Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure II: George Washington to Pierre Charles L’Enfant, 1 December 1791

George Washington to Pierre Charles L’Enfant

Philadelphia Dec. 1. 1791.


I have recieved with sincere concern the information from yourself as well as others, that you have proceeded to demolish the house of Mr. Carrol of Duddington, against his consent, and without authority from the Commissioners, or any other person. In this you have laid yourself open to the laws, and in a country where they will have their course. To their animadversion will belong the present case.—In future I must strictly enjoin you to touch no man’s property, without his consent, or the previous order of the Commissioners. I wished you to be employed in the arrangements of the federal city. I still wish it: but only on condition that you can conduct yourself in subordination to the authority of the Commissioners,1 to the laws of the land, and to the rights of it’s citizens.

PrC of Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; entry in SJPL reads: “draught of letter for G.W. to L’Enfant. Carrol’s house.”

For additional information on this letter, see Editorial Note on fixing the seat of government, Vol. 20: 47.

1In his letter of 2 Dec. 1791 to L’Enfant, Washington inserted “to whom by law the business is entrusted and who stand between you and the President of the United States” at this point. He also added two additional paragraphs: “Your precipitate conduct will, it is to be apprehended, give serious alarm and produce disagreeable consequences. Having the beauty, and regularity of your plan only in view, you pursue it as if every person and thing were obliged to yield to it; whereas the Commissioners have many circumstances to attend to, some of which perhaps, may be unknown to you, which evinces in a strong point of view the propriety, the necessity, and even the safety of your acting by their directions.

“I have said, and I repeat it to you again, that it is my firm belief, that the Gentlemen now in office have favorable dispositions towards you; and in all things reasonable and proper will receive, and give full weight to your opinions—and ascribing to your Zeal the mistakes that have happened, I persuade myself under this explanation of matters that nothing in future will intervene to obstruct the harmony which ought to prevail in so interesting a Work” (DLC: Washington Papers; Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, 1931–1944, 39 vols. description ends , xxxi, 434–5).

Index Entries