Bryan Fairfax, 8th Lord Fairfax of Cameron

Bryan Fairfax, 8th Lord Fairfax of Cameron

Bryan Fairfax (1736-1802), 8th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, boyhood friend of George Washington, became the first American member of the house of Lords.


Bryan Fairfax served under George Washington early in the French and Indian War. However, when he was rejected by a young lady in 1757, he resigned his commission and headed north to start a new life. His brother-in-law, John Carlyle, caught up with him in Annapolis and brought him back to Belvoir.

Bryan Fairfax lived at Belvoir, as a young man, with father Col. William Fairfax, business agent for his cousin, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. William's son, George William and Sally Fairfax also lived there, and were close neighbors to George Washington's Mt. Vernon. George Washington as a young man, visited Belvoir, and William and Sally Fairfax, along with Bryan Fairfax. []

Brian Fairfax lived at Greenhill (Accotink Creek and Back Road, now Telegraph Road) from 1760 - 1765. He then lived at Towlston Grange (Difficult Run and Leesburg Pike, now Route 7) from 1768 - 1790.

Bryan Fairfax served as a justice for Fairfax County at the same time as Washington.

As a large landowner, Bryan Fairfax was active leasing out his property to smaller farmers such as Perrygreen Mackness. []

When the Fairfax Resolves were debated in 1774, Bryan Fairfax corresponded with George Washington, the chairman of the committee considering the Resolves.

Fairfax’s was torn between England and America during the Revolutionary War. On his own in 1777, he tried to be a mediator between the two sides. He was arrested in Lancaster, PA, for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. However, he wrote to his good friend, George Washington, who sent him a pass to travel between the lines. In New York, British officials also required a loyalty oath, which he refused to take. With his mediation attempts thwarted, he returned to Virginia for the remainder of the war.

He had long considered a religious life, and he was ordained a Minister of the Episcopal Church in 1789, serving as rector of Christ Church from 1790 to 1792. He moved to Mount Eagle (south of Hunting Creek), where he lived from 1790 until his death. He sold Towleston Grange to George Washington for "₤"82.10. []

George Washington’s last meal away from Mount Vernon in 1799 was at Bryan Fairfax’s home, Mount Eagle; and Bryan Fairfax was among the last guests at Mount Vernon before Washington died. He was one of the principal mourners at Washington’s funeral [] , and Washington left him a bible in his will. [] []

When the Seventh Lord Fairfax died in 1793, Bryan Fairfax initially ignored the title. However, while in England in 1798 on other business, he presented the necessary proofs to the House of Lords to claim the title. In 1800, after he had returned to Virginia, the peerage was adjudged, and he became the Eighth Lord Fairfax. Bryan Fairfax died in 1802.

His son Thomas became the 9th Lord Cameron.

Mount Eagle, which lies south of Hunting Creek and Alexandria, was demolished in 1968, and the land is now used for the Montebello Condominium and the Huntington Metro Station. []

Correspondance with Washington

When the Fairfax Resolves were debated in 1774, Bryan Fairfax sent letters to George Washington, the chairman of the committee considering the Resolves, giving reasons why they should not be adopted; however, Washington responded: "Does it not appear, as clear as the sun in its meridan brightness, that there is a regular, systematic plan formed to fix the right & practise of taxation upon us?" [p.109, Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, Volume 10, University of Virginia Press, 1995, Charlottesville, Virginia ISBN 0-8139-155-3] [] []

But he added: "I cannot conclude without expressing some concern that I should differ so widely in Sentiments from you in a matter of such great Moment & general Import; & should much distrust my own judgement upon the occasion, if my Nature did not recoil at the thought of Submitting to Measures which I think Subversive of every thing that I ought to hold dear and valuable - and did I not find, at the same time, that the voice of Mankind is with me." [p.131, Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, Volume 10, University of Virginia Press, 1995, Charlottesville, Virginia ISBN 0-8139-155-3]

Byran Fairfax respectfully disagreed: "There is a new opinion now lately advanced in Virginia that the Parliament have no right to make any or scarce any Laws binding on the Colonies. It has given me much Uneasiness. For altho' I wish as much as any one that we were legally exempted from it, yet I hold it clearly that we ought to abide by our Constitution. The common Consent and Acquiescence in the Colonies for such a Length of time is to me a clear Proof of their having a Right. And altho' it is said that it has only been exercised in Matters of Trade, it will be found to be a Mistake." []

Later during the war, Bryan Fairfax was detained in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. However, he wrote to his good friend, George Washington, who sent him a pass to travel between the lines.

Washington wrote him: "The difference in our political Sentiments never made any change in my friendship for you, and the favorable Sentiments I ever entertained of your hon'r, leaves me without a doubt that you would say any thing, or do any thing injurious to the cause we are engaged in after having pledged your word to the contrary. I therefore give my consent readily..." [p.310, Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, Volume 11, University of Virginia Press, 2001 Charlottesville, Virginia ISBN 0-8139-2026-4]

Internal References

Lord Fairfax of Cameron

External references

"Walking with Washington", Robert L. Madison, Gateway Press, Baltimore, Md, 2003

"A Fairfax Friendship: The Complete Correspondance between George Washington and Bryan Fairfax 1754 - 1799", Sweig and David, Fairfax County Historical Commission, Jan 1982, LOC 81-70298

[ Papers of George Washington]


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