A long-lost letter from George Washington hints at the first president’s financial woes, and it is expected to fetch $50,000 at auction.
The Raab Collection, an auction house specializing in historical documents, announced the discovery of the letter in a news release Sunday.
The letter was previously “unknown to scholars” and was kept in a small private collection in rural West Virginia, according to the news release.
In the 1787 letter, the early politician writes of his need to sell land and raise money. He began corresponding with Israel Shreve, a retired colonel, who wanted to use a form of credit to buy a 1,644-acre tract of land on the Youghiogheny River in western Pennsylvania, according to the Raab collection. But Washington insisted on selling the land for cash.
“The land you mention is for sale, & I wish it was convenient for me to accommodate you with it for military certificates; but to raise money is the only inducement I have to sell it,” Washington wrote.
“One fourth of the money to be paid down - the other three fourths in three annual payments, with interest,” he added.
Washington wrote the letter just months before he would arrive in Philadelphia as chairman of the Constitutional Convention, which resulted in the creation of the American Constitution. He was inaugurated as the nation’s first president two years later in 1789.
“This powerful letter, coming as it does on the doorstep of one of Washington’s great moments, gives us a glimpse into the financial stresses and concerns of Washington, a man we think of in mythic terms but really had many of our own, very human issues,” said Nathan Raab, principal at The Raab Collection, in the news release.
Washington at one time owned as many as 70,000 acres of land across what is now seven states, according to the news release. His properties depended on the work of hundreds of enslaved people, according to the National Archives.