George Washington Papers

Memorandum from Thomas Jefferson, 11 March 1793

Memorandum from Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Mar. 11. 1793.

Qu. 1? What sacrifice may be made to retain mister Johnson in the office of Commissioner for the federal territory?1

Answ. for such an object it is worth while to give up the plan of an allowance per diem, to give, instead of that, a sum in gross, and to extend that sum to 500. Dollars per annum, and expences; the latter to be rendered in account.2

If mister Johnson persists in resigning, as it is evident Dr Stewart will not continue even for the above allowance, & mister Carrol does not appear to make any conditions, the President will be free as to mister Carrol & two new associates to adhere to the allowance per diem already proposed, or to substitute a sum in gross.3

Qu. 2? May new commissioners be chosen in the town?

Answ. it is strongly desireable that the Commissioners should not be of the town, nor interested in it; and this objection is thought a counterpoise for a sensible difference in talents. but if persons of adequate talents & qualifications cannot be found in the country, it will be better to take them from the town, than to appoint men of inadequate talents from the country.

Qu. 3. How compensate them?

Answ. if they come from the country, the per diem allowance is thought best. if from the town, a sum in gross will be best, and this might be as far as 300. D. a year, & no allowance for expences: if partly from the town & partly from the country, then 300. Dol. a year to the former, and the same with an allowance of expences to the latter.4

Mr Madison, mister Randolph & Th. Jefferson having consulted together on the preceding questions, with some shades of difference of opinion in the beginning, concurred ultimately & unanimously in the above answers.5

Th: Jefferson

ADS (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers. GW received Jefferson’s memorandum on 12 Mar. (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 85).

1Thomas Johnson had served on the board of commissioners for the federal district since January 1791 (Commission, 22 Jan. 1791).

2For GW’s original compensation proposal for the D.C. commissioners, see his first letter to them of 31 Jan. 1793.

3Daniel Carroll agreed to GW’s compensation plan, and David Stuart and Johnson remained in office through July 1794, despite voicing their intentions to quit (see 4–6, 27–31 July 1794, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

4GW appointed Gustavus Scott and William Thornton commissioners on 23 Aug. and 12 Sept. 1794, respectively (see 15–16 Sept. 1794, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings). The new commissioners earned $1,600 per year, because GW required them to be in residence at Georgetown (GW to Tobias Lear, 28 Aug. 1794, ALS, CSmH).

5For GW’s request that Jefferson consult with James Madison and Edmund Randolph on the issue of compensation, see GW to Jefferson, 9 March.

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