Brother, Can You Spare a Me?

A long-lost letter from George Washington hints
at the first president’s financial woes  -CNN

In a recently discovered letter that George Washington wrote in 1787, our soon-to-be First President hoped to solve his money problems by selling some of his land for cash. The letter was expected to fetch $50,000 at auction. Experts say that at least $1.4 million could have been fetched for Washington’s emails and text messages, but these have yet to be recovered.

A month ago, I came into possession of three other letters that Washington wrote asking friends for loans and their replies. These were hidden behind the canvas of a Thomas Kinkade painting that I bought at a thrift store for the sole purpose of setting it on fire. Fortunately, I spotted and saved the letters before the painting was mercifully destroyed.

This first letter Washington wrote to the great diplomat, scientist, and inventor Benjamin Franklin.

Dear Ben,
I hope you and the family are well and I trust your experiments with electricity are progressing. You know, Ben, we could have used some electric-powered blankets during that frigid winter at Valley Forge (Laugh Out Loud).

It’s not like me to write a letter like this. Before, I’d have one of my indentured servants (“slaves” as you call them) write it, but their hands are so mangled from years of “toting those barges and lifting those bales” that they can hardly hold a quill let alone have proper penmanship. Besides, what I have to say is rather delicate: I am strapped for cash.

I am still smarting from the money I lost investing in a failed enterprise—Eggs Benedict Arnold. When Major Arnold presented the dish to me, I found it excellent and gave him seed money, as well as command of the fort at West Point, both of which he turned over to the British.

It left me near destitute and unable to back Colonel Ethan Allen’s furniture store, which he assures me will prosper and thrive well into the 21st century.
These business failures have made me more resolute to help my wife Martha Custis Washington develop her own ice cream to compete with that of Dolly Madison. A Custis Custard, so speak (Roll On the Floor Laughing).

I was hoping you could give me a bridge loan of $1000 until my first paycheck as President clears. You know I’m good for it because I never lie.



Dear George
I recall that I once asked you to invest in my inventions—the lightning rod, bifocals, swim fins, the Franklin stove, the urinary catheter. I remember you saying, “go fly a kite.” And yet, you ask for bridge loan? Why don’t you find a bridge and jump off it? A penny saved is a penny earned and if you’d saved your pennies, you could have built your own bridge between New Jersey and New York, named it after yourself, and collected tolls, like I suggested.

By the way, your letter arrived with insufficient postage. As the country’s first postmaster general, I don’t take kindly to that.

“You’ll Get No Benjamins from Me” Franklin


Next, Washington turned to the author of the Declaration of Independence and future president, Thomas Jefferson.

Dear Tom,
I can’t believe it’s been three years since I made the trip to Monticello. If only I had given my estate a name like yours instead of calling it Mount Vernon. Do you believe that some people in the Florida territories are saying that the name “Mount Vernon” encourages homosexuality (Shaking My Head)?

I am writing because my dear Mount Vernon is in sad shape. Cost overruns have stopped construction of a new slave quarters. It’s insane what it costs to install a dirt floor these days. To make ends meet, I’ve had to cut back on overseers. Now my slaves have to whip themselves from morning till night. I was hoping you could lend me $2000. I’m flatter than Betsy Ross in a corset.

Your friend,


Dear Georgie,
Slave quarters are so 1770s. Why don’t you do what I do and have the slaves share your quarters—your bed, too? It’s very progressive. Martha will get used to it, especially if the slaves give birth to your kids (since you don’t have any). And having kids from a slave mother means you can write them off as dependents. Plus, any free labor they do around the estate can be called “chores.”

But as far as a loan… I know that I’m a big proponent of the “pursuit of happiness,” but it’s my happiness, not yours I seek. Ask Hamilton, he’s Treasury Secretary.

Yours in life and liberty,


So George wrote this last letter to Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and First Secretary of the Treasury.

Dear Hammy,
I am in a pickle and need your help. I’m begging you to print more money (especially money with my face on it) and ship $3000 of it to me ASAP. If you do this, you have my permission to put your face on a $10 bill and Jefferson’s on a nickel. He’ll hate that. Even better, put him on a $2 bill, too. Those are useless!

In truth, Alex, I’ve been broke since the Revolution. But here’s something I never told anyone. Remember that picture of me crossing the Delaware? Do you know why I was standing up? Because I sold my seat to a Hessian who was trying to get back to his battalion in Trenton. Since we were going there anyway to attack them, I took him aboard and made some quick cash.

Besides the $3000, can you trade me the honey collected on your farm for some of my sheep? And can you please give me 100 hatchlings free, so I can restock my hen house? Please, I’m in dire straits.



Dear Wash,
Dire straits, indeed. You want honey for mutton and your chicks for free. That ain’t workin,’ George.

You could have made a fortune selling cherries, but you chopped all the cherry trees down, didn’t you? And you just had to have ivory dentures when ones made from balsa wood were a tenth the price.

Plus, you want me to print as much money as you need? What way is that to run a government?!

That said, I must admit that you are the Father of Our Country and, as your friend, I don’t want you to go down in history as a Deadbeat Dad. Normally, it’s the children asking the father for money, not the other way around. Nevertheless, I will advance you $10,000.

I hope that gets to back on your feet again. I will sign the check and send it the moment I return from a meeting I have at dawn with Aaron Burr, Mr. Big Shot.

Your lifelong friend,
A. “Hammy” Hamilton

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