less than half the Value here. I had better than £ 200 Ster: Cost of Goods in her, upon my own private Account, which still remain in New England; from whence I am not likely to get them soon, if ever. By these Disappointments the Family are in great Want of Necessarys. Our Bay & Rivers are entirely in the Possession of the Enemy, our little Trade totally at an End, & almost all the Virginia Vessels taken.
The Family, I thank God, are all well, except myself, who am but just recovering from a Fit of the Gout. No remarkable Changes have happened among your Acquaintances. Pray let me know if my Order on Penet De Costa & Compy. was duly paid. Let me know also where Mr. William Lee is, & in what circumstances & Way of Life, Health, &c. I am sorry to hear you made so slow Progress in the French Language; it is oweing to your conversing too much among your own Countrymen, & to your not accustoming yourself to write french; I hope however, you will not be discouraged; but will still endeavour to make yourself Master of it.
I have not yet received the Surveys of my back Lands; when I do (if it is in time) I will transmit you Copys of them, & particularize the Terms, by which I purpose to settle them. I can now only mention the out-lines. I will, on no consideration risque the importing or maintaining people, at my Charge; but if Setlers can be engaged to come in, at their own Charge, I will grant them long Leases, at very low Rents; vizt. for three Lives, or twenty one Years; paying the first three Years, only the Taxes of the Quantity of Land leased, and afterwards the annual Rent of about thirty Shillings Ster: per hundred acres & the Taxes; with Covenants to plant Orchards, & make the usual Improvements of Buildings (which you know in this Country are not great) within four or five Years after the End of the present War. The Lessee to have Sub-tenants, if he pleases, preserving one third Part of the Quantity leased uncut, & uncultivated, to supply the Premises with Wood & Timber. Considering the Conveniencys of Game, Fish, Wildfowl, and the Navigation (my Lands being below the Falls of the Ohio) and the extream richness & Fertility of the Soil, the Fineness of the Climate, & the Levelness of the Land; these Terms are very reasonable; and I should think wou'd induce Men of Substance to take Quantitys, & bring in Setlers. I presume this will find you in Paris, or as I rather hope, in the South of France. I can not but think you judged extreamely ill, in spending as much time in Nantes; where you cou'd expect no great Improvement, either in Health, Knowledge, or Manners. I think it will also be very imprudent in you to return to America, without trying the Effect of one Summer, either in the South of France, Italy, or Spain; as the best physicians in Paris may advise you. The Recovery of Health shou'd be considered as your primary Object; for without that, you will have incurred much Expense, & Loss of Time, to little Purpose. I wou'd recommend it to you to embark for America about next May; so as to have a warm weather Voyage, and be some time again in your native climate, before the Return of Winter; and to endeavour to get your Passage in a Ship of War. If any are coming to America about the time, and [if] you make proper Use of your Letters, & Credentials, I should think you might, by means of Doctr. Franklin, Colo. Lawrence, or some Men of Interest, procure an Order from the Court for a Passage in One of them.
Mrs. Mason desires to be kindly remembered to you, and joins in wishing you a Restoration of Health, and a safe Return to your Country & Friends, with, dear George, Your affectionate Father