1846: Lawrence Washington to Henry Augustine Washington

This letter was written by Lawrence (“Law”) Washington (1791-1875), a lawyer of Westmoreland County, Virginia, to his son Henry Augustine Washington (1820-1858), a graduate of Georgetown University who, at the time this letter was written, was practicing law in Richmond, Virginia. A few years later, Henry became a professor of history, political economy, and international law at William and Mary College.

Law Washington was married to Sarah Tayloe (1800-1886) in 1819. Henry was the first of at least eleven children born to the couple. Henry married Cynthia Beverly Tucker (1832-1908) in 1852 and the couple had two children before Henry was killed in 1858 on the accidental discharge of an “air-gun.”

James Alexander Seddon

In his letter, Washington enquires of his son about the “war fever” in Richmond, referring to the impending war with Mexico over the disputed Texas boundary. In regards to the possible Whig nominee for the 1848 Presidential election, Law Washington is probably referring to Gen. Zachary Taylor – a Virginian – who was busy rattling sabers down in Texas prior to a declaration of war with Mexico.

Henry A. Washington was a good friend of James A. Seddon who represented Virginia in Congress in 1846-47. It isn’t clear upon which issue Seddon failed the citizens on Virginia, as mentioned in this letter, though it may have been over tariff protective issues.

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Addressed to Henry A. Washington, Esq., Richmond City, Virginia

Blinkheim [Westmoreland County, Virginia]
3d February 1846

My dear Henry,

I do not know that we have any right to complain as I believe we are in your debt at least one letter. We should, however, have been a little impatient if I had not within the last few days seen Mr. Berry and learned from him that you were well. I arrived in Fredericksburg the day he returned from Richmond and found him quite unwell – so much so as to be confined to his room.

I remained in Fredericksburg but one day, being anxious to return on account of the extreme illness of a servant girl, Morea, whom you may possibly recollect. I had no expectation of finding her alive, but now she is thought to be convalescent. Her care is, however, still one of extreme danger, and I think the chances rather against recovery.

I was never more surprised on meeting Mr. Gray near Fredericksburg to be informed that Cornelia Lomax had been married the night before to a Dr. [James Alexander] Waddell of Staunton and had started home the next morning in the cars. I spent an hour with the [John Tayloe Lomax] family [in Fredericksburg] & found them in good spirits. I should judge the match was a pleasing one.

This neighborhood is rather more dull and stupid than usual. We see no one and hear nothing. If it were not for the news papers, we should know nothing of what is passing. The war fever, I trust, is passing away. Your man is, I find, winning golden opinions. I hope he will continue to deserve them. I think the Whigs will take him up as a choice of evils for the next Presidency. As far as I have heard public opinion expressed (which you know is in a very limited degree) it seems to have a bearing that way.

We received letters from Mary and George by the last mail. They were well and I should judge that Mary is more disposed to frolick than study.

At the last court, Carter gave me eight bonds – five I believe in the Circuit Court, and three in the County. As there was not time to send them to you before return day, Mr. Mason was so good as to file the declarations for you. I requested him to mark his own name as counsel to those in the County Court, but he refused to do so, and said he would attend to the cases for your benefit. Mrs. Storke has not yet received the money in her case against Harvey. How do you come on in Richmond? Is your practice increasing? There were a great many suits brought at our last court. The judge informed me that there was more suing in Westmoreland than in all the courts in his circuit.

Wakefield is not yet finally sold. I received a letter from Wirt by the last mail. Wilson, I find, is playing with him – waiting no doubt until the Oregon Question is settled. Mr. Gray too, will throw difficulty in the way. I have heard nothing Hill Carter.

Tayloe requests me to enquire whether not you have deposited the $100,000 to his credit in bank. He wishes to know that he may check in favour of Harvey.

The wheat crop looks badly and I received a letter from Baltimore today saying the price of produce will decline. So much for the poor farmers.

Our school is going on. We have the teacher & 3 children [staying] with us.

I take no Richmond paper. Send me yours occasionally after you have read it. I hear [James A.] Seddon has disappointed his friends in Congress. His speech is said to have been a failure. Richard Harter have dissolved partnership, as I expected. Richard will go to the dogs. He is coming down here with a young lawyer – a Mr. Linton – who wishes to quality on Old Craig’s estate – worth about $1500.

Have you written to Mary & George? Tayloe has invited all the _______ to dine here to day in compliment to Jerrard Hungerford.

Affectionately yours, — Law Washington


3 responses to “1846: Lawrence Washington to Henry Augustine Washington

  • justin Grant-duff

    How is it that Washington’s family papers are available on e-bay for sale? Or is it that this one is copied from a record office archive or historical society collection?

  • Griff

    I transcribed this letter several months ago for an acquaintance who offered it for sale on e-bay. This letter has never been in an archive or historical society collection as far as I know.

  • Justin Grant-Duff

    Very interesting American history about an influential family that moved from the Puritan Revolution and Civil Wars into another continent and a New World of conflict and politics. American sites reveal some very inspiring documents.

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