George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Commissioners for the Federal District, 30 June 1791

From the Commissioners for the Federal District

George Town [Md.] 30th June 1791


Turning our attention to Day to the Circumstances of the Carrollsburgh and hamburgh Lots, we are not free from apprehensions of difficulties in Settling with some of the Proprietors—Many of the Proprietors of the Carrollsburgh Lots have signed an Engagement to give up one half their Land on having the other half assigned them as near their original Situation as the new laying out will permit—According to the new plan, by an appropriation of ground for public uses, it will be out of the Power of the Commissioners to assign Land in Compensation near the former situation the most probable resourse to give content will be, to give the value in Land which may fall to the public in a different situation; but it is not likely that this will be satisfactory in every Instance.

The subscribers for Hamburgh have subjected their lots on a valuation—the state of the funds will not allow us to go deep in that way, we have therefore consented as was the Idea whilst you were here, to put them on the same Footing as the Proprietors of Carrollsburgh, with this restriction, that where a part of their own Lots cannot be assigned nor a compensation in other Lands agreed on, that the old Terms shall be binding to receive the value. This we expect will a good deal narrow the demand for money.

Those circumstances have induced us to mention our apprehension to Majr L’Enfant and to remark to him your ideas, as you were pleased to disclose them, to him and us, of preserving as much of the Land to the original proprietors as well may be, and that they more strongly applied to those places than those parts of the plat which occasioned them.

As Majr L’Enfant purposes ⟨soon⟩ to attend you and probably will have the ⟨plat with⟩ him, we much wish, Sir, your attention to those parts and that they may be left in such a state as to lessen as far as possible the difficulties in settling with the proprietors1—In consequence of what passed concerning a Treasurer and the probability of circumstances soon arising under which one may be necessary we have proceeded to the appointment of William Deakins Junr.2 We are Sir with great respect your mo. obedt Servts

Thos Johnson

David Stuart

Danl Carroll

LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent.

For background to this letter, see GW to Thomas Jefferson, 2 Jan., editorial note, and Pierre-Charles L’Enfant to GW, 22 June. GW arrived at Georgetown early on 27 June and met briefly with the commissioners for the federal district before calling together the proprietors. He noted that “from some misconception with respect to the extension of their grants,” some “had refused to make conveyances and recapitulating the principles upon which my comns. to them at the former meeting were made and giving some explanations of the present State of matters & the consequences of delay in this business they readily waved their objections & agd. to convey to the utmost extent of what was required” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:164). On 28 June GW toured the grounds of the Federal City with Andrew Ellicott and L’Enfant to choose the site for the principal federal buildings, approving L’Enfant’s selection of Jenkins Hill for the Capitol but overruling his decision to place the President’s House slightly to the north of the site GW had pointed out in March. GW also directed Ellicott to alter the boundaries of the city in order to leave out a spring owned by Benjamin Stoddert (ibid.). Meanwhile, the commissioners and proprietors completed deeds of trust, whereby land was conveyed to trustees Thomas Beall of George and John Mackall Gantt, who were to oversee the division of the city lots in accordance with the agreement of 30 March. The deeds of trust completed by proprietors Stoddert, Anthony Holmead, Jonathan Slater, George Walker, and Clement Woodward are in DNA: RG 42, Deeds of Trust to Beall and Gantt, Trustees, from Proprietors in Carrollsburgh and Hamburgh, with Some from Original Proprietors of Washington City (Dowd, Records of the Office of Public Buildings, description begins Mary-Jane M. Dowd, comp. Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital: Record Group 42, Inventory No. 16. Washington, D.C., 1992. description ends 17). GW met again with the proprietors on 29 June and made known the locations for the federal buildings, referring to L’Enfant’s rough plan. GW added that there would be fewer diagonal avenues than L’Enfant proposed and that an exchange building would be constructed on the eastern side of the city to balance the executive buildings on the west. He observed: “a general approbation of the measure seemed to pervade the whole” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:165). GW set out this day for Philadelphia at about four o’clock in the morning, and the commissioners continued their meeting, turning their attention to the complications of land ownership in the projected towns of Hamburgh and Carrollsburgh (see William Deakins, Jr., and Benjamin Stoddert to GW, 9 Dec. 1790, 3, 17 Feb., and Agreement of the Proprietors for the Federal District, 30 Mar. 1791, source note).

1L’Enfant did not travel to Philadelphia to meet with GW as soon as expected. The commissioners wrote to GW on 2 Aug. that “L’Enfant purposes to wait on you soon with his drafts for your confirmation,” but he still had not appeared by the mid-August, prompting Jefferson to write L’Enfant on 18 Aug., inquiring when, if at all, he planned to arrive (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 22:47–48).

2Deakins served as treasurer of the commission until July 1796.

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