George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Commissioners for the Federal District, 13 April 1791

To the Commissioners for the Federal District

Richmond [Va.], April 13, 1791.


Agreeably to the assurance given to Mr Carroll, I applied, immediately upon my arrival in this city, to Governor Randolph for two thousand dollars for federal purposes under your direction. Although by the law of this State, the payments of the one hundred and twenty thousand dollars are to be made by installments, the Governor is well disposed to advance the money at earlier periods—but alas! the treasury is empty—He has promised me however that, so soon as he can obtain the above sum, it shall be remitted or made subject to your draught.1

My anxiety to have the agreement which was entered into at Georgetown on the 30th ult. carried into full and complete effect, by legal conveyances, is such (thereby leaving nothing to chance) that I cannot forbear repeating my wish that it may be done without delay, notwithstanding the persuasion I am under that the propriety of the measure will prompt you to the execution of the business in a manner best calculated to answer the public purposes.2

It having been intimated to me that the Proprietors of Georgetown are desirous of being comprehended within the limits of the federal city, I see no objection to the measure provided the Land holders, adjoining to it, included within the red lines of Messrs Beatty and Orme’s survey, referred to in the first offer from Georgetown, agreed to cede to the public on the same terms with those under the last (or combined) agreement—and if those within the blue lines are likewise desirous of being comprehended, on the same terms, it may be done—The doing of which would only place them on the same footing with the rest of the Subscribers, at the same time that it would render the plan more comprehensive, beneficial, and promising—drawing the centre of the federal city nearer to the present town.3

If this measure is seriously contemplated the present is the fit moment for carrying it into effect; because, in that case it will become part of the original plan, and the old and new towns would be blended and assimilated as nearly as circumstances will admit—and Major L’Enfant might be instructed to lay out the whole accordingly. I have the honor to be, Gentlemen, Your most obedient Servant

Go: Washington

P.S. Since writing the foregoing I have again conversed with Governor Randolph, and have drawn upon him, payable to your order, for forty thousand dollars, being the first installment—one thousand of which he hopes to have ready within a few days—the remainder to be subject to your draughts. He will endeavor to transmit the money so as to prevent trouble or inconvenience—but, on this head he will write to you himself more at large.4


LS, DLC: Presidential MSS; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent.

For the background to this letter, see Agreement of the Proprietors of the Federal City, 30 Mar. and source note, and GW to the Commissioners for the Federal District, 3 April and note 1.

1According to the terms of “An act concerning an advance of money to the government of the United States for public buildings,” passed by the Virginia general assembly on 27 Dec. 1790, $120,000 was to be disbursed to the federal government in three annual payments of $40,000 (13 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 125).

2Richard Bland Lee wrote James Madison on 17 April that GW had informed him in Fredericksburg on 8 or 9 April “that all the preparatory steps for the selection of the scite for the federal city would be completed by his return to Mt. Vernon in the beginning of June” (Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 14:6–7).

3For the prior agreement with the Georgetown proprietors, see Agreement of the Georgetown, Md., Property Owners, 13 Oct. 1790. For the Beatty and Orme plat (not found), see William Deakins, Jr., to GW, 3 Nov. and note 1, and 18 Nov. 1790 and note 2.

4GW wrote to the Virginia state auditor John Pendleton, Jr., a nephew of Edmund Pendleton, on 13 April 1791: “In conformity to an Act of the General Assembly of Virginia intituled ‘An Act concerning an advance of money to the Government of the United States for public Buildings,[’] please to issue a Warrant to the amount of forty thousand dollars, in favour of Messrs Johnson, Stuart, and Carrol; Commissioners, appointed agreeably to an Act of Congress for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States” (LS, Vi).

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