Letter from George Washington donated to UT

A 1769 letter from George Washington — in which the man who would become the nation’s first president decries the killing of three Indians by white settlers — has been donated to the University of Texas.

“It seems this murder (for it deserves no other name) was committed on light provocation, upon three Indians of the Mingo Tribe,” Washington wrote to John Armstrong, a justice of the peace and land surveyor who advised him on land dealings.

The 244-year-old letter, written in Washington’s own hand, is thought to be worth more than $100,000. It was donated by Dallas oilman Barron U. Kidd, a 1958 graduate of UT’s Plan II honors program, and his wife, Dedo.

The letter is an important and treasured acquisition for UT’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

“It’s in great shape,” said Don Carleton, the center’s director. “It’s not just of research value for people interested in Washington. For someone studying the history of American Indians in the colonial period, that’s a very important letter.”

Writing with a flowing hand, Washington refers to the killings on the south bank of the Potomac River as an act of “mischief” and “villainy.” But in a kind of political calculation, he also says it was “lucky” none of the three escaped so that “we, in consequence, may represent it in as favourable a light, as the thing will admit of, having the knowledge of it confined to our selves.”

“He also evidences concern over ‘the evils that otherwise must follow’ if similar incidents were to go unchecked,” Carleton said. “Both Washington and Armstrong had a vested interest in any developments in that region that might indicate serious trouble with the Indians and therefore inhibit western expansion by colonists.”

Barron U. Kidd said he cherished his time at UT, received an excellent education and wanted to give something back to his alma mater.

“The Briscoe Center is a vital and growing institution,” Kidd said. “They did not have a Washington letter. I thought a letter from the father of our country makes sense. I’m pleased to have given it.”

The letter, which the Kidds acquired more than 40 years ago, was written during the period between the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, a time when Washington was active in land acquisition, managing his plantations and serving as a member of the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, Va.

“He had a fascinating life in that period,” said Kidd, who added that he is currently reading Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life,” which won the Pulitzer Prize.

A copy of the letter is on display in the Briscoe Center’s reading room in Sid Richardson Hall.

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