George Washington Papers

Agreement of the Proprietors of the Federal District, 30 March 1791

Agreement of the Proprietors of the Federal District

[Georgetown, Md., 30 March 1791]

We the subscribers, in consideration of the great benefits we expect to derive from having the Federal City laid off upon our Lands, do hereby agree and bind ourselves, heirs, executors & administrators, to convey in Trust, to the President of the United States, or Commissioners, or such person or persons as he shall appoint, by good and sufficient deeds in fee simple, the whole of our respective Lands, which he may think proper to include within the lines of the federal City for the purposes and on the Conditions following—

The President shall have the sole power of directing the Federal City to be laid off in what manner he pleases. He may retain any number of squares he may think proper for public Improvements, or other public uses, and the Lots only which shall be laid off shall be a joint property between the Trustees on behalf of the Public and each present Proprietor, and the same shall be fairly and equally divided between the Public and the Individuals, as soon as may be, after the City shall be laid off.

For the streets, the Proprietors shall receive no compensation, but for the squares, or Lands in any form which shall be taken for Public buildings or any kind of Public Improvements, or uses, the Proprietors, whose Lands shall be so taken shall receive at the rate of twenty five pounds per Acre, to be paid by the Public.

The whole wood on the Lands shall be the Property of the Proprietors: But should any be desired by the President to be reserved or left standing, the same shall be paid for by the Public at a just and reasonable valuation, exclusive of the Twenty five pounds per Acre, to be paid for the Land, on which the same shall remain.

Each Proprietor shall retain the full possession and use of his Land, untill the same shall be sold and occupied by the purchasers of the Lotts lain out thereupon, and in all cases where the public arrangements, as the streets, lotts &c. will admit of it, each Proprietor shall possess his buildings and other Improvements and grave yards, paying to the public only one half the present estimated value of the Lands, on which the same shall be, or twelve pounds ten shillings per Acre—But in cases where the Arrangements of the Streets, lotts, Squares &c. will not admit of this, and it shall become necessary to remove such buildings Improvements &c. the Proprietors of the same shall be paid the reasonable value thereof, by the Public.

Nothing herein contained, shall affect the Lotts which any of the Parties to this Agreement many hold in the Towns of Carrollsburgh or Hamburgh.

In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and Seals, this thirtieth day of March 1791.

LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings; copy, DNA: RG 42, General Records, Deeds, and Other Records Relating to Property of the Original Proprietors; copy, DNA: RG 233, Sixth Congress, 1799–1801, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Committee Reports, and Papers—Select Committee.

For GW’s arrival at Georgetown, Md., early on 28 Mar. and his negotiations with the owners of land in the federal district the following two days, see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:103–6.

The signatures on the finished agreement—which apparently was retained in Georgetown by William Deakins, Jr.—of Robert Peter, David Burnes, James M. Lingan, Uriah Forrest, Benjamin Stoddert, Notley Young, Daniel Carroll of Duddington, Overton Carr, Thomas Beall of George, Charles Beatty, Anthony Holmead, and James Peerce [Pierce] were witnessed by William Bayly, William Robertson, and John Suter. The signatures of other proprietors were added after the meeting with GW: Abraham Young (witnessed by Samuel Davidson), Edward Peerce (witnessed by Benjamin Stoddert), Benjamin Stoddert, signing on behalf of John Waring, from whom he had a power of attorney (witnessed by Joseph E. Rowles), William Prout (witnessed by Deakins), and William King (witnessed by Deakins). Robert Peter signed the agreement a second time as “attorney in fact for Eliphas Douglass [Eliphaz Douglas].” GW and his agents thus obtained the signatures of eighteen proprietors of land within the federal district, constituting most of the landowners within the proposed Federal City exclusive of Hamburgh and Carrollsburgh. Landowners Joseph Coombs, Jr., and Enoch and Thomas Jenkins did not subscribe to the agreement. At the time of their signings, Prout had only a bond for a conveyance, and Carr had not received a conveyance. The title to the land claimed by Douglas was most clouded of all. His fifty-acre tract on the east side of the proposed city had belonged to his father, a Glasgow merchant named Robert Douglas, but was confiscated by Maryland during the Revolution. See Robert Douglas to GW, 15 April 1791. The completed agreement with all of the signatures apparently was deposited with the commissioners.

According to the terms of the separate agreement GW completed on 30 Mar., the proprietors of Carrollsburgh lots would be compensated for permitting the Federal City to be laid out on their lands. Each would receive half as many Federal City lots as they had claimed in Carrollsburgh, and their new lots would be located as close to their existing lots as consistent with the city plan. Those who owned only one Carrollsburgh lot would receive half the proceeds from the sale of a comparable lot in the new city. This separate agreement was signed by Thomas Johnson, Daniel Carroll of Duddington, William Bayly, Deakins, and Young. Young also signed on behalf of Mary Young and Charles Carroll, and Daniel Carroll of Duddington signed on behalf of Thomas Morton (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received). Both of these agreements were ratified by an act of the Maryland general assembly passed on 19 Dec. 1791 (Kilty, Laws of Maryland, description begins William Kilty. The Laws of Maryland . . .. 2 vols. Annapolis, 1799–1800. description ends chap. 45).

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