Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel Davidson, 27 July 1801

From Samuel Davidson

Georgetown 27th. July 1801—


In consequence of your friendly assurances of examining into the merits of my claim, respecting certain alterations in the Plans of the City, from the first location thereof; I have in the accompanying Memorial endeavoured to state the same, with the corroborating facts

I sensibly feel your polite, and ready attention to the subject, and doubt not but I shall receive every redress which the nature of the case will allow, and which impartial justice shall dictate.

Well convinced of the legality of my claim, and of the propriety and even necessity, of admiting it in order to restore to its former elegance of design, that Section of the City:—I had determined to take no harsh or disagreeable step to enforce my right. The City had too many enemies to contend with, and I was too much interested in its prosperity, not to wait until Congress assumed the Jurisdiction—and a perfect and permant plan must be established. When a revision under their sanction should take place, I imagined it the proper time to advance and substantiate my claim.

I consider it a fortunate circumstance, that those Gentlemen whose testimony can prove the facts upon which my claim rests, are now in the City, or Georgetown; Major L’Enfant, the Engineer who gave the plan of the City; Mr. Ellicott, the Surveyor who laid off the same on the ground; Mr. Blodgett, Agent to the Commissioners in their Sales of Lots; and Mr. John M Gantt, one of the Trustees.

I have understood that the affairs of the City will receive the attention of Congress at their next meeting, when those inacuracies or misunderstandings which have arisen will be finally settled.

While I rejoice in the prospect, it is my duty to avail myself of your kindness, and present my Memorial when the Gentlemen who know the facts can be referred to.—

I am Sir With respect Your obedt. Servant

Saml: Davidson

RC (DLC: Samuel Davidson Papers); at head of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 July and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

Samuel Davidson (d. 1810), a Georgetown merchant, protested legal recognition of the “Appropriation Map,” which represented Alterations to L’Enfant’s design of Washington of 1791 based on surveys directed by Andrew Ellicott. Davidson’s purpose, in the opinion of the District of Columbia commissioners, was “to obtain additional property within the President’s Square.” In 1791, Davidson purchased land that later became part of President’s Square and conveyed the same to trustees Thomas Beall and John Mackall Gantt, whereupon the land became subject to appropriation for public use by the president. A committee of the House of Representatives addressed Davidson’s claim in a report issued on 8 Apr. 1802 “respecting the adjustment of the existing disputes between” the commissioners and “other persons who may conceive themselves injured by the several alterations made in the plan of the said city” (RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895–1989 description ends , 33–34 [1932], 151; Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital from Its Foundation through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, New York, 1914–16, 2 vols. description ends , 1:137–9, 324–5; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:330–5; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:184; Vol. 17:457; James Reed Dermott to TJ, 7 Mch. 1801; Thomas Peerce to TJ, 30 June).

For more on Davidson’s claim, see Alexander White to TJ, 8 Aug.

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