George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 26 March 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Mar. 26. 93.

Th: Jefferson with his respects to the President, incloses a description of a new plan of a Capitol in which mister Hallet is engaged,1 who has expressed very earnest wishes that the ultimate decision may not be pronounced till he can bring it forward.2

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.

1The enclosed “Succinct description of a new Plan of a Capitol by mister [Stephen] Hallet” of c.15 Mar. 1793, in Jefferson’s writing, reads: “The principal front is in a direct line of 320. feet in length, having in the middle a circular projection of 105. feet diameter, very nearly of the proportions of the Pantheon, and crowned in the same taste, the same Cornish, surmounted by a balustrade, crowns the whole edifice which is proposed to be covered in terrasses. the Sub-basement will raise the first floor to some steps above the level of the highest ground, & will afford a great number of offices & lodgings for doorkeepers & other conveniences. in the circular mass, a large open vestibule of nine arches, 10 feet wide, gives room to enter in carriages, from whence is a communication by a circular staircase to the central vestibule on the first floor, which has an entry on the same level to the East, giving passage to the antichambers, stair-cases & other interior communications. the Representatives room is in the same stile & placed in the same manner as in my preceding plan. the Senate is at the other end & disposed so that all the effects of the light are symmetrical as if it occupied the whole mass. the Conference room is in the middle in the circular projection on the second floor. it’s inside is an exact sphere in imitation of the Pantheon. all the rooms, without exception, are lighted and aired directed, because they have all windows in outer walls” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2On 13 Mar. the D.C. commissioners had notified Stephen Hallet of their impending approval of William Thornton’s design for the U.S. Capitol (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent). Hallet replied that same day with an offer to present very soon a revised version of his own plan, which he enclosed in his letter to Jefferson of 15 Mar. (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received; Hallet to Jefferson, 15 Mar. 1793, 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 25:384–87). Despite Hallet’s efforts, GW and the commissioners approved Thornton’s plan in early April (GW to D.C. Commissioners, 2 April, and note 1). For the commissioners’ continued employment of Hallet, see D.C. Commissioners to GW, 11–12 Mar. 1793, n.2.

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