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GENERAL CLARKE AND THE CHICK ASAWS.
probably drive these savages near the lakes or the Mississippi. Upon Clarke's return the Chickasaws sent deputies to him to treat for peace. Everything was quiet in the new settlements, and upwards of five thousand souls have been added to them since last September. The people there are extremely uneasy lest the free navigation of the Mississippi to the sea should not be secured to them upon a treaty of peace. If it is not, it will occasion another war in less than seven years. The inhabitants think they have a natural right to the free, though not the exclusive, navigation of that river, and in a few years they will be strong enough to enforce that right." '
THE YEAR OF THE PEACE.
In March, 1783, Colonel Mason addressed a letter to General Washington, in behalf of the latter's young kinsman, Lawrence Washington, of Chotank, who had been engaged in a duel with Mr. Philip Alexander, in which he had mortally wounded his antagonist. The father of Lawrence, whom George Mason designates as “old Mr. Lawrence Washington," was evidently the same person to whom General Washington left a bequest in his will, speaking of him and his cousin, Robert Washington, as the " acquaintances and friends of his juvenile years." They were descendants of Lawrence, the brother of Col. John Washington. Lund Washington was one of this same family.'
VIRGINIA, GUNSTON HALL,
March 19th, 1783. DEAR GENERAL :
My motives for troubling your Excellency at this particular time are motives of humanity. Mr. Lawrence Washington, Junr., who will deliver this has been unfortunately engaged in a duel, or rather an affray, with Mr. Philip Alexander of Chotanck; in which his antagonist was mortally wounded and died six or seven days after. I have taken some pains to inform myself of the real truth of the case, and have seen several testimonials, signed by
George Washington and Mount Vernon"; Moncure D. Conway, "Memoirs of the Long Island Historical Society," vol. iv.
LA WRENCE WASHINGTON AND MR. ALEXANDER.
unprejudiced persons of credit, and though Mr. Washington may not be strictly justifiable in a legal sense, I am entirely of opinion that he has done no more than any man of sensibility and honour would have thought himself obliged to do under the same circumstances of provocation. Mr. Alexander appears to have been, in every instance, the aggressor; the provocation given Mr. Washington was of the most interesting and aggravating kind-an attempt to blast the reputation of a young lady of family and character, allied to him by the nearest ties of blood.
This is one of the few cases which does not admit the usual reparation of other wrongs, in a court of justice; a young lady's character being of too delicate a nature to be submitted to such an investigation ; and however false the defamation, however generally disbelieved, the injury is lasting. The custom of the world, the manners of the age we live in, the voice of nature calls upon relations and friends to redress an injured person, who from the natural weakness and incapacity of her sex is deprived of the means of doing it.
Mr. Alexander after refusing to accept a challenge, and professing to act upon the defensive, added fresh injuries to those he had already offered, and continued to insult and abuse Mr. Washington in the grossest manner; and when they afterwards met at a public place and walked out together, fired his pistol first (at not more than a yard's distance) with a manifest intention to kill the other, before he knew whether it was Mr. Washington's design to act offensively or not; the ball missed him, though so very close that the powder burned his face. Mr. Washington instantly stepped back, and drawing a pistol from his belt, under his great-coat, shot the other in the body, which brought him to the ground. This was done in the sight of many people, and I think proves that Mr. Washington, in firing his pistol, acted upon the defensive. The only circumstances against him are his former challenge and his having desired Mr. Alexander, that day, to walk aside with him. Upon the whole, though I think Mr. Washington may safely stand his trial, and trust himself in the hands of an honest and impartial jury, yet he has been judiciously advised to absent himself for the present, until men's passions and prejudices have subsided, as he must first be tried by an examining court in the county where the deceased had many relatives and friends : and the circumstances of Mr. Alexander's remaining wounded and his life despaired of, several days before he died, during which time most of the neighbors visited him, has contributed not a little to heighten the prejudices against Mr. Washington. Such spectacles naturally excite our compassion and, of course, our resentment against the man who has been the cause ; our passions are inflamed too much to consult our reason ; and it is not until cool reflection returns that we are capable of inquiring into the merits. For these reasons, Mr. Washington has determined to pass a month or two in the army, if you shall be pleased to permit him to act in it as a volunteer.
I am well apprized of your Excellency's strict attention to the authority of the civil power, and thoroughly sensible how greatly and justly it has endeared your character to your fellow-citizens ; I should therefore be one of the last men in the world who would presume to recommend to your countenance or protection either a criminal or a fugitive from justice ; but I think, in my conscience, that this young gentleman has been rather unfortunate than culpable ; and am assured and convinced he means to return and submit himself to a fair trial, by the laws of his country ; if the friends of the deceased, after due reflection, shall judge fit to prosecute him ; which according to the best of my judgment I think I should not do, if Mr. Alexander had been my nearest relation.
I can truly declare that I have not the smallest connection, or even acquaintance with either of the parties. I own I can't help feeling, as a man and as a father, for old Mr. Lawrence Washington, who is a very worthy man, and is exceedingly distressed by this unhappy accident. Your Excellency's permitting his son to remain, for a short time, in the army will alleviate his present distress, and, in a little time, I hope, he will have nothing to fear. I sincerely wish you health, and every felicity; and with sentiments of the highest respect and esteem, I have the honour to be Your Excellency's most affectionate and obedient servant,
G. MASON, His Excellency General Washington,
I MS. Letter.
THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR CONCLUDED.
Thomson Mason, who was employed to defend Mr. Washington, also wrote to the Commander-in-chief on the same subject, the 17th of March, from "Chappawamsic.” He enclosed a detailed statement of the difficulty between Mr. Lawrence Washington “second son of that very worthy man, Mr. Lawrence Washington of Chetauque," and “Mr. Philip Alexander, a son of John Alexander of the same place." Thomson Mason's letter concludes in these words:
“Permit me now, sir, to return you my warmest acknowledgments for your very great kindness showed to my son Stevens Thomson at the siege of York, of which both my son and self retain the most grateful sense. The success of that siege, so glorious to your Excellency, gave none of your numerous friends more unfeigned pleasure than your Excellency's most obedient and most obliged humble servant,
The preliminaries of the treaty of peace were signed by the European powers in January, 1783. The Tory ministry of Lord North had given place to the Whigs under the Marquis of Rockingham. Fox was at the head of the foreign department, and Lord Shelburne had charge of the colonies. Fox and Shelburne differed on the question of the status of the colonies, whether they should be treated as already independent, or as made so by the treaty. Lord Shelburne supported the latter view, and carried his point. It was finally decided, through the suggestion of John Adams, that the United States would not require from Great Britain a formal declaration of their independence, if the same form was used by the British commission treating with them as was used in treating with other powers.”
Thomson Mason, in a letter to be given later, compares a certain party in the Virginia Assembly to the Shelburne faction in Parliament. The following letter was written by Colonel Mason to Arthur Lee, than in Congress:
I Washington MSS., State Department.