George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 31 January 1793

To the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

Philadelphia January 31st 1793.


The regular course which the affairs of The Federal City are likely to move in by the appointment of a Superintendant,1 who may relieve you from details, & from all sacrifices of time except your periodical meetings, enables me now to proceed, on more certain ground, to the subject of compensation. That a proper compensation should be made you, must undoubtedly be the public expectation as well as your own, although the Law is silent thereupon. In proposing the sum, I do not see that I can take a better guide than that of the Legislature, which in fixing the compensation for members of Congress has furnished a kind of standard to which services & qualifications in a certain line may be referred. I should therefore propose to you Six Dollars a day, for the days of actual service, & milage for travelling, in lieu of service and all expences to commence from the first day of the present year.2

With respect to the past, I have more difficulty to name a sum, because I do not know the time you have actually sacrificed, & perhaps it would not be practicable for yourselves to state it. On the best judgment I am able to form of it, however, I should propose the sum of One thousand Dollars,3 each, for your services preceding the commencement of the present year; Should these propositions not exactly meet your own ideas, I shall be very happy to receive your observations on them. With great esteem, I am, Gentlemen, Your mo: obt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. My meaning is, that the above sum of One thousand dollrs should be exclusive of your expencies.4

Go: W——n

LS, in Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr.’s writing, DLC:GW; Df, in Thomas Jefferson’s writing, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; Df (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DLC:GW. The postscript, which is in GW’s writing, appears only on the LS.

1On the appointment of a superintendent to oversee the daily business of the federal district, see Benjamin Stoddert to GW, 24 Oct., GW to Stoddert, 14 Nov., to D.C. Commissioners, 13 Nov., to David Stuart, 30 Nov., Stuart to GW, 10 Dec. 1792. On 5 Jan. 1793 the D.C. commissioners appointed Samuel Blodget, Jr., superintendent, at an annual salary of “£600 payable in Money or in Lots” (D.C. Commissioners to Blodget, 5 Jan. 1793, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent).

2The “Act for establishing the . . . seat of the Government” of 16 July 1790 established the District of Columbia and authorized the president to appoint and direct three commissioners, but it did not set a salary for them (1 Stat, description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 130). GW modeled his proposed emolument on that earned by members of Congress, who received $6 per day, plus $6 for every twenty miles traveled (ibid., 70–71). For GW’s views regarding paying the D.C. commissioners, see GW to Charles Carter of Ludlow, 19 Dec. 1790, to Stuart, 1 Feb., 3 Mar. 1793.

Due to the absence of Thomas Johnson, the commissioners delayed their response to GW’s proposal (see D.C. Commissioners to GW, 8 Feb. 1793). By early March only Daniel Carroll had accepted the president’s offer. In an effort to retain Johnson, GW sought advice on the compensation issue from Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Randolph, and James Madison, and he received their opinions in a memorandum from Jefferson of 11 March.

Stuart and Johnson appear to have been paid in accord with GW’s proposal until their departure (see 5–6 April, 24–25 Dec. 1793, 17 Sept., 14 Oct. 1794, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

3Jefferson, in his draft of this letter, suggested “1500. dollars.”

4On 14 Mar. 1793 all three commissioners accepted $1,000 for their past efforts (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

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