A dispute between Robert E. Lee's family and the federal government over a Civil War-era tax has had outsized influence in shaping the modern rules for suing the government
Prof. Vladek--Thanks for another illuminating analysis of a complex legal issue and history. I have one question. Following your link in Footnote 3 to https://www.nps.gov/arho/learn/historyculture/whose-land-claims-at-arlington-estate.htm, I found this quote:
"By 1669, colonizer John Alexander acquired 6,000 acres and willed it to the next generation. By 1778, John Parke Custis purchased 1,100 of these acres from Gerrard Alexander."
Either 1,100 or 11,000 acres is a serious farm, but I think that the latter-- ~17 sq. miles --would take far more than "at least 57 slaves".
Nicely written, Professor. Thank you. Particularly liked the tie-in to Robert Todd Lincoln at the end. A couple of refinements: John Parke Custis (known to his illustrious stepfather as "Jacky"), the sole surviving child of Daniel Parke Custis and Martha Dandridge Custis (later our first First Lady) was apparently not the sharpest knife in the drawer, at least not when it came to real estate deals. He had inherited a bundle from his natural father and used a good bit of that wealth to acquire Abingdon (now the site of Reagan National Airport - if you look hard, you'll find a historical marker in the parking garage), on an installment payment basis that was absurdly favorable to the seller. Jacky struggled the rest of his short life to make the payments. His stepfather (and Father of our Country) couldn't believe the lad's lack of business acumen. At the time he acquired Abingdon, Jacky also acquired the 1,100 acre adjoining parcel that became Arlington. Jacky died of disease in 1781 while serving on General Washington's staff. He died intestate leaving his affiars in a mess that wasn't straightened out until after his widow's (Eleanor) death in 1811, 30 years down the road (Eleanor deserves special mention for having gifted the world with 23 children, 7 with Jacky and 16 with her next husband).
George Washington Parke Custis (hereinafter "GWP"), General Robert E. Lee's eventual father-in-law, was less than a year old when his feckless father died. He was raised by George and Martha at Mount Vernon. He came into possession of Arlington on reaching the age of 21 in 1802, but this was more than 20 years after his father's death. Upon GWP's death in 1857, the property passed to GWP's eldest grandson, George Washington Custis Lee (who, like his better known father, also became a Confederate general officer), subject to a life estate in Mrs. Robert E. Lee. For all the association with Robert E. Lee, General Lee never had a direct ownership interest in the property. He did, however, serve as Executor of GWP's estate and directly managed it for the benefit of his wife and oldest son from the late 1850s up to the commencement of the Civil War.