George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 4 January 1791

To Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday [4 January 1791]

The P. begs to see Mr Jefferson before he proceeds further in the Proclamation. From a more attentive examination of some Papers, in his possession, he finds that it is in his power to ascertain the course & distance from the Court House in Alexandria to the upper & lower end of the Canal at the little Falls with as much accuracy as can be known from Common Surveying if not to mathematical truth.

If Mr Jefferson is not engaged with other matters the President will be at home at nine Oclock.

AL, DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers; LB, DLC:GW.

For the background to this letter, see GW to Jefferson, 2 Jan. 1791, editorial note. With the notes to which GW referred, and which the two men apparently discussed on this date or shortly after, Jefferson calculated that the distance from the courthouse in Alexandria to the “end of the course S. 8½ E. 14”—the course designated by GW as the ending at the lower end of the canal around Little Falls—was “17¼ miles—15 poles.” This calculation identified the relationship of the canal to the intended starting point for the federal district on Hunting Creek (also calculated from the courthouse in Alexandria) and confirmed that the lower end of the canal would be within the bounds of the intended district. For the text of these notes, see CD-ROM:GW; the notes are also illustrated in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 19: following p. 348. In his letter to Andrew Ellicott of 2 Feb. 1791, Jefferson instructed the surveyor to make a special note of “the canal and particular distance of your crossing it from either end” (ibid., 68–70)

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