[Washington, Bushrod]
Documents pertaining to an 18th Century Virginia Legal Case involving Bushrod Washington, nephew of President George Washington, selling a Slave in exchange for a Questionable Paper Note connected to financier and Signer Robert Morris, 1798

4 documents, 6 pp., 19cm x 16 cm to 20 x 24 cm, three manuscript on paper, with one partially printed document accomplished in manuscript; various hands; dated 17-18 September 1798.

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An unusual collection of documents with a grand backstory involving several American founders. Collection includes the following documents:

1. Printed and Manuscript document for “The Execution of the within Commission will appear by the Depositions hereto annexed,” (Alexander vs Morris), signed T. Tinsley, dated 17 September 1798.

2. Letter of Benj. Harrison, Esq, att’y to Rob’t Morris, to William Alexander, Esq.; with note of James McClurg stating that Robert Canington delivered this letter to Alexander, signed by Benj. Harrison, & James McClurg, dated Richmond 17 September 1798.

3. Deposition of Robert Campbell, signed by Robert Campbell, Jno. Barret, James McClurg, dated 18 September 1798.

4. Deposition of James McClurg & Deposition of Jno. Barret; signed by James McClurg, Jno. Barret, Wm. Du Val, with second signatures of each; dated 18 September 1798.

Depositions in the complicated and interesting case of William Alexander vs Robert Morris before the Virginia Court of Chancery. James McClurg (1746-1823), who argued for elective monarchy before the Constitutional Convention, testifies that he purchased ‘a negro’ from Bushrod Washington (1762-1829), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and nephew of George Washington, using an immature five-thousand dollar note drawn ‘by either John Nicholson to Robert Morris or by Morris to Nicholson’ that McClurg had purchased at auction from Robert Campbell. McClurg was an American physician who served as a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention and as the 18th, 21st, and 24th mayor of Richmond, Virginia. McClurg's lifelong friendship with Thomas Jefferson dated from their school days.

The depositions (of McClurg and Campbell) were taken by Benjamin Harrison, VI (1755-1799), son of the Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison, V (1726-1791), and brother of President William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), as well as the great uncle of President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901). Harrison VI was a close friend of financier Robert Morris (1734-1806), a relationship that he would keep until his death. Morris served as a member of the Pennsylvania legislature, the Second Continental Congress, and the United States Senate, and he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. From 1781 to 1784, he served as the Superintendent of Finance of the United States, becoming known as the "Financier of the Revolution".

On a separate leaf, Harrison VI writes to William Alexander, agreeing to take depositions from McClurg, the auctioneer Robert Campbell, and one Samuel McCraw, at McClurg’s home. The point of the deposition is that McClurg purchased the $5,000 note at a deep discount at auction, and then used it to tender an amount equivalent to 1000 guineas for the slave. The matter of the notes hinged on whether they could be used at full value or at a discount, knowing that Morris was in no condition to buy them back. The Court of Chancery found in Morris’ favor, as did the Court of Appeals in 1801.

This matter is part of a much larger legal case brought against Morris by William Alexander concerning a big tobacco deal with the Farmers General of France, that Alexander believed he had a claim to. William Alexander was the son of an Edinburgh, Scotland, banker. He lived in Saint-Germain, France, until 1783, when he moved to Virginia. Throughout the 1780s, Alexander and Robert Morris were involved in several schemes to monopolize the tobacco trade between the United States and France.