Rare and historic handwritten ledger by George Washington, taking slaves as collateral at Mount Vernon in 1769
ADS, signed “Go: Washington,” two pages on two adjoining sheets, 6 x 7.5, September 19, 1769. A handwritten financial ledger document headed "Capt'n Posey," transactions made between 1765 and 1769, including "Security on his Lands and Negroes for £750," "A subsequent & further security on ye above Negroes for £70," and "a Bill of Sale for Sundry stock, goods & chattels as a...security to me against a joint bond of his & mine to Colo. Mason for £200." On the right side, a £3 cash payment is recorded, below which Washington writes: "Note, besides ye above Capt'n Posey may have some trifling demands against me that I know nothing of at present & which may be showed when properly ascertained." Washington signs at the conclusion with errors excepted, "E. Excepted pr Go: Washington, Copy of an Acc't given to Mr. Grayson, Sept'r 19th 1769." Professionally restored to near fine condition, with toning, light foxing and staining, and professional repairs to two areas of paper loss (which affect none of the handwriting).
Captain John Posey was George Washington’s next-door neighbor at Mount Vernon, and the two formed a friendship. However, Posey was a heavy drinker and a failure in business, constantly falling behind in his debts and frequently turning to Washington for loans. Some of their several transactions—which often included slaves as collateral—are recorded here. In one instance in 1767, Posey made a bond with Col. Mason with George Washington as security, much to Washington’s reluctance—in exchange for Washington’s participation, Posey executed a bill of sale which covered 25 slaves, 40 head of cattle, 20 horses, 40 sheep, 80 hogs, and lots of household goods including silver of various descriptions. Washington acquired his slave Hercules Posey as part of these transactions, who went on to become one of eight enslaved Africans brought by President Washington to Philadelphia to serve in the executive mansion during his presidency.
Capt. John Posey was never financially solvent enough to make good on his obligations to Washington, and his account with the future president was settled by the forced sale of property in October 1769—just weeks after Washington penned the present document. Hercules Posey, after serving as a cook during Washington's term in office, would escape to New York City in February 1797, where he remained a fugitive slave until January 1, 1801, when he was manumitted under the terms of Washington's will. This significant autograph document provides a fascinating inside look at Washington's business dealings and his participation in the heinous institution of slavery.
Additionally, the document refers to two other great historic Virginians: Colonel George Mason and Washington’s attorney William Grayson. Mason (1725-1792) of Fairfax County, Virginia, is best known for his authorship of Virginia's 'Declaration of Rights' of June 12, 1776, which was soon drawn upon by Thomas Jefferson for the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, was widely copied by the other colonies, and became the basis of the 'Bill of Rights.' Grayson (1736-1790), attorney to George Washington, became an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington during the Revolutionary War. Grayson would later serve as a member of the 'Constitutional Convention' in the Virginia delegation alongside the likes of George Mason, Patrick Henry, and James Monroe. He was also selected by Colonel George Mason and other fellow Virginians to be the first United States Senator in the state of Virginia’s history.