From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia
George Town 13th March 1793
This day has been Cheifly spent in writing letter to Major Ellicott. those and his as well as his hand bill we enclose you—We are vexed and tired by an Intercourse so triffling1—It may be proper to inform you, that when we were at Prouts House last night with Major Ellicott, he offered us the Platt of the Territory telling us he had received it from you, with Orders to make additions,2 we refused to receive it telling him we wished him to execute any Orderes he had from you3—We have nearly arranged the Surveying Business with Checks, and expect on trial it will produce dispatch—We are Very respectfully your most obdt hble Servts
LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent.
1. See note 3 for the enclosed correspondence. Ellicott’s “hand bill” has not been identified. For the immediate cause of this dispute between Ellicott and the commissioners, see D.C. Commissioners to GW, 11–12 Mar. 1793, and notes 4–5.
2. For earlier alterations made to the plat at GW’s behest, see Jefferson to GW, 18 Feb. 1793 (first letter), and note 1. For the second set of alterations requested by GW, see Ellicott to D.C. Commissioners, 17 June 1793 (DLC:GW).
3. On 13 Mar. the commissioners and Ellicott exchanged a number of letters. The commissioners began the day’s correspondence by requesting from Ellicott “all” of the “papers you may have preserved in the Course of your work,” along with a list of specific notes and drawings (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent). Ellicott replied that he had “delivered up to you every paper in my possession at this place, which appeared of the least importance to the public, but if any should turn up either here, or at Geo. Town, they shall be emmediately put into your possession—for Mr [Archibald] Ormes Notes, and many of mine respecting the Potomak, and various branches in the district, I must refer you to Mr [James] Dermott, who I expect has taken them out of the office. . . . I cannot help lamenting that your taking possession of all the papers, has put it out of my power to comply with the Presidents directions with respect to a more complete map of the district of Columbia” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received).
The commissioners wrote back, telling Ellicott that he had “delivered to us no Papers, but what were wrapt around the Stick, we find nothing there but a plat of the City, on a large Scale not compleat . . . of the usefulness, or Consequences, of Papers made at the Expence of the City, your Judgement is not to decide, our Demand is of all—There is no Occasion for your lamanting our having the possession of any papers, for the Cause you Assign, if we have the possession of any which can be necessary or useful to enable you to comply with the Presidents request, you may have Recourse to such so as to answer the purpose, and we wish you to particularize, and point out where you left them—Mr Dermot has shewn no signs of Concealment of any Papers . . . why not say in a word, whether you have the papers particularly enquired for or not. . . . You have forgot to send the Instruments agreeable to your promise” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent).
Late in the day Ellicott sent more papers, telling the commissioners, “you will perceive that my compliant disposition, has gone so far, as to send the Map entrusted to me by the President—You now have every paper which has been in my possession at this place, and as soon as my indisposition will permit me to go to Geo. Town, you shall have every scrap there which bears the mark of a pen, (private letters excepted.)” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received).
The commissioners again wrote Ellicott, expressing surprise: “Your affected Misunderstanding of our Demand of all papers after your Offer of the Plat of the Territory yesterday and our refusal to receive it is truly astonishing. We have ordered it to be taken Care of and to be delivered to you whenever you will call or send a written Order for it.” The commissioners then told Ellicott that they could “wait no longer for a manifestation of your compliant Disposition: whenever you may feel it strong enough to move you to Action Colo. [William] Deakins or Mr [Samuel] Blodget, which ever of them may be in the way, is impowered to receive the Instruments which seem to have escaped your Memory and any Papers you may think important or unimportant” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received). Ellicott returned this last letter the next day with the following note: “From a strong presumption that the enclosed letter is from you, I have declined opening it” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received).
In his letter to GW of 16 Mar. 1793, Ellicott complained of his treatment at the hands of the commissioners. For GW’s intervention in this dispute, see Thomas Jefferson to GW, 22 Mar. 1793, n.1., GW to D.C. Commissioners, 3 April, and notes 5 and 6, and D.C. Commissioners to GW, 9 April 1793 (first letter).