Mentioning George Washington often conjures up images of his victory at Yorktown or his stewardship over the budding American nation, but a newly discovered letter reveals that he was light on cash a few months before the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
The Raab Collection, a historical document dealer based in Pennsylvania, shared its discovery in a Sunday press release. It’s valuing the letter at $50,000.
The note contained Washington’s correspondence with Israel Shreve, a former colonel in the Continental Army who was with Washington at Valley Forge, as they worked out the particulars of a land sale.
Shreve tried to use a form of credit to purchase a 1,600-acre plot of land in western Pennsylvania known as “Washington’s Bottom,” the auction house said, but Washington insisted that he needed money.
“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 in the letter dated March 20, 1787. “One fourth of the money to be paid down – the other three fourths in three annual payments, with interest… If therefore you have any inclination to purchase upon the terms here mentioned (which I shall not deviate from), I should be glad if you would signify it without delay.”
The letter came to The Raab Collection by way of a small private collection in West Virginia’s coal country that had been passed down through generations.
“This powerful letter, coming as it does on the doorstep of one 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,” Nathan Raab, principal at The Raab Collection, said in the release.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the type of business and location of The Raab Collection.