Washington's Letter With Slave Reference Will Be Auctioned

Associated Press

A 1786 letter in which George Washington explains a ruse to return a runaway slave to his owner goes on the auction block Saturday.

Auctioneer Jim Smith said the reference to slavery increases the letter's value, and he predicted that it will fetch at least $35,000 at the auction in Portsmouth, N. H.

"Obviously, the President had slaves, but you rarely see him mention them," Smith said.

In the three-page letter, Washington arranged to have his servants pick up some mules in Baltimore and bring them back to Mt. Vernon. But one slave was headed to Baltimore for another reason, Washington told his friend, James McHenry of Maryland, a future signer of the Constitution.

"One of the servant's that accompany's my Overseer, belongs to the honorable William Drayton of Charleston So. Ca.," Washington wrote. "He goes to Baltimore under the impression of assisting in bringing the . . . Mules home but the real design of sending him there is to have him shipped for Charleston. . . . "

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